To a certain extent, the recent China fever has been fueled by suggestions from president-elect Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and vice-president elect Vincent Siew (蕭萬長) that cross-strait relations be deregulated, and the feeling that the economy will improve as soon as Ma takes office.
People see great prospects in things like the recent visit by a delegation of Chinese investors. They are also buoyed by the belief that Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) shows a pragmatism that his predecessor Jiang Zemin (江澤民) never had.
Hu has used his title of Chinese Communist Party (CCP) secretary-general to meet Siew at the Boao forum last month and when inviting former Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) chairman Lien Chan (連戰) to Beijing for a fourth round of talks. KMT Vice Chairman and Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) chairman-designate Chiang Pin-kung (江丙坤) has also traveled repeatedly to China.
Just who will be in charge of cross-strait relations? Premier-designate Liu Chao-shiuan (劉兆玄) surprised many by nominating former Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) legislator Lai Shin-yuan (賴幸媛) to be chairwoman of the Mainland Affairs Council (MAC).
Liu’s move was a warning to anyone in the KMT who wants to dictate cross-strait relations. He clearly showed that there would be but one cross-strait policy that the president will finalize through the National Security Council. Policy will then be handed down to the MAC for execution, under the supervision of the premier, who will also clarify any questions.
But this only answers half of the question. On the Taiwanese side, cross-strait relations will be completely Ma’s responsibility, but in China, the authority still lies with Hu.
In the case of conflict or dispute, there should be no talk about who oppresses or opposes whom, but negotiations are required to come to a consensus and there must be mutually beneficial conditions based on fundamental equality. This is the only way to promote exchanges that are mutually beneficial and peaceful. If the sovereignty debate is touched upon, each side will return to its original position, no matter what anyone says.
In the recent meeting between Siew and Hu, sovereignty issues seem to have been left aside. Hu used party-to-party talks, in a sort of “one China, two parties” model, to break through the impasse in the talks between Taiwan and China. Issues that are not convenient for the government to handle or resolve can be handled through parties, giving the SEF and China’s Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait (ARATS) the opportunity to escape the entanglements of the “one China” principle. It is a roundabout way of carrying out cross-strait relations that is reciprocal and doesn’t make anyone lose face. Maintaining relations on a party-to-party basis seems to have a lot of advantages.
The question remains whether this is a realistic approach. China is a one-party state. For Hu, it’s easy to help Ma’s new government fulfill its election promises and it seems he could easily set the direction for the next government’s China policy.
Taiwan, however, is a democracy, and there are fears and doubts about a party-led government. The KMT government will need to first define the relationship between party and state, and talks should be held between the SEF and ARATS or through the CCP-KMT platform. There has to be a separation between party and government to avoid being taken advantage of by the CCP.