Tue, Jun 24, 2008 - Page 8 News List

Who exactly is talking to whom?

By Ker Chien-ming 柯建銘

Before talks with his Chinese counterpart, Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) Chairman Chiang Pin-kung (江丙坤) said that while former SEF negotiator Koo Chen-fu (辜振甫) traveled to China for political talks, Chiang and his delegation instead discussed economic matters.

When he mentioned Taiwan’s demands for international participation at the conclusion of the talks, Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) brushed aside the issue by referring to the communique issued after his meeting with former Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) chairman Lien Chan (連戰), adding the issue would be discussed later by the SEF and China’s Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait (ARATS).

In the second meeting between Koo and ARATS chief Wang Daohan (汪道涵) in 1998, Koo sternly demanded that then-Chinese president Jiang Zemin (江澤民) recognize the existence of the Republic of China as a starting point for political talks. In contrast, the recent round of “pragmatic” talks shows how President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) cross-strait policy has slipped from a “1992 consensus” meaning “one China with different interpretations” to one embracing a “one China” principle. This is another step in turning the cross-strait issue into a domestic issue.

Economically speaking, the Ma administration’s actions reflect Taiwan’s reliance on favorable Chinese measures, as in the recent agreements on direct charter flights on weekends and allowing more Chinese tourists in Taiwan.

The danger is that when one hopes the cross-strait issue will help solve domestic political problems, the result will always be controlled by the other side, regardless of what issue is being considered or what form talks take.

This displays a serious lack of strategic concern for focusing on real economic benefits for Taiwan.

Chartered cargo flights, part of the three-point strategy the Democratic Progressive Party insists on, would have been a real benefit for Taiwan’s economy, but were removed by China.

Beijing then made the issue the focus of talks when ARATS Chairman Chen Yunlin (陳雲林) visits later this year, as a “gift” to Taiwan.

Such negotiations demonstrate that Taiwan is being forced to make concessions that are humiliating to it as a sovereign nation.

The participation of the vice chairman of the Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) and the deputy minister of the Ministry of Transportation and Communications in negotiations seemed a big breakthrough.

But when it came to straight cross-strait flight routes and the exchange of representative offices, it was impossible for government officials to control the SEF.

The MAC chairwoman not only failed to criticize the agreement, she even put in a good word for it. It is clear that the government is only there to embellish talks.

Another indication of how the cross-strait issue has turned into a domestic issue is the use of the common platform of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and the KMT as the main medium for the talks.

The meeting between Chiang and Hu was just an extension of the talks between Lien and Hu and between KMT Chairman Wu Poh-hsiung (吳伯雄) and Hu. When Hu responded to Chiang’s remark about Taiwan’s international space, he referred to the communique from his meeting with Lien in 2005.

Although he said the point would be negotiated by the SEF and ARATS, he also told the MAC that the communique was the highest guiding principle for cross-strait relations, implying that future talks about Taiwan’s international participation will be discussed by the KMT and the CCP before being passed on to the MAC for execution.

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