New Cross-Strait Strategic Scenario:
Pragmatic Exchanges, No More Unilateral Concessions
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
April 11, 2013
Summary: Following the Siew Xi Meeting, Vincent Siew urged the two sides to "confront the new situation, agree on a common vision, connect with Asia and the Pacific, and revitalize the Chinese nation." Compare this slogan to Lien Chan's slogan when he met Xi Jinping. "One China, Cross-strait peace, mutually beneficial integration, revitalizing the Chinese nation." The vision is even more far-sighted. It more closely echoes Xi Jinping's "Chinese Dream." But the Ma administration must rise above internal political interference and international strategic constraints. It must change its increasingly conservative cross-Strait thinking. Otherwise, as US academic Richard Bush noted about cross-Strait relations, time will not be on Taiwan's side.
Full text below:
Mainland President Xi Jinping delivered a speech at the Boao Forum for Asia that attracted widespread attention. Its theme was "Asia and the world work together to create a better future." Tensions remain high on the Korean Peninsula. Observers are focused on how Mainland China intends to deal with North Korea. They are attempting to ascertain, based on Xi's speech, whether relations between the PRC and the DPRK have changed. Xi stressed that no one should "create regional and global chaos for selfish motives." They wondered whether Xi's statement constituted to a threat to use force against North Korea.
Observers differ on whether Xi Jinping's speech was directed at North Korea. The theme of his speech suggests it was motivated primarily by the desire to establish a mechanism for geopolitical security, including economic and trade cooperation. This obviously, is not something the authorities in North Korea support, especially since Xi urged the international community to promote collective security. Xi said that "When national governments maintain frequent exchanges, collisions are inevitable." He said a mechanism for collective security can resolve differences and conflicts. This was a reminder to the U.S. not to seize the opportunity to stir up trouble on the Korean Peninsula, then use the trouble as a pretext to to resume Cold War containment.
Taipei should be concerned about another aspect of Xi Jinping's speech. Xi repeatedly referred to the "Chinese Dream." He said "I hope that by the year 2020, the gross domestic product will double, creating a moderately prosperous society. I hope that by mid-century we can have a prosperous, democratic, civilized, and harmonious modern socialist country, and achieve a renaissance for the Chinese people." This was not the first time Xi Jinping spoke of the Chinese dream. But it was the first time he affirmed it in an international setting. It was the first time he mentioned it since becoming the highest ranking member of the Mainland government. His reasons for doing so, and the far-reaching consequences for cross-Strait relations, are worth pondering.
First of all, Xi Jinping's speech revealed how the new generation of Mainland leaders' International and strategic vision differs from that of past past leaders. Deng Xiaoping, Jiang Zemin, Hu Jintao and other leaders pursued a "low profile" foreign policy. Their policy may survive into the future. But it will gradually include active participation, collective cooperation, openness and inclusiveness. This reflects changes in the Mainland's strength. But it also reflects the psychological background of the Xi Li generation, who received their education during the Cultural Revolution. They experienced unforgettable hardships and a history of humiliation. They are eager to restore national pride among the Chinese people. They want them to have confidence in the future.
Consider the Mainland's strategic interests. The most important issue now, is achieving moderate prosperity, and by the middle of this century, establishing a modern nation. Xi Jinping spoke of a grand renaissance of the Chinese people, of a "Chinese Dream." Absent a peaceful internal and external environment, such an ambitious goal will remain empty talk. That is why Xi Jinping repeatedly stressed the importance of peace. He said peace was "like air and sunlight. If you have it, you are unaware of it. But once you lose it, it is difficult to regain." Altogether, he made a total of 14 references to peace. He said ensuring peace was the responsibility of major nations. He said peace was essential to their long-term prosperity.
Peace is indispensable for the Mainland's development. Therefore it is indispensable for cross-Strait relations. The past five years of cross-Strait peaceful development have brought the two sides closer together. A shooting war between the two sides is now nearly impossible. Cross-Strait relations have improved. Mainland power has increased. Mainland modernization has accelerated. Mainland authorities are increasingly confident. Cross-Strait peace is now linked to peaceful reunification. This is something the ruling and opposition parties on Taiwan should take note of. The new generation of Mainland leaders holds different views on cross-Strait issues.
What are those views? Recently the "Wang Bao" interviewed Zhang Nianshi, a Mainland think tank analyst who specializes in Taiwan affairs. Zhang commented on the new generation of Mainland leaders. He thinks that Xi and Li perceive Taiwan differently than Hu JIntao. Hu Jintao hoped to change hearts and minds on Taiwan. He was willing to make generous concessions to Taiwan. Xi and Li may not share his attitude. Li Keqiang once said, "Between brothers, anything is negotiable." The implication was that if we aren't brothers, then you can forget about concessions. As Zhang sees it, cross-Strait economic and trade consultations will require more explicit confirmations that the two sides are in fact brothers. Otherwise, the Mainland will not be making any concessions.
During the Boao Forum Xi Jinping spoke with Vincent Siew. He stressed how compatriots on both sides are one family. They all belong to the same Chinese nation. The cross-Strait economy is part of China's economy. The Mainland will give more consideration to the needs and interests of Taiwan compatriots. This shows that the new generation of Mainland leaders are increasingly confident about the Taiwan issue as they pursue the "Chinese dream." More and more they see compatriates who see themselves as members of the same family, as a necessary precondition to improved cross-Strait cooperation. This illustrates the pragmatic style of the new Mainland leaders. This shows that cross-Strait exchanges will become increasingly pragmatic. The Mainland will no longer grant unilateral concessions. Instead, it will seek truth from facts. Its ritual gesture to Vincent Siew was merely based on VIP protocol. It will no longer make special concessions.
Following the Siew Xi Meeting, Vincent Siew urged the two sides to "confront the new situation, agree on a common vision, connect with Asia and the Pacific, and revitalize the Chinese nation." Compare this slogan to Lien Chan's slogan when he met Xi Jinping. "One China, Cross-strait peace, mutually beneficial integration, revitalizing the Chinese nation." The vision is even more far-sighted. It more closely echoes Xi Jinping's "Chinese Dream." But the Ma administration must rise above internal political interference and international strategic constraints. It must change its increasingly conservative cross-Strait thinking. Otherwise, as US academic Richard Bush noted about cross-Strait relations, time will not be on Taiwan's side.