With 2001 just into its second month, President Chen Shui-bian
Since the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1989, when 15 former Soviet republics formed the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) after becoming independent, I have been contemplating the possibility that something like the CIS model of "independence within unity and unity within independence" might emerge in cross-strait relations.
In 1990, Columbia University sponsored a conference "Constitutional Reform and the Future of the ROC." I participated by attempting to write a script for future cross-strait relations according to the scenario-planning method.
For the last 10 years I have used the term "integration" instead of "unification." There are different models of integration. Apart from the above-mentioned CIS model, there are also the versions represented by the British Commonwealth, a confederation, and the EU. Some people consider that from 1781 to 1789, the US confederation of 13 states was a kind of integrated political entity. That, however, was an integrated entity composed of states and not countries.
We can see from Chen's remarks that his proposed "integration" model is built on two key premises: that the 23 million people of Taiwan want to be the masters of their own destiny and that the dignity of the ROC in the international arena must be respected.
Apart from involving the positions of the two political entities on each side of the Taiwan Strait, the future development of cross-strait relations also depends on each side's interaction with the US. Analyzed from the perspective of the triangular relationship between the US, China and Taiwan, Chen's integration goal should be something all three parties would like to see.
First of all, the US position on cross-strait relations can be condensed to "two no's" -- no use of military force by the PRC in settling the cross-strait problem and no unilateral declaration of independence by Taiwan. The PRC's position with regard to Taiwan also becomes essentially, "opposition to Taiwan independence."
Taiwan is already a de facto independent sovereign country. The PRC's so-called "opposition to Taiwan independence" should mean opposition to Taiwan moving from de facto independence toward de jure independence, or in other words, opposition to the ROC becoming the Republic of Taiwan.
There are three paths Taiwan could take to realize de jure independence. The first is to unilaterally declare independence. The second is to vote for independence in a plebiscite. Finally, the third is to win allies through "dual recognition" and return to the international stage. Both the US and China oppose the first path. The US respects "national self-determination," however, and has repeatedly stated that Taiwan's future should be decided by its people. If Taiwan seeks independence by the second or third path, there won't be much resistance from the US. Of course, at the current stage, the PRC opposes Taiwan moving toward de jure independence by these two paths as well.
Since Chen has proposed the new framework of political integration after seven months in office, judging by the goodwill and sincerity he has shown, he probably wouldn't go so far as to follow the first path to seek de jure independence. But, given his two premises, the second and third paths apparently have not yet been ruled out. China's current military intimidation, however, makes the second path somewhat unfeasible. We are therefore left with the third path, ie, striving to win allies and to make a gentle and gradual return to the international stage.
On the basis of the above analysis, we can hypothesize that when Chen was contemplating his remarks, he was preparing to form a new framework of political integration with the PRC on the basis of the ROC's current de facto status as an independent sovereign country. PRC Vice Premier Qian Qichen (
Suppose Beijing were willing to accept Taiwan's entry into an integrated framework as an equal political entity. The next problem to overcome would be the differences in national development and political systems between the two sides of the Strait. The EU charter reveals that democracy and the rule of law constitute the cornerstone of that organization. The 15 current EU members are all developed nations. The members of the European Parliament are all elected. The EU model is also the most refined of all the models of integration. The degree of sovereignty that member countries of a confederation must cede is greater than that of EU member countries.
In 1958, Egypt and Syria established the United Arab Republic. It disintegrated within three years. The two nations of North and South Yemen also once formed a confederation. The head of state of North Yemen, a country of over 10 million people, held the post of president. The president of South Yemen, which has a population of around 2 million, took the post of premier. Before long, this confederation disintegrated as well. There are great disparities between China and Taiwan in terms of both population and territory. This is the first problem that should be considered in forming a confederation. The organizational mechanisms of the other two models, ie, those of the British Commonwealth and the CIS seem too loose.
Considering the differences in national development and political systems between the two sides of the Strait, we can only design a framework with somewhat stronger functions than a commonwealth but somewhat weaker functions than the EU. That would be a "strong commonwealth, weak union" mixed framework of integration. The operating model of the European Council, which is composed of the heads of state of the 15 member countries, is worth referring to.
