Ma Xi Meeting a Bust: Restart Cross-Strait Negotiations
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
October 9, 2014
Executive Summary: The Ma Xi meeting is now a bust. The government lacks the will to improve cross-Strait relations. The Ma government's policy since he took office has been to be "close to the US, at peace with the Mainland, and friendly to Japan." This attempt to maintain a balanced relationship has failed. President Ma should cease insisting on a Ma Xi meeting. He must think instead about how to disarm opposition across the island, and restart cross-Strait negotiations.
Full Text Below:
The Office of the President has announced that former Vice President Vincent Siew will attend next month's APEC Leaders' Meeting in Beijing, as a special envoy. This means that the Ma Xi Meeting is officially a bust. President Ma told Chang Hsien-yao that this was merely a "minor ripple" in cross-Strait relations, not a tsunami. Cross-Strait negotiations will continue to be increasingly systematized. More and more agreements pertaining to trade in services, merchandise, and other matters will be signed
Negotiations over the Ma Xi meeting resulted in many twists and turns. APEC was the most appropriae venue for leaders from the two sides to meet. But Beijing believes that leaders from the two sides should not meet in an international venue. As we can see, the leaders of the two sides are not on the same page. This was perhaps the clearest sign that the Ma Xi meeting would be a bust.
Why were leaders from the two sides not on the same page? Some of the reasons had to do with Taiwan. Some had to do with CCP concerns over the internationalization of cross-Strait relations. Both reasons played a part. Take factors within Taiwan. This year the Sunflower Student Movement disrupted progress in cross-Strait economic and trade relations. Cross-Strait relations were enveloped in fog and the participants lost all sense direction. In recent years, cross-Strait interaction has become increasingly systematized. But the Sunflower Student Movement and political obstructionism brought cross-Strait relations to a low point. The government lacks the motivation to make further progress. The two sides are once again feeling their way, guessing about each others' intent. Both sides are seeking a new direction in cross-Strait relations. Both sides are adapting to the new atmosphere in cross-Strait relations.
Leaders from the two sides must deal with two misconceptions about cross-Strait relations. The first misconception is that cross-Strait relations must be either "first international, then cross-Strait," or "first cross-Strait, then international." When the Ma administration first took office in 2008, cross-Strait relations and Taiwan's relations with the outside world followed a fixed pattern. After the two sides signed ECFA, Taiwan, Singapore, and New Zealand signed bilateral free trade agreements. In other words, cross-Strait relations were becoming "first cross-Strait, then international" in nature.
But the Cross-Strait Agreement Oversight Regulations bill became stalled. Little progress was made in cross-Strait trade. The STA remained stalled in the legislature. MTA negotiations were delayed and remain uncertain. Meanwhile, Taiwan has established economic relations with numerous foreign governments. Taiwan and the United States have signed the BIA, and made significant progress with TIFA. Taiwan may be able to join the TPP and RCEP through different means. Progress in cross-Strait economic relations however lags behind Taiwan's accession to regional economic organizations. Cross-Strait economic relations now appear to be "first international, then cross-Strait" in nature.
The second misconception is that cross-Strait economic relations can improve even if the political situation fails to improve. During the 2012 presidential election, the cross-Strait peace agreement died, stillborn. Cross-Strait military confidence-building measures remained mere talk But following the election, cross-Strait economic relations improved. Eventually cross-Strait investment agreements werre signed, and trade in services negotiations were held, seemingly unaffected by the political standoff. But the highly political Ma Xi meeting is now a bust. The establishment of cross-Strait offices now appears remote. Review of the Cross-Strait Oversight Regulations and STA remain stalled in the Legislative Yuan. Internal disagreements over the MTA have arisen. A lack of progress in cross-Strait political relations has led to stagnation in economic relations. Cross-Strait relations now face a double dilemma.
Now consider changes in the international situation. The United States is "returning to Asia." Japan's Abe regime has great power ambitions. Hong Kong's Occupy Central movement has facilitated foreign power intervention in China's internal affairs. This has forced the Chinese mainland to deal with international factors. It has also led to three qualitative changes in cross-Strait relations.
One. Beijing hopes to imake cross-Strait relations more controllable. As a result, it is eager to build a cross-Strait relations firewall, It wants to avoid the internationalization of cross-Strait relations. It wants to prevent foreign governments making unwanted associations regarding cross-Strait relations. CCP leaders have reiterated that leaders from the two sides meeting is a "cross-Strait family affair." This is the main reason it does not want to meet at an international venue.
Two. Beijing hopes to make cross-Strait relations more manipulable. Since 2013, Mainland think tanks have been inviting DPP officials to visit. Beijing does not want cross-Strait exchanges to be limited to the KMT. Beijing expressed its willingness to make contact and communicated with anyone on Taiwan who favors cross-Strait peaceful development. That is why everyone is welcome to visit the mainland and participate in exchanges.
Three. Beijing hopes to make cross-Strait relations more defensible. Cross-Strait relations have warmed considerably in recent years. But the Sunflower Student Movement and the Chang Hsien-yao incident weakened mutual trust. Taiwan independence sentiment has never really abated on Taiwan. That is why when Xi Jinping met New Party Chairman Yok Mu-ming a few days ago, he reverted to the "one country, two systems" formulation.
The Ma Xi meeting is now a bust. The government lacks the will to improve cross-Strait relations. The Ma government's policy since he took office has been to be "close to the US, at peace with the Mainland, and friendly to Japan." This attempt to maintain a balanced relationship has failed. Taiwan-US arms sales may also lead to unpredictable results.
Whoever creates a problem must solve it. President Ma should cease insisting on a Ma Xi meeting. He must think instead about how to disarm opposition across the island, and restart cross-Strait negotiations.
2014.10.09 01:57 am