Boao Forum: What's Behind the Veil
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
February 15, 2012
Summary: Rumor has it that in 2008 President elect Ma Ying-jeou envisioned attending the Boao Forum in his capacity as President elect of the Republic of China. Had he actually done so, he might have overplayed his hand. He might have betrayed impatience. But the Republic of China government and the People's Republic of China government may sign a Peace Agreement one day. This is a goal both governments look forward to. When can the veil over the Boao Forum be pulled back? That may depend on how the two sides interpret the Bush/Hu hotline version of One China, Different Interpretations.
Full Text below:
Vice President-elect Wu Den-yih has finished registering for the Boao Forum. He expects to attend in early April. Beijing may send current Mainland Vice President Xi Jinping, who will assume the Presidency in the fall. Or they may send current Mainland Vice Premier Li Keqiang, who will assume the Premiership.
Authorities on both sides of the Taiwan Strait are undergoing personnel changes. The upcoming Wu Xi Summit or Wu Li Summit suggests that authorities on both sides will continue their previously established policy path. This path was set in mid-2008, at the Boao Forum, by Vice President elect Vincent Siew and Mainland President Hu Jintao.
The 2008 Boao Forum was a major milestone for cross-Strait relations. In 2005 the Lien/Hu Meeting reached an agreement on the 1992 Consensus and Peaceful Development. The 2008 Boao Forum transformed a shared vision between two political parties, the KMT and CCP, into a real world working arrangement between two political authorities.
Let us put the known pieces of the puzzle together. Consider the Boao Forum four years ago. On March 22, 2008 Ma Ying-jeou was elected president, with 58% of the vote. That night, National Security Council Secretary-General designate Su Chi suggested that next month's Boao Forum offered a perfect opportunity to break the cross-Strait ice. Four days later, on March 26, Mainland President Hu Jintao spoke with U.S. President George W. Bush on the hotline. Hu said, "The Chinese Mainland and Taiwan will resume negotiations on the basis of the 1992 Consensus. This means that both sides recognize that there is only one China, but each side will define one China its own way." Hu Jintao defined the 1992 Consensus as "One China, Different Interpretations." One China, Different Interpretations became the Bush/Hu Hotline version of One China, Different Interpretations. When Ma Ying-jeou listened to Hu's remarks, he was "very surprised." He decided to send Vice President elect Vincent Siew to the Boao Forum, as a further measure of the two sides' political path. The registration deadline had already passed. But two days later they received confirmation. Forum officials had arranged a fifty-seater private charter plane to fly Vincent Siew from Hong Kong to Haikou, but only charged him for an ordinary commercial flight.
Two events during the meeting underscored the important policy implications. One. Vincent Siew and Mainland Commerce Minister Chen Deming held a round-table. The Mainland press release said the two sides "participated in a dialogue under the One China Principle." When Vincent Siew objected to the wording. Mainland officials deleted it. Two. Vincent Siew conveyed President Ma's concept of "Face reality, create the future, shelve disagreement, pursue win/win." Hu Jintao responded in kind: "Work shoulder to shoulder, establish mutual trust, shelve disagreements, create win/win." Chen Deming withdrew his press release. Vincent Siew spoke of "facing reality." As we can see, the 2008 Boao Forum enabled the two sides to test each other's bottom lines and to agree on the 1992 Consensus. It enabled the two sides to experience four years of Peaceful Development.
We are now at an historical turning point. One point is especially worth affirming. Leaders on both sides of the Strait today have sound judgment, They appreciate the value of this historic opportunity. They know enough to take advantage of it. For example, when Hu Jintao spoke to Bush on the hotline, he did not inform Ma Ying-jeou in advance. But he exercised initiative. He showed good faith. He established a new pattern for Washington/Beijing/Taipei relations. For example, when Ma asked Siew to attend the Boao Forum, it was not at the invitation of Beijing. But he seized the initiative. He gave Beijing the opportunity to "refrain from repudiating" Siew's assertion that he was the Vice President elect of the Republic of China. For example, when Chen Deming deleted the controversial wording from Beijing's press release, he did so quietly and without protest. This enabled Siew and Hu to reach a consensus on "shelving disputes and co-creating a win/win scenario." These bits and pieces may seem trivial today, But at the time they crossed a high and risky historical threshold.
Forty days from now. Wu Den-yih will attend the Boao Forum. It will be the second time a "Vice President elect of the Republic of China" attends the meeting. This means that even though Beijing does not recognize the Republic of China as a matter of law, it must nevertheless recognize the Republic of China's system of direct presidential elections. Bejing knew that Vincent Siew and Wu Den-yih were Vice Presidents elect. Therefore, the Boao Forum shows that cross-Strait relations are evolving. They are evolving from mutual non-repudiation, toward mutual recognition. In other words, they are moving toward the Bush/Hu Hotline version of One China, Different Interpretations. Over the past four years, officials from both sides have seated themselve at the same negotiating table. But the Boao Forum veil of "Vice President elect" remains.
Rumor has it that in 2008 President elect Ma Ying-jeou envisioned attending the Boao Forum in his capacity as President elect of the Republic of China. Had he actually done so, he might have overplayed his hand. He might have betrayed impatience. But the Republic of China government and the People's Republic of China government may sign a Peace Agreement one day. This is a goal both governments look forward to. When can the veil over the Boao Forum be pulled back? That may depend on how the two sides interpret the Bush/Hu hotline version of One China, Different Interpretations.
何時揭去博鰲論壇那一層薄紗 【聯合報╱社論】 2012.02.15