Do Not Exaggerate Significance of Soong Xi Greeting
China Times Editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
November 18, 2016
Executive Summary: James Soong and Mainland Chinese leader Xi Jinping talked for more than 10 minutes in private at the APEC informal leaders meeting. Until then, most people assumed that since the Tsai government refused to recognize the 1992 Consensus, a Soong Xi meeting would be out of the question. Some assumed that Soong would not even be admitted into into the APEC venue in Peru. The Mainland authorities sent the same message to Mainland government agencies, and to most Taiwan experts. The meeting was unexpected, and warrants review and evaluation.
Full Text Below:
James Soong and Mainland Chinese leader Xi Jinping talked for more than 10 minutes in private at the APEC informal leaders meeting. Until then, most people assumed that since the Tsai government refused to recognize the 1992 Consensus, a Soong Xi meeting would be out of the question. Some assumed that Soong would not even be admitted into into the APEC venue in Peru. The Mainland authorities sent the same message to Mainland government agencies, and to most Taiwan experts. The meeting was unexpected, and warrants review and evaluation.
First of all, one must not read too much into this brief “meet and greet”. As Taiwan Affairs Office spokesman Ma Xiaoguang noted, the Xi Soong meeting was merely a "natural and brief greeting" in the venue lounge area. Some on Taiwan however, are determined to exaggerate the significance of the meeting. Some say "See! Cross-Strait relations are not as bad as previously imagined". Others say “This is an opportunity to break the ice between the DPP and CCP". But they kidding both themselves and others. They are merely pacifying their own constituencies.
Prior to his departure, on the 150th anniversary of the birth of Dr. Sun Yat-sen, James Soong issued a declaration. He said that the People First Party's position on the definition of the nation and cross-Strait relations remained unchanged. In other words, it advocated one China and opposed Taiwan independence. Under the “roof of one China”, it advocated cross-Strait equality and mutual understanding, increased exchanges, the realization of the "two sides are one family" premise, and the promotion of cross-Strait peace. James Soong's position is fully consistent with the long held position of the Mainland. Any party, group, or individual on Taiwan should accept the 1992 Consensus and agree that both the Mainland and Taiwan belong to one China.
The Mainland has taken measures to prevent the Tsai government from declaring to the outside world that even if the 1992 Consensus is not recognized, cross-Strait official interaction can continue. According to the official statement made by the Taiwan Affairs Office spokesman, the meeting was a simple “meet and greet” between General Secretary Xi Jinping and James Soong. It was an interaction between a party and an individual. The Mainland will not resume official cross-Strait contacts as long as the Tsai government refuses to recognize the 1992 Consensus.
Obviously the Mainland is using a two-pronged strategy to win hearts and minds while remaining resolutely firm on the 1992 Consensus. This provides an important reference point by which to understand cross-Strait relations.
For the Tsai government, the stalemate between the two sides over administrative level issues can be overcome. President Tsai has already declared that she will deal with cross-Strait affairs in accordance with the Constitution of the Republic of China and the Regulations Governing Relations between the People of the Taiwan Area and the People of the Mainland China Area. The Mainland, meanwhile, allows political parties on Taiwan to discuss economic and trade issues and participation in international events. When James Soong met with Xi Jinping, he asked the Mainland to continue its cross-Strait economic and trade policies, and continue to look after small and medium enterprises from Taiwan.
This means that even if James Soong is President Tsai's representative, the Mainland is willing to listen to his views, as long as he personally agrees that both sides of the Taiwan Strait belong to one China. In other words, President Tsai can use James Soong as a representative in future cross-Strait consultations. Taiwan can also use other channels of communication outside the KMT to resolve a number of administrative level issues. Now that cross-Strait official interaction is frozen, this is a positive message.
But the cross-Strait political impasse has yet to be resolved. Xi Jinping sent a clear political signal to Taiwan this year. The Mainland is determined to oppose any form of Taiwan independence. The only possible solution to the cross-Strait stalemate is the recognition of the 1992 Consensus, and the correct handling of cross-Strait relations. This means that if President Tsai truly seeks to resume official cross-Strait exchanges, especially the normalization of cross-Strait relations, she must correctly define the nature of cross-Strait relations. She must acknowledge that the two sides belong to one China, and are not separate nations. If President Tsai persists in being vague on this issue, she should harbor no illusions. Cross-Strait relations will not improve. The Soong Xi meeting was merely a personal and administrative level matter, with no spillover effects. There will be no official exchanges, only private exchanges. DPP government hopes of maintaining the status quo can maintain only an incomplete status quo.
Since President Xi took office, he has set forth a series of proposals on cross-Strait relations and the rebirth of the Chinese nation. He hopes that the two sides can join hands in revitalizing China. He also discussed the meeting with Hong Xiu-chu and Sun Yat-sen's 150th Anniversary. Guided by this concept, the Mainland has never rejected cross-Strait civil interaction. In fact it has been actively promoting such interaction. Mainland officials have also taken measures to improve living and working conditions for people from Taiwan living on the Mainland. These are clear evidence of Mainland goodwill toward Taiwan, and constitute opportunities for the people of Taiwan. President Tsai must realize this. This shows that while the Mainland is firm in its stance, it also has seeks to improve cross-Strait relations and influence President Tsai Ying-wen.
President Tsai must reconsider the impact cross-Strait relations and peace will have on Taiwan. She must cease cozying up to the US while distancing Taiwan from the Mainland. Such fantasies are impractical delusions. She must addresss the Mainland's core concerns and resolve the political deadlock between the two sides of the Strait. Only then the cross-Strait freeze be resolved.
Short of this, sitting and doing nothing under today's "incomplete status quo" will only result in Taiwan becoming a boiled frog.