China Times Editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
September 9, 2016
Executive Summary: The Xi-Obama summit was undoubtedly the highlight of bilateral diplomacy at the Hangzhou G20 summit. As in the past, no joint press release was issued for the Sino-US summit. Instead, each side presented its own interpretation of the talks. Comparing the press releases issued by the two sides reveals where the two nations agree and disagree on a wide range of issues.
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The Xi-Obama summit was undoubtedly the highlight of bilateral diplomacy at the Hangzhou G20 summit. As in the past, no joint press release was issued for the Sino-US summit. Instead, each side presented its own interpretation of the talks. Comparing the press releases issued by the two sides reveals where the two nations agree and disagree on a wide range of issues.
Consider the two sides' official press releases. Both heads of state affirmed the bilateral response to climate change, military confidence building measures. the fight against cyber crime, and challenges to economic development. But they did not hide their differences. One fourth of the Mainland's press release dealt with Xi Jinping's stance on Taiwan, Tibet, human rights, the South China Sea, the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue, and THAAD. In the White House press release, Obama expressed US concern over Internet security, human rights, the South China Sea, and Mainland political reform. On the South China Sea issue in particular, Obama devoted much ink demanding that Beijing respect international law, and stressed the US commitment its allies' security.
Now consider the two sides' arguments. The Mainland press release contained over 10,000 characters and covered 35 major points. Some major points included myriad minor points. It even included the two sides' exhibition of historical artifacts next year in New York, in painstaking detail. By contrast, the US press release was half as long as the Mainland's. The contrast between the two is intriguing.
For starters, the first item in the Mainland's press relealse was the "New Great Power Relationship between China and the US". Expressions such as these do not appear in the United State press release. This is not the first time this has happened. The United States has a very different view of the nature of Sino-US relations. For both, strategic trust remains inadequate. Secondly, the two sides' positions on major global and regional issues are nearly verbatim translations. These include peacekeeping, refugees, Iraq, Afghanistan, outer space, nuclear safety, maritime cooperation, economic cooperation, particularly with regards the cooperation component of economic development. This shows that the above-mentioned issues go beyond bilateral relations. This is especially true for political issues. They have become a new area for Sino-US cooperation. As Xi Jinping put it, Sino-US relations have strategic and global influence. Sino-US cooperation can benefit many other nations and the world as a whole.
Unfortunately the overlap between the two is relatively small. The United States is concerned about narcotics trafficing, law enforcement, counter-terrorism, Internet security, military relations, and regional cooperation. Not one of these is the result of bilateral trade and economic cooperation. For example, the Mainland wrote "Both China and the US confirmed that significant progress has been achieved on bilateral investment agreements”. This implies that the US side still has reservations about the progress made in bilateral relations.
Fortunately both sides reiterated their desire to handle their differences constructively, and to increase pragmatic cooperation. Despite tit for tat actions in the South China Sea, Obama urged the two sides to reduce tensions and create conditions conducive to the peaceful settlement of disputes. Sino-US cooperation benefits both. Strife will only harm both. Sino-US relations are about to enter a new phase. The Xi-Obama summit has fulfilled its purpose.
The most relevant issue in Mainland and US press releases for Taiwan, was of course the Taiwan issue. According to the Xinhua News Agency, Xi Jinping has made his position on Taiwan clear. He hoped the US side would adhere to the one China policy and the three Sino-US joint communiques, and take concrete action to safeguard peaceful cross-Straits relations and overall Sino-US cooperation. Obama responded positively, saying that United States' adherence to the one China policy has not changed, and it opposes any attempt to seek Taiwan independence. But the White House press release made no mention of the Taiwan issue. The media has confirmed that the United States' was merely responding in a low-keyed manner. Its policy has not changed.
There are two possible reasons for the low-keyed US response. One is that the Xinhua News Agency exaggerated the US position. But the United States needs to maintain cooperative relations with the Mainland. Either that, or it considers it inconvenient to argue with Mainland officials. Therefore it responded in a low-keyed manner. Another possibility is that the Xinhua News Agency report was accurate, but the US did not want to exert undue pressure on the Taiwan public and Tsai Ing-wen government. Therefore it deliberately downplayed the success of the Xi-Obama talks. If so, it was naturally in no position to correct the Xinhua News Agency press release.
The Mainland and the US have held "different interpretations" for quite some time. The United States established diplomatic relations with the PRC in 1979. Based on its one China policy, the US broke off diplomatic relations with the ROC. Withdrawal of troops was a requirement. But the United States clung to its own "one China" definition. The Mainland side knows the US was being two-faced. But it had no choice but to accept. The Mainland and the US each have their own one China policy. This has maintained stability in the Strait and with Beijing/Washington/Taipei relations for nearly 40 years. It remains valid today. Clearly “different interpretations" is politically astute. It enables two sides who hold different positions to save face, maintain contact, and continue interaction.
The 1992 Consensus is another kind of politically astute “different interpretations”. But the DPP government has foolishly tossed it aside. Does the DPP have the determination to go head to head with the Mainland? If not, then it must find room for "different interpretations". Trust between the CCP and DPP is essentially non-existent. The balance of power between the Mainland and the US is changing. The DPP will eventually pay a high price for its obstinacy.