In a speech marking the 30th anniversary of a message to “compatriots in Taiwan,” Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤), with his trademark unctuousness, on Wednesday called for unification and that Taiwanese independence forces “clearly understand the situation and stop secessionist activities.”
We suggest that this despot pause for a moment and strive for some clear understanding of his own.
He could make a splendid start by looking at the latest survey of Taiwanese opinion on cross-strait relations published by CommonWealth magazine, a periodical whose editorial line over the years has generally supported the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT).
When asked what the optimal relationship between Taiwan and “the mainland” was, 23.5 percent of respondents said Taiwan should immediately or eventually achieve independence, while a mere 6.5 percent said they wanted immediate or conditional unification with China. A total of 57.8 percent said they wanted Taiwan to stick with the “status quo.”
Hu and other advocates of unification may dismiss the CommonWealth report as just another survey, but as one of an annual series conducted by the magazine it takes on some significance.
This year’s percentage of people wanting immediate or eventual independence is the highest since the survey began in 1994. Likewise, the percentage of people wanting immediate or conditional unification is the lowest since the survey started.
One thing is certain: Despite the efforts of KMT think tank staffers and their political machine, Taiwanese consciousness is rising.
Another question in the survey asked: “Are you proud to be Taiwanese?” A total of 79.5 percent answered “yes,” while 11.9 percent answered “no.”
This is the mainstream public opinion that Hu misrepresents as the rumblings of a radical minority. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) must be aware of this, so it is intriguing to speculate on what it thinks it can achieve by patronizing millions of people.
Such mainstream opinion has the capacity to act as a backbone for a government committed to Taiwan’s sovereignty. It is therefore disappointing — but illuminating — to note that the KMT government is not making use of it.
“As long as the ‘one China’ principle is recognized by both sides ... we can discuss anything ...We can have realistic negotiations to reach a reasonable approach for the issue of Taiwan participating in the activities of international organizations as long as it is not on the premise of two Chinas, or one China, one Taiwan,” Hu said in his speech on Wednesday.
The fate of any “realistic negotiations,” however, looks uncertain given that nowhere in his speech did Hu acknowledge President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) key principle of “mutual non-denial” of sovereignty.
Yet the Ma government continues to glad-hand Beijing. In its response yesterday, the Presidential Office trotted out more talk of “mutual non-denial” despite Hu’s remarks serving as another slap in the face for Ma’s attempts to find common ground.
It is perfectly understandable that Hu and the CCP refuse to acknowledge the real situation in Taiwan.
But it borders on unforgivable that Taiwan’s president can defy mainstream opinion and fall in line with China’s nonsense with nary a complaint.
Ma Ying-jeou as an individual is more than entitled to do so. But as a president he stands at risk of, and risks standing condemned for, dragging every Taiwanese down with him.