United Daily News Editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
September 20, 2016
Executive Summary: This newspaper's survey on cross-Strait relations, yielded results that were expected and unexpected. Not surprisingly, the current cross-Strait situation is close to what observers expected from Tsai Ing-wen before she was elected. Surprisingly however, Tsai Ing-wen believed that holding high the banner of "maintaining the status quo" would win over the US and Japan, appease the CCP, and calm in the dispute. The fact is, exchanges have chilled, tourism has fallen, and uncertainty has increased. Dissatisfaction with the government's decisions mas made Tsai Ing-wen's highly touted “maintaining the status quo” ever more difficult to maintain.
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Eight blue camp county chiefs and city mayors are touring the Mainland, hoping to restart cross-Strait exchanges. But the Presidential Office and the Executive Yuan insist that cross-Strait exchanges not be based on preconditions. Early this month, political appointee Chang Ching-sen said "Mainland tourists are those we most need as friends". The Executive Yuan denied that this was its official position. Those scoring the Tsai government's handling of cross-Strait relations are giving it a failing grade.
This newspaper's annual survey on cross-Strait relations found that people are unhappy with Tsai Ing-wen's mismanagement of cross-Strait relations. They worry about escalating bilateral tensions. The survey reflects peoples' opinions on cross-Strait relations. It also reflects the probable direction for cross-Strait relations in the near future.
According to this newspaper's past surveys, cross-Strait relations have inevitably experienced ups and downs. They have waxed and waned. They have been on the brink of crisis only in isolated areas. The latest survey however, found that only people to people relations remain stable and warm. All other areas are on the brink of crisis. In particular, the diplomatic peace has come to an abrupt end. Cross-Strait diplomatic war has for the first time crossed a red line. The poll on the cross-Strait status quo shows the diplomatic war in a genuine state of crisis. Can the government prevent the diplomatic war from spiraling out of control? That depends on the Tsai government's ability to respond.
The Hsiung Feng III missile fiasco revealed the lack of national security measures. The South China Sea arbitration fiasco revealed the lack of a national security overview. Can the Tsai government handle cross-Strait tensions? The public cannot help but wonder. People do not believe the Tsai government is capable of handling cross-Strait issues. They worry about the deterioration in cross-Strait trust. Yet strangely enough, they do not believe the two sides will go to war. But we would remind the Tsai Government. People are unconcerned about the outbreak of a cross-Strait war only because cross-Strait exchanges in recent years have had a moderating effect on relations. That goodwill must be maintained. One must not be emboldened by it. The cross-Strait status quo cannot be maintained out of thin air. Those who assume it can are misjudging the situation.
We would also remind national leaders to not idly wait for change, or bury their heads in the sand. That will only lead to the loss of any advantage. Before the election Tsai Ing-wen repeatedly pledged to "maintain the status quo". But people no longer believe the status quo can be maintained. The Tsai government has refused to state its position on the 1992 Consensus. It feigns confidence even though cross-Strait channels of communication have been cut. To the public, this is the main reason cross-Strait relations have changed. The DPP has long trumpeted the "China Threat Theory". But according to our poll, the number of people concerned about the Mainland being more powerful than Taiwan has reached a new low. This shows that DPP hostility toward the Mainland is a relic of the Cold War and must be thoroughly updated.
Another issue is even more worthy of the ruling government's attention. Public perception of Taiwan's future often differs from the perception of those in power. Sometimes it is diametrically opposed. Ma Ying-jeou championed "no reunification, no independence, and no use of force". Yet the green camp relentlessly characterized this as "pro-China". During his term, advocacy of Taiwan independence reached new highs. By contrast, Tsai Ing-wen's "maintaining the status quo" is perceived as "soft Taiwan independence". Yet only four months into her term, the percentage of people who advocate reunification has reached new highs. The Sunflower Student Movement showed that the public thought the Ma government had tilted too far to the Mainland. As a result, Taiwan independence sentiment reached new highs. Conversely, the public is unhappy with the Tsai government's cross-Strait policy, and concerned for its future. As a result, the number of people who advocate reunification has reached new highs. Clearly the public does not necessarily march to the drums of those in power.
Once the Tsai government came to power, the number of people who advocate reunification has increased. But so has the number of people who advocate Taiwan independence. It is often said that 'Circumstances are more powerful than individuals”. Perhaps that is why many who once advocated immediate independence have slammed on the brakes and now advocate gradual independence. Their numbers too have reached new highs. In fact, the increase in pro-reunification and Taiwan independence sentiment may be backlashes to pressure from Beijing and soft Taiwan independence. The increase in the number of people at both ends of reunification vs. independence spectrum, draws from those in the middle who would "maintain the status quo indefinitely". In other words, Tsai Ing-wen's cross-Strait policy has led to an increasingly divided society detrimental to Taiwan's future.
This newspaper's survey on cross-Strait relations, yielded results that were expected and unexpected. Not surprisingly, the current cross-Strait situation is close to what observers expected from Tsai Ing-wen before she was elected. Surprisingly however, Tsai Ing-wen believed that holding high the banner of "maintaining the status quo" would win over the US and Japan, appease the CCP, and calm in the dispute. The fact is, exchanges have chilled, tourism has fallen, and uncertainty has increased. Dissatisfaction with the government's decisions mas made Tsai Ing-wen's highly touted “maintaining the status quo” ever more difficult to maintain.