Goodwill and Creativity Ensure Continued Cross-Strait Win/Win
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
July 14, 2010
Now that the cross-strait economic cooperation framework agreement (ECFA) has been signed, the KMT-CCP Forum is opening in Guangzhou. President Hu Jintao, General Secretary of the CCP, met with Honorary KMT Chairman Wu Poh-hsiung in Beijing. Hu did not follow-up. He did not clarify the one question Taipei is most concerned about -- FTAs with other countries. But what remains unchanged is closer relations and mutual goodwill. Wu Poh-hsiung publicly conveyed President Ma Ying-jeou's best wishes, and a 16 character statement of principle. This shows that cross-Strait relations have emerged from the fog of "secret emissaries." They have been institutionalized and are moving towards normalization.
It is widely known that during the Lee Teng-hui era, cross-Strait relations remained shaky. When Taipei and Beijing wanted close interactions, KMT and CCP higher-ups dispatched their most trusted emissaries. These secret emissaries added an air of intrigue to cross-Strait relations. But they really didn't improve cross-Strait relations. When Ah-Bian was in office he too sent secret emissaries. But the infamous "note" in Chen Shui-bian's suit pocket did nothing to increase trust between the Chen regime and Beijing. In 2005, People First Party Chairman James Soong visited the Mainland. His main consideration before departure, was how to normalize cross-Strait relations. He communicated with the Chen regime repeatedly in order to set up a Soong/Hu meeting. To win Soong's confidence, Chen Shui-bian presented him with a framed work of caligraphy reading "trust." But in the end it was all for naught.
The biggest difference between the Ma Ying-jeou era and the Lee and Chen eras is that Ma does not believe in secret emissaries. He insists on a transparent standard operating procedures agreed upon by the MAC, SEF, or other cross-Strait entities. Once he even considered allowing the KMT/CCP Forum to morph into a role besides cross-Strait policy trailblazer. In fact, Ma's thinking has already been incorporated into current cross-Strait policy. The rituals of the KMT/CCP Forum have been reinforced, even as its decision-making authority has been weakened. Apart from the two associations (MAC and ARATS), all cross-Strait agreements and consultations have been assigned to the government officials and agencies responsible. As for the KMT-CCP Forum, on Mainland China the party leads the government. All representatives are both party officials and key players assigned to Taiwan affairs. But none of the KMT representatives are officials of the Ma administration. None of them are charged with decision-making on Mainland affairs. They lack the right to speak. The most they can do is offer advice through party channels.
Ma Ying-jeou is not keen to participate in the KMT/CCP Forum. For Beijing, this has remained a nagging concern. But Ma has an intense desire to improve cross-Strait relations. That is an indisputable fact. The high-level KMT/CCP dialogue began when the KMT was out of office. KMT leaders occupied no official positions. In recent years, they have shuttled back and forth between Beijing and Shanghai, attending various activities and forums, increasing mutual trust and understanding. Now they have returned to power. The party can continue to conduct such a dialogue. But Ma Ying-jeou is president and party chairman. Obviously it is too early for him to meet with leaders of the other side.
The 16 character statement of principles Ma Ying-jeou asked Wu Poh-hsiung to convey to Hu Jintao reads: "Face up to reality. Increase mutual trust. Seek common ground. Ensure win-win." There is nothing special about it. The KMT-CCP Forum has reiterated this theme for years. The tune may be old. But it has not diminished in importance. Especially since cross-Strait relations have warmed so rapidly. "Face up to reality" cannot be a unilateral demand. Both sides must understand and accept it. Beijing's bottom line is that our side must oppose Taiwan independence, and adhere to the 1992 Consensus. Only this can "remove the obstacles standing in the way of improved cross-Strait relations, and help the two sides arrive at a feasible solution," Taipei must acknowledge this reality when dealing with Beijing. Taipei's bottom line is that Beijing must accept the reality of the Republic of China on Taiwan. If President Ma Ying-jeou cannot meet and speak with leaders from the other side at an international forum, how can he rise above internal conflict, and arrange a Ma/Hu Summit?"
When can Ma and Hu meet? That perhaps is not Ma Ying-jeou's most pressing concern. For Taipei, the most urgent question in the post-ECFA era, concerns FTAs. Will Taipei encounter resistance or assistance when it attempts to sign FTAs with foreign governments? Hu did not respond to this question directly. Wu Po-hsiung however did cite Taiwan Affairs Office Director Wang Yi. Wu said that President Hu endorsed Wang Yi's advocacy of "fair and reasonable treatment, pragmatic and proper handling." Cross-Strait relations are special and sensitive. Many issues can be mentioned only in passing. One must adopt a wait and see attitude. ECFA has increased cross-Strait economic and trade cooperation. The Ma administration now needs FTAs to make the progress more real. Only then can he reduce internal pressures, and assuage internal concerns.
On a more positive note, Beijing is willing to meet Taipei's calls for "fair and reasonable treatment." It is willing to take actions that are "pragmatic and appropriate." Basically Taipei has been presented with a golden opportunity. It should be able to sign FTAs with other governments in the foreseeable future. Taipei however, must be realistic. It cannot expect to sign FTAs with scores of governments. Beijing has certain conditions. For example, Taipei cannot start by attempting to sign FTAs with the Beijing's diplomatic allies, Only after Beijing has signed FTAs with them will Taipei be given the chance to follow up. These are all matters about which Taipei must be psychologically prepared. Following Mainland China's lead, the two sides can study the regional economy. How much latitude is there on Taiwan to express one's views on political reality? This must be addressed in advance. The two sides need goodwill. They also need creativity. Only then can they continue to create a win-win situation.