Mon, Jun 20, 2011 - Page 8 News List

The Liberty Times Editorial: Seeing through China’s strategy

It recently came to light that a retired general from Taiwan’s armed forces said during a visit to China that there should no longer be any need to talk of a Nationalist army and a Communist army, because “we are all Chinese armies.” His comment stirred up a hornet’s nest in Taiwan and has been denounced by supporters of the pan-blue and pan-green camps alike, while ordinary people resent the fact that retirees whose pensions are paid out of our taxes should go around talking like traitors.

From China’s point of view, no matter what happens next, the general’s pronouncement was a mark of success for its united-front strategy aimed at eventual unification. For Taiwan, on the other hand, it comes as yet another blow to the morale of its armed forces and the public at large. The incident also shows that there are some people who are quite aware that China’s every move is aimed at unification, yet still gather like moths around a candle, only to get burned when they fly too close.

The odd thing is that, while China makes no secret of its united-front strategy, there are those in Taiwan who are happy to play along and who are quite proud of being “unified.”

These people find succor in the China-friendly policies of President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九). Hardly a day goes by without Beijing doing something to promote unification, and it already has a foot in Taiwan’s door. China has finally got the opportunity it has long craved to work its way into Taiwan and into Taiwanese homes and hearts.

The third annual Strait Forum opened in Xiamen in China’s Fujian Province on June 4. Chinese media report that this year’s forum was the biggest so far, with more than 8,000 people taking part, about 6,000 of whom are from Taiwan. Within China’s united front plans, these forums are defined as civic, grassroots and broad-based events.

The purpose of the forums is obviously to put into practice the call put out by Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao (溫家寶) to find ways of winning over people from central and southern Taiwan.

Central and southern Taiwan are the strongholds of Taiwan-centric thinking and Beijing could not make much headway in the region with its old united-front tactics. It started using religion to try to win friends there and more recently it has been enticing people with the prospect of material gain, for instance by agreeing to buy farm produce.

This strategy focuses on the needs and wants of people at the grassroots. Although the promises China makes are not always fulfilled, the people who are the targets of these united-front tactics often make the mistake of thinking that they stand to gain much and lose nothing. They naively go to China, taking their friends along with them, and end up swallowing the “one China” poison pill wrapped up in the illusion of the so-called “1992 consensus.”

While the Strait Forums are aimed at the grassroots, the series of forums involving the Chinese Communist Party and the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) are for the top leaders.

As to the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and others in the Taiwan-centric pan-green camp, they too have their place in China’s united front strategy. As Hu said in 2005: “No matter who he is and which political party it is, and no matter what they said and did in the past, we’re willing to talk with them on questions of developing cross-strait relations and promoting peaceful unification as long as they recognize the “one China” principle and the ‘1992 consensus.’”

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