The nine-month cross-strait honeymoon following President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) inauguration came to an end when Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) gave a speech in Beijing on Dec. 31 to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the “Message to Compatriots in Taiwan.”
In his speech, Hu talked about “peaceful unification” and “one country, two systems” and made it clear that the “one China” principle and economic cooperation were China’s political and material foundations for the peaceful development of cross-strait relations. He also argued that “one China” was the cornerstone on which political mutual trust should be built, seemingly ignoring Ma’s talk of “no unification, no independence,” “one China, with each side of the Taiwan Strait having its own interpretation” and “mutual non-denial.”
He also offered six proposals aimed at promoting the peaceful development of cross-strait relations — an attempt to back the Ma administration’s policies of declaring a diplomatic truce, seeking international participation for Taiwan and signing economic and peace agreements.
Hu’s suggestions have drawn disparate responses. My opinion is that, following the opening up of direct cross-strait links, pushing through talks between the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and subduing the Taiwanese independence advocates, he has launched a political offensive on a different level, aimed at breaking through the US “two noes” bottom line on Taiwan and paving the way for eventual unification.
In terms of the obstacles to achieving peaceful unification, how to deal with relations with the Western powers is now top of the agenda in Beijing, as Taiwan’s pro-independence forces have dwindled.
In order to solve the problem, Beijing must break through the “two noes” position of the US for how Ma should handle cross-strait relations — Taiwan cannot suggest that China holds jurisdiction over it, nor can Beijing have the final say on Taiwanese international participation. For this reason, in his latest definition of cross-strait relations, Hu said that the two sides of the Taiwan Strait are ruled by separate governments rather than being two separate countries and that cross-strait unification means an end to political confrontation rather than the establishment of a new sovereignty and territory.
His intention was to have the issue dealt with in the same way as for East and West Germany or North and South Korea. In other words, the ultimate solution to the Taiwan issue is to eliminate the intervention of outside forces — eliminate interventions from Washington by talking directly to Taiwan, thus achieving a so-called “new historic start.”
To attain this goal, Hu said at the beginning of his speech that Chinese on both sides of the Taiwan Strait have the ability and wisdom to control the future of the cross-strait relationship. In his first proposal, he said that so long as the two sides reach a mutual understanding and a consensus on the “one China” framework, in which mutual political trust can be established, anything could be discussed.
This suggests that Hu maintains a certain flexibility in relation to the “one China” principle. Only then did he mention the main topics for negotiation, including the economy, cultural issues, a so-called “united front” strategy, foreign affairs and the military.