Fri, Feb 18, 2011 - Page 8 News List

A long-term approach to China ties

By Lee Wen-chung 李文忠

The government is pursuing a very pro-China policy and playing fast and loose with the values of freedom and democracy. This notwithstanding, it has managed to achieve stability in the Taiwan Strait and, with the signing of the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA), has also provided a basis for economic growth. It has therefore won a certain degree of support.

The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), on the other hand, is limited to expounding its ideas in principle, without being able to actually implement them. Until it does, it has nothing by which to compare the merits of its cross-strait vision with those of the government’s, and therein lies its predicament.

DPP Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) avowed stance on China, her insistence on freedom, democracy and human rights, entail values that are precisely what distinguishes Taiwan from China. These are not to be abandoned, but we should nevertheless think about how we are to move forward within this framework.

In this article, I am suggesting that we should encourage dialogue with China on all levels, but make peace, freedom and democracy integral to these talks.

Dialogue means increasing contact and multilateral communication. This dialogue should not be restricted only to the authorities in Beijing, but should extend to ordinary Chinese people, and also to the international community, and people in this country, too.

It should involve multilateral, multilevel exchanges that could, over time, become regular, scheduled events, undertaken by designated channels and institutions. It perhaps also involves seeking out friendships or alliances with people in China who are well disposed to the values of peace and democracy, as well as those who may in the future become more rational politicians and enlightened leaders.

There should be less emphasis on differences over sovereignty, and more on discussing differing systems and values and talking about peace, freedom and democracy and the rational implementation of cross-strait solutions. Taiwan could provide experience and assistance in the practical implementation and development of democracy and the rule of law.

We are not trying to embarrass the Chinese Communist Party or help overthrow the Chinese government, so we will need to be cautious in how we proceed. This process is to be measured not in months, but in decades. It is not to be rushed. We should not proceed to the next stage until the remit and conditions of a certain stage have been satisfied.

When certain conditions are met, Taiwan could agree on entering the next stage in cross-strait arrangements for the near future and the end game. These would include China formally agreeing to resolve the cross-strait issue by peaceful means and abide by international guarantees, there being a certain amount of progress on broad-stroke issues such as habeas corpus, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly and the rule of law, and also a certain amount of progress on democratic elections, together with concrete and near-term assurances on party politics and universal elections.

Again, each stage might take several decades. Negotiations for the near term can be based on the models of East and West Germany and North and South Korea, establishing special, amicable relationships on an equal footing. The negotiations will stand or fall on the exact nature of this relationship, and how it affects mutual understandings on trade, politics, diplomatic relations and military affairs.

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