Sun, Oct 17, 2010 - Page 8 News List

‘Peace’ with China has ugly caveats

By J. Michael Cole 寇謐將

We must not forget that the principal target of the Chinese military is the Taiwanese independence movement, which, for all intents and purposes, is embodied by the DPP.

What this means is that the “confidence” that Beijing is seeking from Taipei’s side in confidence building is asymmetrical, as it lies not in the military sphere (for Taiwan does not threaten China militarily), but rather in politics. It will be the promise that independence is eliminated altogether, or, at a minimum, kept on a very short leash.

Regardless of the validity of the DPP’s argument (which is invariably misunderstood or conveniently ignored by the international community), the party and its supporters will be perceived as an impediment to peace in the Taiwan Strait, the last bump in the road to be surmounted before 60 years of, at times potentially, nuclear animosity can be brought to a conclusion.

Consequently, pressure on the Ma administration will not only mount for it to join the negotiating table with Beijing, but it will also be compelled to deal, one way or another, with the inconvenient “DPP problem.”

As highlighted by the undeclared visit last month of Chinese Vice Minister of Public Security Chen Zhimin (陳智敏), the Ma administration has shown itself willing to engage in secret talks with Chinese security officials. With Beijing turning the screw on Taipei to discuss military matters, such behind-the-scenes meetings will eventually turn to the question of Taiwanese independence. Itself eager for peace (and the possibility of Ma sharing the Nobel Peace Prize with Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) in the near future), Taipei could prove receptive to the preconditions set by Beijing — namely, the neutralization of the Taiwan independence movement and the DPP. Even well-intentioned KMT officials — of which there are some — could come to see such action as the lesser evil in a high-stakes game to end a longstanding war.

For its part, the international community, which has already unanimously hailed the reduced tensions in the Taiwan Strait, is also likely to add pressure on the Ma administration to sideline the independence movement (or at minimum ignore it) so that the peace talks can take place. After all, peace is good for investment, and the world is eager to invest in Taiwan, if only to establish a foothold on a parcel of land that is often seen as a bridge to the real prize. Who cares about the alleged “small minority” of Taiwanese, as Chinese propaganda wants us to believe, who want independence for Taiwan or, if not that, at least independence from Chinese control? As the pressure mounts on Ma to discuss peace with his counterparts in Beijing, it is feasible we will once again see accusations that the DPP is a “troublemaker.” (Ironically, democracy is the real “troublemaker,” if we can call it that, as this is what makes it impossible for the Ma administration to rush into peace talks with Beijing.)

Despite owning the moral high ground, the independence movement has come to be seen as a hindrance to “peace,” as standing in the way of wise leaders. How the international community and especially Taiwan’s main allies, come to define peace — as merely the absence of war or conflict, as opposed to a resolution based on justice — will be a deciding factor in whether the DPP is allowed to continue to exist or is forced out of the picture and with it the millions of Taiwanese who ask for nothing more than to be allowed to determine their own destiny.

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