After official talks between Taiwan and China were frozen for a decade, Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait (ARATS) Chairman Chen Yunlin (陳雲林) finally agreed to visit Taiwan. Given the problems that have occurred during the last 20 years of interaction between Taiwan and China, the two sides have to make the most of this historic opportunity to begin a dialogue and agree on a legal framework that will assure peace across the Taiwan Strait.
China has constantly insisted that Taiwan accept the “one China” principle when discussing the resumption of talks between ARATS and the Straits Exchange Foundation. This was a condition that the Democratic Progressive Party refused during its time in office, forcing Beijing to face the fact that Taiwan has a different opinion regarding the “one China” principle. This refusal eventually led to China’s willingness to accept the so-called “1992 consensus” as proposed by the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), with Beijing eventually replacing its “one China” principle with the “consensus.”
While Beijing might try to twist the “consensus” into the “one China principle,” the KMT interprets the “consensus” as meaning that there is “one China, with each side having its own interpretation.”
When the “consensus” replaced the “one China” principle, Beijing started to tone down its talk about “one China.” This showed that Beijing was no longer willing to go head-to-head with Taiwan on the meaning of the “one China” principle and that it would rather use its political clout in the international arena and its status as the only legal representative of China at the UN to encourage the misconception within the international community that Taiwan has accepted that the People’s Republic of China (PRC) is the one and only China.
Given the international disadvantage it faces, if Taiwan fails to make it clear to the world that the Republic of China (ROC) is a sovereign and independent nation based on law when Chen visits Taipei as China’s official emissary, we will be basically giving in to Beijing and saying that China has sovereign rights over Taiwan. The Taiwan Strait would become a part of China’s waters and the international community will not be able to intervene in any disputes that may occur in the Strait, which would place Taiwan in a dangerous position.
Therefore, the government and the public must express their common belief in Taiwan’s sovereign and independent status to maintain Taiwan’s national security, democracy and freedom, and ensure the peaceful development of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
This also represents a pledge on behalf of Taiwan and its people to the encouragement and development of democracy in China. We have to make this pledge to ourselves and to the rest of the world, especially Chinese people around the globe, when Chen visits Taipei.
If China is really sincere about coexisting peacefully with Taiwan and does not wish to see any further spread of what they refer to as “Taiwanese separatism,” it must try to understand the anger Taiwanese have held toward China for so long.
Beijing must also realize that Taiwan is a sovereign nation, equal to it in status, and it must also show due respect and courtesy to President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) as president of the ROC.
After all, Ma and Taiwanese are citizens of the ROC, not rebels and traitors to the CCP. Therefore, it is extremely disrespectful for China to demand that Taiwan’s government remove our flag from venues the Chinese officials will visit or to demand that the government ban or suppress any protests or rallies during their visit.
Taiwanese also need to understand that the goal behind us objecting to Chen’s visit is to announce to the world that we have basic human rights that entitle us to decide our own future. The public must also understand that Chen’s visit does not represent an opportunity for us to utilize the strength of numbers to vent our anger at him, his delegation or China.
Regardless of what ARATS Vice Chairman Zhang Lizhong (鄭立中), Chen or the CCP does, apart from taking substantial action to show our determination to decide Taiwan’s future, we must show every guest in Taiwan respect, including official Chinese emissaries who have been invited here by our government.
Taiwanese must clearly understand that these rallies are aimed at the CCP and the KMT and not the Chinese. Therefore, attendees of these rallies should remember that they cannot lose their temper and insult the people of China.
The biggest differences between Taiwan and China are their political systems and the values of their people. These differences have nothing to do with the beauty or ugliness of human nature or the superiority or inferiority of different cultures.
We have to guard against politicians using malicious instigations to cover up their own incompetence and those who try to turn cross-strait conflicts into conflicts involving nationalism, for this will only harbor greater hate within the hearts of our people that will last for many generations. This is not the way to peace.
Although Taiwan is small, we need to have big hopes and aspirations and cannot allow ourselves to be pulled down by anyone.
Tseng Chien-yuan is an assistant professor of public administration at Chung Hua University.
TRANSLATED BY DREW CAMERON
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