A Peace Agreement: An Interim Solution
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
June 23, 2011
The whistleblower website WikiLeaks has published a message sent by the US Department of State. The message said that Mainland Chinese President Hu Jintao established a research group in 2006, in the hope of making a major breakthrough in cross-Strait relations. It said he hoped to find a cross-Strait framework acceptable to both sides, midway between the "one country, two systems" model and the "two states" model.
Based on what we know of Hu Jintao's actions on cross-Strait relations over the years, the report seems credible. On March 22, 2008, Ma Ying-jeou was elected president of the ROC. Four days later, on March 26, President Hu Jintao spoke on the hotline with US President George W. Bush. Hu said that "The Chinese mainland and Taiwan will resume negotiations on the basis of the 1992 Consensus, The parties acknowledge that there is only one China, but agree to define the term in their own way." Nine months later, on New Year's Eve, Hu announced his "Hu Six Points." Hu said that "The nation faces special political circumstances. It is not yet reunified. Nevertheless the two sides can begin pragmatic discussions." Hu Jintao's two statements represent some of the most innovative thinking on cross-Strait policy in a long time.
During the March Bush/Hu hotline conversation, Hu referred to "one China, different interpretations." On New Year's Eve, when Hu announced his Hu Six Points, he conceded that the nation was not yet reunified, and that it faces special political circumstances, but that pragmatic discussions could nonetheless begin. His remarks had two implications. One. He conceded that the nation is not yet reunified. He implied that the special political circumstances were acceptable, and must be accepted. Hu formally reaffirmed his previous statement, "Although the two sides have yet to be reunified, they nevertheless remain part of one China." In the past, this was unacceptable, because "not yet reunified" was considered acquiescence to divided rule. Two. Hu went so far as to speak of special political circumstances and pragmatic discussions. In effect, he conceded that there were options in cross-Strait political relations other than reunification. One could imagine political relations under special circumstances in which the nation is not yet reunified.
Consider Hu Jintao's policy from this newspaper's long-held perspective on cross-strait relations. We would say that Hu has moved from "goal orientation" to "process orientation." He has moved from "reunification" to "reconnection." His is contemplating a "third concept of China" that transcends both the ROC and the PRC. He understands the "glass theory," which states that the ROC is the glass, and Taiwan is the water. As long is the glass remains intact, the water is contained within the glass. Once the glass is broken, the water runs off.
According to WikiLeaks, Hu Jintao is seeking a solution midway between the "one country, two systems" model, and the "two states" model. Hong Kong's "one country, two systems" model cannot be applied to the ROC, It is hard to imagine the Republic of China not holding presidential elections, and instead electing a Special Executive. If the "two states theory" means "one nation on each side," that is unacceptable to both the government and the opposition on the Chinese mainland. The model midway between the "one country, two systems" model and the "two states" model is midway between "total reunification" and a "permanent split." It is a means of establishing political relations between the two sides under circumstances in which the nation is not yet reunified. It is a way to ensure that "although the two sides are not yet reunified, they are still part of one China." It is a way to ensure "different interpretations."
In fact, the phrase "Although the two sides have yet to be reunified, they nevertheless remain part of one China" is the same as "one China, different interpretations." This however, is confined to the level of thinking and language. It has yet to be legalized and institutionalized. Hu Jintao is probably referring to this when he speaks of pragmatic discussions.
The first thought that comes to mind is a "quasi-confederation." This newspaper proposes a new three part statement of principles. "There is only one China in the world. The ROC and the PRC are both part of that one China. China's territory and sovereignty are indivisible." Scholars speak of "one China, three constitutions." All of these can be considered a "quasi-confederation." This however, may be aiming too high. This may be hard to achieve. What is needed is an "interim solution" to serve as a turning point.
A peace agreement would be just such an interim solution. A quasi-confederation would require a "third constitution" and a joint-confederation hierarchy. That would be no simple task. But the two sides could sign a peace agreement, in their capacity as warring parties in a civil war. They could do so on the basis of "one China, different interpretations," as expressed in both sides' constitutions. They could commit to a long term cease-fire and peace. They could establish a long term, bilateral, cabinet level "cross-strait peace and development conference." This might allow the two sides to legalize and institutionalize the concepts expressed in such phrases as "Although the two sides have yet to be reunified, they nevertheless remain part of one China," "special circumstances," and "one China, different interpretations."
If we wish to sign a peace agreement, we must first agree on its central premise. For example, it may not be possible for the two sides to reach an accord as "Republic of China President Ma Ying-jeou" and as "Peoples Republic of China President Hu Jintao." But it may be possible for them to reach an accord as "the Taiwan authorities' President Ma Ying-jeou" and as "the Mainland authorities' President Hu Jintao." Absent agreement on this most basic of conditions, no peace agreement is possible.
If the authorities on the two sides are willing to pursue the matter, we hope they start soon. The two sides should refer to each other as "the Taipei authorities" and as "the Beijing authorities." For example, as "the Taipei authorities' Department of Health," "the Taiwan authorities' Economic Minister," "the Beijing authorities' Ministry of Culture" and "the Beijing authorities' State Council." They could even refer to each other as "the Taiwan authorities' President Ma" and "the Mainland authorities' President Hu." Hopefully the two sides will make good use of the opportunities afforded them in the next four to five years. If so, they can move toward signing a cross-Strait peace agreement. If by then they have not achieved a quasi-confederation, the two sides can still refer to each other as "the Taiwan authorities' President" and "the Mainland authorities' President" in their capacity as "warring parties in a civil war."
Consider the big picture. The two sides are engaged in coopetition. They have now reached a take profit point and a stop-loss point. A peace agreement is an interim solution that could consolidate the "special circumstances." It could uphold "a third concept of a China under divided rule, but undivided sovereignty."
The two sides enjoy a four or five year window of opportunity. They can begin by referring to each other as "the Taiwan authorities" and "the Mainland authorities." They can expedite an interim solution. They can establish a framework for peaceful development "under divided administration, but undivided sovereignty." They can establish mutual goodwill, change people's hearts and minds, and trade time for space. They can transform cross-Strait negotiations into a rational process. They can clarify their goals. We do not know whether the two sides in fact enjoy a four or five year window of opportunity. But if they do, this is it.