Wednesday, October 17, 2007

The Strategic Considerations behind Beijing's Cross Straits Peace Accord

The Strategic Considerations behind Beijing's Cross Straits Peace Accord
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
October 17, 2007

Beijing recently convened its 17th National People's Congress. At home and abroad, attention was focused on three points. The first was the reshuffling of personnel, especially the composition of the standing committee of the Politibureau. The second was political reform. The third was cross Straits relations. Observers on Taiwan were of course most concerned about cross Straits relations. Especially when controversy over the "Plebsicite to Join the UN" has reached a fever pitch. The Olympic Flame could have reduced cross Straits tensions. But it is now a bust. Naturally everyone was waiting to see what the Beijing authorities would say about cross Straits relations at its 17th National People's Congress.

As it turned out, the cross Straits portion of Chinese Communist Party General Secretary Hu Jintao's report never once mentioned the "Plebsicite to Join the UN." Nor did it invoke the "Anti-Secession Law" or any need to resort to "non-peaceful means." Besides reiterating past policy, the text appealed to the ruling party on Taiwan to negotiate a peace accord on the basis of the "One China" principle, and to establish a framework for peaceful cross Straits cooperation. This is the first time the Chinese Communist Party has incorporated such language into the party's official documents. This means the tone has officially been set. This will be the Chinese Communist Party's Taiwan policy for the next five to ten years.

Beijing has cited a "Cross Straits Peace Agreement" as its framework for future cross Straits relations. This confirms what many commentators have said, that "preventing independence" is more urgent than "promoting reunification." It has a number of other implications. These implications should not be ignored by anyone who follows cross Straits relations. First, let's look at the revised language. In the past, the Chinese Communist Party leadership always spoke of "peaceful reunification" and "peaceful negotiations." This is the first time it has spoken of "signing a peace agreement." This is the first time it has emphasized process and procedure over results. This reveals a significant change in the manner in which Beijing intends to deal with cross Straits issues. This change has been expressed at another level. It is actively responding to the Democratic Progressive Party's "Memorandum of Understanding for Stable Cross Straits Interaction." It also incorporates the content of several communiques issued by Lien Chan and James Soong during their visits to Beijing. In other words, their proposal is seeking the greatest common denominator in cross Straits relations.

Beijing's strategic consideration for its proposal is clear. It no longer wishes to dance to the tune of Taiwan's electoral topics. So it is quietly applying the brakes and proposing a larger framework. This larger framework doesn't stress any "Anti-Secession Law" but makes a direct appeal for a peace agreement. For Beijing the "One China" premise is a given. The "Anti-Secession Law" is implied. This framework allows Beijing to affirm its commitment to cross Straits reconciliation and dialogue by means of proposals for a peace accord, with preconditions. This kind of declaration is aimed not at Taiwan, but at the international community. Beijing knows the entire world is watching to see how it responds to the DPP's "Plebsicite to Join the UN." As the DPP cranks up the volume on its "Plebsicite to Join the UN" campaign, Beijing not only eschews harsh language, it champions peace and urges dialogue. It creates a positive image for itself on the international stage. Washington's initital, positive response shows that it is working. In other words, Beijing is engaged in international image building, The trouble-maker in cross Straits relations is Taiwan, not the Chinese Communist Party. The seeker of cross Straits reconciliation and dialogue is the Chinese Communist Party, not Taiwan. The Chinese Communist Party has already gained the upper hand internationally. If it can establish its credentials as peacemaker in the Taiwan Straits, why should it fear the DPP's "Plebiscite to Join the UN?"

Beijing did not once mention the "Plebsicite to Join the UN." It put the signing of a peace accord into writing. These constitute an expression of goodwill towards the ROC government on Taiwan. but the response of the Executive Yuan, the Mainland Affairs Council, and the DPP Legislative committee was uniformly negative. Their reaction to the peace accord was chilly. President Chen bluntly referred to it as a "surrender agreement." Their response is not hard to understand. The party and the government have just kicked off their "Plebsicite to Join the UN." They have no intention of responding to any offer of a peace accord.

As we can see, the authorities on the two sides of the Taiwan Straits aren't on the same page. The Democratic Progressive Party is revving up its "Plebsicite to Join the UN." It is concerned exclusively with winning the upcoming elections. It is concerned exclusively with checkmating its political opponent in a game of Xiang Qi (Chinese Chess). Beijing, meanwhile, is concerned with establishing a cross Straits framework for future interaction. It is concerned with surrounding its opponent in a game of Wei Qi (Go). The game may proceed more slowly, but the encirclement is taking shape. These games have different rules and different strategies. For the moment each side may be able to play its own game. But with the passage of time, which side should be more worried?

中國時報  2007.10.17







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