Tue, Jun 10, 2008 - Page 8 News List

Rethinking cross-strait strategies

By Edward Chen 陳一新

President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) outlined Taipei's diplomatic strategy in his inaugural address, while the recent actions of Chinese leaders imply that Beijing is also considering its own strategy.

Ma’s new strategy includes the following five points.

First, Taiwan considers the US its most important ally. Hence, Taipei’s most urgent task will be the building of mutual trust between Taipei and Washington and reinforcing bilateral security and trade cooperation.

Second, as Taiwan considers China its most important economic partner, the resumption of cross-strait negotiations and dialogue between the Straits Exchange Foundation and China’s Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait (ARATS) will be a top priority.

Third, in terms of relations with Washington, Taipei will use improvements in cross-strait relations as leverage. Furthermore, the enforcement of intellectual property rights and the import of US pharmaceuticals, agricultural products and weapons will be used as bargaining chips in negotiations with the US. Taipei also wishes to restart negotiations with the US on a free-trade agreement, to obtain security assurances from the US and to develop more intimate military cooperation.

Fourth, in terms of cross-strait relations, Taipei will use the Taiwan-US economic and security relationship as a backup and the possibility of another change in government in Taiwan as a tool for negotiation with Beijing. Taipei also hopes that the next stage of sensitive negotiations with Beijing over political and foreign relations issues will help resolve Taiwan’s marginalization in the Southeast Asian economic bloc, and that Beijing will agree to let Taiwan become an ASEAN economic partner. Taiwan also hopes to reach new breakthroughs in its pursuit of more international space.

Fifth, Taipei’s new strategy is to use Taiwan-US relations and cross-strait relations as complementary parts — obtaining security from Washington and economic benefits from Beijing.

Beijing’s thoughts on Taipei and Washington’s tactics can be determined by the recent actions of the Chinese leadership.

First, high-level decision-makers in Beijing have obviously decided to replace “one China with each side having its own interpretations” with the so-called “1992 consensus” as the basis for resuming cross-strait dialogue. Yet judging from the words of Jia Qinglin (賈慶林), deputy head of the Central Leading Group for Taiwan Affairs, Beijing seems to hope that the two sides of the Taiwan Strait can, under the “1992 consensus,” move quickly toward talks on direct links.

Second, Beijing obviously intends to replace “one China” with “the Chinese people” as part of the overall framework for cross-strait negotiations. If replacing “one China with each side having its own interpretations” with the “1992 consensus” is its negotiation strategy, then replacing “one China” with “the Chinese people” is a major strategy that both adjusts Beijing’s policy toward Taiwan and tries to win over Taiwanese through emotions. This is highlighted by the praise and many reminders that both sides of the Taiwan Strait are part of the “Chinese people,” as Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) and other Chinese leaders asserted during Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Wu Poh-hsiung’s (吳伯雄) recent visit to China.

Third, Beijing is differentiating between economics and foreign affairs during economic, trade, foreign policy and political negotiations. It is one thing for Beijing to give way on direct flights, tourism, the direct links and other economic issues. Politically sensitive issues are another thing altogether, however, as seen in Jia’s indication that cross-strait negotiations should deal with the simple before the difficult, the economic before the political — and progress in this order.

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