The six proposals on Taiwan put forward by Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) on Dec. 31 clearly excluded any US participation in relations between China and Taiwan.
“The Chinese people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait have the ability and the wisdom to hold the future of cross-strait relations in their own hands,” Hu said. “Resolving the Taiwan question and completing the task of national unification are internal matters for China and are not subject to interference by any foreign power.”
Beijing feels it no longer needs to concede to Chinese-US “joint management” of the Taiwan Strait. Instead, it has decided that cross-strait affairs can be managed by China and Taiwan, with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) playing the leading role.
China has announced that warships it has sent to patrol sea-lanes and combat piracy off the coast of Somalia may escort and protect Taiwanese as well as Chinese merchant vessels, while Hu has instructed Chinese embassies to strengthen their relations with overseas Taiwanese. These moves clearly show China’s intent to domesticate Taiwan.
Hu’s six proposals were also meant to win over international public opinion, assuring the world that unification between China and Taiwan “will not harm the interests of any country — it will only promote prosperity and stability in the Asia-Pacific region and the whole world.”
Beijing is now much more confident about eventual unification than it was during the eight years of the former Democratic Progressive Party government and its recent words and actions cast doubts on President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) “no unification” strategy.
In view of Taiwanese public opinion, Hu is clearly over optimistic. In 27 surveys carried out by the Mainland Affairs Council between 2000 and last year, the majority of respondents in each case were in favor of maintaining the cross-strait “status quo.” Since Ma’s Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) was returned to office, more people than ever hold this view, while those calling for quick unification still account for just 2 percent.
While Hu’s six points seek to put China in charge of cross-strait relations, the incoming administration of US president-elect Barack Obama will reiterate that any change must be agreed to by the Taiwanese people. The outgoing administration of US President George W. Bush has said the division across the Taiwan Strait must be resolved peacefully by the people on both sides. In comparison, the US Democratic Party’s electoral platform put more emphasis on the will of the Taiwanese, saying that the US “will continue to support a peaceful resolution of cross-strait issues that is consistent with the wishes and best interests of the people of Taiwan.”
Taipei and Beijing have now entered a period of close consultation and negotiations, but the public should not allow a situation where the KMT and CCP decide everything between them without regard for the dissenting voices in Taiwan.
Taiwan must be able to join international organizations as a member or observer, not just take part in activities. Its membership and participation should not depend on it accepting the “one China” principle, or be entirely arranged by China like an act of charity.
In his six points, Hu laid excessive stress on the goal of unification. In doing so, he forgot something that his predecessor Jiang Zemin (江澤民) said in his eight points of 1995 — that the Taiwanese people’s “desire to be masters of their own country should be fully respected.”