Thu, Sep 11, 2008 - Page 8 News List

‘Non-state to state’ risks ‘status quo’

Lai I-chung 賴怡忠

President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) first interview with an international media outlet after the end of the Beijing Olympics sent shock waves through the international community after he said cross-strait relations are a “non-state-to-state special relationship.”

Ma’s proclamation of Taiwan’s position forgoes the sovereignty that former presidents Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) and Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) insisted on following democratization of the country, and firmly returns Taiwan to the “one country, two governments” or the “one country, two regions” framework.

Ma’s move is tantamount to a unilateral change to the “status quo” that will have a serious impact on cross-strait relations, Taiwan’s international exchanges and the future of Taiwan’s democracy. The cross-strait “status quo” may change by 2012, just as the international community fears.

Ma defined the relationship between Taiwan and China as a “non-state-to-state special relationship.” If we combine this proposition with the “one China with different interpretations” and the idea that Taiwan is not a country but a region, Ma is clearly telling the world that Taipei recognizes Taiwan as a part of China, and that both Taipei and Beijing are two governments in “one China” and that this is why the special relationship came about.

This is also evidence that Ma shares the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) view that the cross-strait relationship is a matter of “one country with two governments” as articulated by KMT Vice Chairman John Kuan (關中) at the Brookings Institution in March 2006.

Ma’s proposed concept is that cross-strait relations take precedence over diplomatic relations and that his “diplomatic truce” inform not only Taiwan’s international strategy and diplomatic tactics, but also its standing on the international stage. If Taiwan were part of China, cross-strait relations would be more important than diplomatic relations and Taiwan would no longer need to maintain diplomatic relations.

China should be pleased with Ma’s proclamation because it also means the Taiwanese government has accepted the “Anti-Secession” Law and recognizes that the Civil War is ongoing, which means that the two sides have yet to achieve de facto unification but that de jure unification is already a fact.

If the government has accepted that Taiwan is part of China, Taiwan is, legally speaking, no different than a separate region controlled by a local warlord. This gives more legitimacy to Beijing’s demands that other countries not recognize Taiwan; that approval from Beijing is required for Taiwanese applications for membership in international organizations; and that the US not sell weapons to rebellious Taiwan.

Internationally, Ma’s declaration implies a unilateral change to the “status quo” and a direct proclamation of de jure unification. This would return Taiwan to the zero-sum game situation under dictator Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) and his son Chiang Ching-kuo (蔣經國), where the existence of one ruled out the existence of the other.

The only difference would be that while the Chiangs took a scorched earth approach to diplomacy, Ma is asking for a diplomatic truce. Allies that have started to waver in their support for diplomatic ties with Taiwan may ditch Taiwan in the near future.

International organizations that have recognized Taiwan as a member will probably also soon demand that Taiwan surrender its membership. China can also demand that Taiwan’s representative offices in countries that are not diplomatic allies be put under the management of Chinese embassies, or request that this property be allocated to China.

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