On the last day of last year, Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) made six proposals on cross-strait relations. Hu kept firmly to Beijing’s “one China” stance as he outlined China’s policies toward Taiwan for the next few years. Using economic benefits, international participation, peace and stability as lures, Hu echoed President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) policies, using cross-strait talks as a lever to make the “one China” principle a reality and work toward Beijing’s ultimate goal — peaceful unification.
Hu’s statements reflected a shift in China’s policy, incorporating hardline and softline approaches in equal measure, to a predominantly softline framework promoting unification on the basis of the “one China” principle.
In the first of his six points, Hu said that China and Taiwan should scrupulously abide by the “one China” principle. Although he mentioned the so-called “1992 consensus” briefly in his explanation, the phrase that occurred throughout the text was “the one China principle.” Hu said the two sides could only talk on a foundation of political trust if they reached a common understanding on the principle of “one China.”
However, in his response to Hu’s speech, Presidential Office spokesman Wang Yu-chi (王郁琦) said talks between the two sides were based on the “1992 consensus,” “one China with each side having its own interpretation” and “mutual non-denial.”
It is evident that there are still clear differences in policy between the two sides.
Hu echoed the political orientation of the Taiwanese government in seeking to put into effect the “one China” principle. After former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) of the Democratic Progressive Party was elected in 2000, China responded with a rigid strategy.
In various documents — the Chinese Communist Party’s 16th Congress report in 2002, the May 17 Statement in 2004, the “Anti-Secession” Law in 2005 and the Communist Party’s 17th Congress report in 2007 — Beijing emphasized ending hostility between the two sides through consultation, allowing Taiwan space for participation in international activities, establishing mechanisms of mutual trust in military matters, developing economic cooperation, signing a peace accord and promoting peaceful development.
In his six points, Hu also responded to Ma’s political goals by including the idea of a general agreement on cross-strait economic cooperation and finding ways for Taiwan to participate in Asia-Pacific regional cooperative structures. However, China made the “one China” principle a precondition for all these points. If Taiwan did not accept this precondition, China would not be willing to talk. Instead, it would use a combination of hardline and softline measures to force Taiwan into compliance.
Recently, there have been two rounds of talks between the semi-official negotiating bodies of both sides — the Straits Exchange Foundation and the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait (ARATS) — and a third round is planned. At the same time, negotiations are under way for Taiwan’s possible participation in the World Health Assembly. Nevertheless, Ma’s government needs to be cautious in dealing with Hu’s six points.
If Taiwan joins international organizations with China’s approval under the “one China” principle, it may find itself reduced to the status of a subsidiary member attached to China, or it may have to participate under the name “Chinese Taipei,” while agreeing not to join as a member in its own right. Such arrangements would damage Taiwan’s sovereignty and dignity.