When former president Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) roped the Taiwanese into his fight against the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) after taking over Taiwan, his planners explained the CCP’s basic doctrine this way: “What is mine is mine, and what is yours is also mine. Some things are to be taken as common property and I will therefore take yours.”
China and its sympathizers would say that the wording of this outline was simply an attempt to stigmatize and demonize China, but I would say it is a fairly accurate way to describe the idea of “one China.”
During this year’s round of political meetings involving the National People’s Congress (NPC) and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao (溫家寶) and NPC spokesman Li Zhaoxing (李肇星) reiterated the position that “China and Taiwan both belong to China” and that “Taiwan is a part of China.”
Now, if that isn’t a classic example of “What is yours is mine,” I don’t know what is. I found it particularly rich that Li asked in exasperation how it could be so difficult to understand something so “obvious.” Of course, he was feigning ignorance of the complexities of the situation, adding two and two and coming up with five.
It might be obvious to him, but it isn’t to everyone.
People might find it easier to understand if he actually started making sense and spoke of the situation in terms of one nation on each side of the Strait.
Although China’s high-level politicos are reiterating old ideas, they can no longer be so explicit about them. They claim that Beijing has always approached any issue relating to Taiwan in the context of the “one China” principle, as is implicit in the trap they are setting in the negotiations for an economic cooperation framework agreement (ECFA). You’re not going to see the ideas of the “one China” principle or “unification” spelled out in black and white in the ECFA, but Beijing has already made it clear that these are understood to be part of the agreement.
Premier Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) was being slightly disingenuous when he swore he would step down if the word “unification” appeared in the agreement.
The Mainland Affairs Council has also tried to play things down by saying that it has signed other agreements that were unrelated to politics and that the ECFA was an economic matter that had absolutely nothing to do with politics.
These issues involve the very survival of Taiwan as a country as well as its sovereignty, but there is no real consensus about them in Taiwan. Neither is there any real convergence between what President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) is doing and public opinion. However, there is a clear consensus between Ma and China. I don’t think there is any real surprise, then, that his popularity ratings have been falling.
Once Taiwan buys into the “one China” principle, Beijing will be taking a mile for every inch given to it and say “thank you very much.” It will be reaping its “early harvest,” alright: a present of Taiwan’s sovereignty. It may even well mete out its concessions and remove the odd missile or two, orchestrating a “warming” of the Taiwan Strait situation and pushing for “peace talks.” This would, in turn, make all the more plausible China’s case to the US that there is no real need to sell arms to Taiwan.
If Ma truly supports Taiwanese democracy and sovereignty, he will hold a referendum on the ECFA, require China to accept that there is “one nation on each side of the Strait,” and demand China cease any further military intimidation toward Taiwan. China must not continue to avoid these serious issues simply by promising to remove its missiles aimed at Taiwan.
James Wang is a journalist based in Washington.
TRANSLATED BY PAUL COOPER
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