China Times Editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
November 18, 2016
Executive Summary: President Tsai vowed that her government would be the most communicative government in history, and that she would not "turn the clock back" on cross-Strait relations. Even when cross-Strait official interactions shut down, she alleged that many cross-Strait communication channels were still open. In fact cross-Strait relations have clearly been frozen. Taiwan's latitude in international relations has clearly shrunk. All the MAC can do is periodically call on the Mainland and ask it to communicate. It cannot take any real countermeasures. Clearly the communication channels President Tsai talked about are not in operation. Is this a government that is able to communicate? Obviously not.
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President Tsai vowed that her government would be the most communicative government in history, and that she would not "turn the clock back" on cross-Strait relations. Even when cross-Strait official interactions shut down, she alleged that many cross-Strait communication channels were still open. In fact cross-Strait relations have clearly been frozen. Taiwan's latitude in international relations has clearly shrunk. All the MAC can do is periodically call on the Mainland and ask it to communicate. It cannot take any real countermeasures. Clearly the communication channels President Tsai talked about are not in operation. Is this a government that is able to communicate? Obviously not.
Communication has three prerequisites. First of all, it requires self-knowledge. We must recognize our own legal status and actual strength. In particular, we must strictly abide by the Constitution of the Republic of China and its relevant laws. Second, we must walk a mile in another man's shoes. We must understand our strengths and weaknesses, as well as other peoples' strengths and weaknesses. We must demonstrate flexibility. Lastly, we must be transparent and predictable. Only then can we communicate with others and prevent misunderstandings. Only then can mutual trust lead to consensus.
As these three criteria show, the Tsai government has many problems communicating with the Mainland.
First of all, President Tsai refuses to acknowledge the reality of cross-Strait relations. She evades the core meaning of the Republic of China Constitution. It is true that in her inaugural address, President Tsai clearly declared that cross-Strait affairs will be handled in accordance with the relevant provisions of 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. But cross-Strait affairs are merely a matter of governing in accordance with the law. They do not define the nature of the relationship between the two sides. In other words, the Tsai government may ringingly declare that it abides by the Constitution and relevant laws at the administrative level. But as everyone knows, cross-Strait exchanges and cross-Strait relations are no longer at the administrative level. They have entered the deep water area of political agendas. If these political problems are not resolved, they will compromise interaction at the administrative level.
Secondly, President Tsai has never fully appreciated the power differential between the two sides of the Strait, which is unlike that for other nations. Or perhaps President Tsai is aware of it, but chooses to rely on American and Japanese power to resist pressure from the Mainland. But President Tsai failed to realize America and Japan care only about themselves. Relying on them will not yield any results, but will exact a huge price. In other words, President Tsai's strategic premise was wrong from the start. How could it possibly lead to effective interaction with the Mainland?
Just what is the relationship between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait? President Tsai has dodged the issue. Meanwhile she has aided and abetted cultural Taiwan independence and educational Taiwan independence. This makes the Mainland doubt her sincerity, and continue applying pressure. Many long overcome obstacles have resurfaced, such as participation in international events. In the past, the relationship between the two sides was clearly defined. Therefore Taiwan could openly take part in international events. Today however, the Mainland is worried that Taiwan is moving toward Taiwan independence. It must take precautions, and refuse to allow Taiwan to participate. Clearly, the Tsai government's approach lacks predictability and flexibility. It has forced the Mainland to adopt a hard line policy in response.
The Mainland's position, by contrast, is quite clear regarding the above three conditions. The Mainland, through a variety of ways, has conveyed a clear strategic message to the Tsai government. It is promoting cross-Strait relations on the basis that the two sides are one family. Cross-Strait exchanges are viewed from the perspective of the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation. As long as the Tsai government reaffirms the relationship between the two sides of the Strait, the Mainland will abandon all hostility and interact with Taiwan in a friendly manner. Its message is quite clear. There can be no misunderstandings. But if the Tsai government turns a blind eye to the matter, it will not be a failure to understand, but a refusal to understand.
In the early days following her inauguration, President Tsai showed a certain degree of flexibility. When confronted with Mainland proposals, she was willing to change directions. Unfortunately, this rosy scenario did not last. The Tsai government demanded goodwill gestures from the Mainland, but refused to take the right path in return. Instead it embraced its Taiwan independence fundamentalist political base. This signaled President Tsai's retreat, and revealed the lack of clarity in her cross-Strait policy strategy. She bowed to various political forces, constantly seeking to juggle them. She lost sight of the strategic picture. President Tsai's problems originated not merely from within Taiwan. They also came from without, and exacerbate her internal problems. The inevitable result is that internal problems remain unresolved, while external problems mire Taiwan in further difficulties.
If President Tsai is still willing to get back on track, she can. The Mainland now wields more power, both soft and hard. Its Asian-Pacific situation is increasingly favorable. The Mainland no longer needs to make concessions to Taiwan. It has a clear strategy. Nevertheless it is willing to be flexible. This amounts to goodwill toward Taiwan. The Mainland is willing to view both sides of the Taiwan Strait as one family, and make them part of the Chinese peoples' cultural rebirth. President Tsai should appreciate this. Taiwan has an opportunity to maintain the peaceful cross-Strait status quo.
If the Tsai government is willing to reaffirm the constitutional framework of the Republic of China, the two sides of the Strait can cooperate. This of course is what people want, and where the opportunity for communication lies.