This new framework of integration could be said to meet the conditions of a two-player non-zero-sum game in competitive game theory. It is a solution that allows China and Taiwan to achieve a win-win result, and it fits the ultimate objective of a future "one-China" framework. For China, integration of the two sides of the Strait eliminates the threat of Taiwan unilaterally declaring independence. After Taiwan has returned to China's "embrace," the name Commonwealth of Chinese States (CCS) could be adopted after the example of the CIS. (Since the PRC may be sensitive to the word "independent," the "I" of CIS could be removed.)
At this point, I want to urge the PRC leaders to demonstrate new thinking about future developments across the Strait -- in light of Chen's expansion of the scope of cross-strait relations. They should replace the "one China principle" with a "one China framework." For Taiwan, the problem of returning to international organizations can be solved by its agreeing to use the method of "shared sovereignty" in an integrated entity along the lines of the former Soviet Union's "one country, three seats" or the US plan for "one China, two seats," designed prior to Taiwan's withdrawal from the UN.
In his remarks, Chen's sincere hope that the PRC authorities would provide "mutual assistance" may have been pointing in this direction. Taiwan's adoption of a moderate and gradual approach to achieving de jure independence should be able to satisfy the wishes of the DPP's fundamentalist faction. Furthermore, Taiwan will have expanded its market in China and enlarged its own space for development. Most importantly, ending the arms race between the two sides of the Strait and investing the enormous budgets currently designated for national defense on China's "development of the west" and Taiwan's "national construction" will be of great benefit to both sides as they move into the ranks of modernized developed countries.
The new framework of political integration is the most significant transformation in Chen's thinking since he took office. When campaigning for the presidency, Chen seemed to view cross-strait relations from the perspective of Tainan. In his inaugural address, he looked at relations from the perspective of Taipei. Now, in his New Year's address, he already seems to be viewing the relations from the line down the middle of the Strait. One day, he may cross that line and become Taiwan's Nixon by stepping ashore on China. I believe that Taiwan, which has created economic and political miracles in the past, will also create a new framework for political integration across the Strait.
Cheng Hsing-ti is a professor in the department of public administration at National Chengchi University.
Translated by Ethan Harkness
Chinese strongman Xi Jinping (習近平) hasn’t had a very good spring, either economically or politically. Not that long ago, he seemed to be riding high. The PRC economy had been on a long winning streak of more than six percent annual growth, catapulting the world’s most populous nation into the second-largest power, behind only the United States. Hundreds of millions had been brought out of poverty. Beijing’s military too had emerged as the most powerful in Asia, lagging only behind the US, the long-time leader on the global stage. One can attribute much of the recent downturn to the international economic
On Sept. 27, 2002, the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste (East Timor) joined the UN to become its 191st member. Since then, two other nations have joined, Montenegro on June 28, 2006, and South Sudan on July 14, 2011. The combined total of the populations of these three nations is just more than half that of Taiwan’s 23.7 million people. East Timor has 1.3 million, Montenegro has slightly more than half a million and South Sudan has 10.9 million. They all are members of the UN, yet much more populous Taiwan is denied membership. Of the three, East Timor, as a Southeast Asian
Taiwan has for decades singlehandedly borne the brunt of a revanchist, ultra-nationalist China — until now. Ever since Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison had the temerity to call for a transparent, international investigation into the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic, Beijing has been turning the screws on Canberra. This has included unleashing aggressive “wolf warrior” diplomats to intimidate Australian policymakers, enacting punitive tariffs on its exports, and threatening an embargo on Chinese tourists and students to the nation. A tense situation became more serious on June 19 after Morrison revealed that a “sophisticated state-based actor” — read: China — had launched a
Hsiao Bi-khim (蕭美琴) is to be Taiwan’s next representative to the US. Hsiao is well versed in international affairs and Taiwan-US relations. In her days as a student in the US, she was a member of the Formosan Association for Public Affairs (FAPA) and served as chief executive of the Democratic Progressive Party’s US mission. She is familiar with a broad spectrum of Taiwanese affairs in the US. FAPA hopes that Hsiao, after taking up her new post, would continue to deepen and normalize relations between Taiwan and the US, and that she would try to get a free-trade agreement