In an interview with The Associated Press (AP) in October last year, President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) said he would engage in political negotiations with China if he is re-elected. He later denied having made such a comment, protested the matter strongly and requested that AP correct its “error.” For the past year, there have been no major changes in cross-strait relations, but on Monday, Ma unexpectedly said he expected a cross-strait peace agreement to be negotiated and signed with China in the next decade.
However, a peace accord that lacks systemic guarantees or an international arbitration mechanism is like a house built on sand: There is no way it can last.
An agreement that takes as its foundation the belief that a powerful nation can be persuaded to voluntarily adhere to a set of agreed rules is tantamount to paving the way for invasion.
History has shown that mistaken peace agreements not only fail to bring about peace, they can cause havoc.
Although the background to the expansion of Nazi Germany and the Chinese invasion of Tibet were different, the catastrophes brought about by mistaken peace agreements were similar. Taiwan cannot afford to overlook such historic examples and make the same mistakes.
Ma has said he would only promote a peace agreement if three preconditions were met, namely, a high level of public support, a clear national need and legislative supervision. These are all basic conditions that pertain to Taiwan internally. However, Ma did not say one word about the conditions that would have to be met by the other party to the negotiations.
The Taiwanese public needs to understand that a nation’s attitude to democracy and freedom and the extent to which it respects human rights is likely to influence the way that country honors a peace agreement it has signed with another country.
How on earth are we supposed to expect a regime that suppresses freedom and democracy within its own borders to honor an agreement they have made with us? China has not even been willing to symbolically remove the missiles it aims at Taiwan, so what meaning would a peace agreement have?
As soon as a peace agreement that is blind to the facts and fawning in nature came into being, Taiwanese would lose the right to choose their future. In addition, such an agreement could also cause the international community to misjudge the situation in the Taiwan Strait, while also removing obstacles to Chinese expansion. Such a peace agreement would be a castle of sand built on compromises and retreat, offering no systemic guarantee of peace in Taiwan.
In the past, because China would not accept the fact of Taiwan’s existence, Beijing did everything it could to keep it out of international organizations like the UN. This is the main threat to peace and stability in the Western Pacific region.
Ultimately, peace in the Taiwan Strait requires a resolution to the problem of Taiwan’s participation in the international community and the incorporation of international standards to monitor the issue.
A systemic way of protecting peace in the Taiwan Strait is what all Taiwanese hope for.
Lee Ying-yuan is a former Cabinet secretary-general.
Translated by Drew Cameron
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