At just under 6,000 words, President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) inauguration speech on Sunday was more than 2,000 words longer than the one he gave in 2008. This time, Ma allocated almost one-third of the speech to cross-strait relations and international participation.
The way the president talked about cross-strait relations and the future was very different from the way he talked about them in 2008. Reading between the lines, chances are high that cross-strait political talks will occur under a “one China” framework. As such, it looks as though the pressure China has exerted on Ma to enter into political talks is more than just a rumor.
While Ma reiterated the “three noes” policy of “no unification, no independence and no use of force,” he tried to avoid mentioning the so-called “1992 consensus” — the idea that there is “one China, with each side having its own interpretation” — which he stressed in his 2008 speech. Instead, he devoted a lot of time to explaining the idea of “one country two areas (一國兩區).”
Ma also requested that China pay attention to this issue and that further improvements be made on the basis of “mutual non-recognition of sovereignty and mutual non-denial of authority to govern.”
Even more importantly, Ma said that cross-strait relations have seen “unprecedented success in the areas of economics and trade, transportation, public health, culture, education, judicial assistance and financial services.” However, he also said that in the next four years, Taiwan and China have to “open up new areas of cooperation and continue working to consolidate peace, expand prosperity and deepen mutual trust.”
What do these “new areas” refer to? It would seem that the political arena is the only possible explanation.
We get a pretty clear picture if we put these two ideas together. Basically, as a result of the continued pressure China is exerting on Ma to enter into political talks, Ma gave Beijing a straight answer. And because entering into political talks quickly runs into the thorny issue of how each side is to define the cross-strait relationship, Ma has formulated the term “one country two areas,” thereby addressing Beijing’s demands for a “one China framework.” However, concerned that Beijing would not accept the idea of “one country, two areas” if the Republic of China (ROC) is part of the equation, Ma reminded China of the mutual non-recognition of sovereignty approach.
In his speech, Ma talked about military procurement and international participation, qualifying this by saying that any weapons bought would be for defensive purposes only and would only be those that Taiwan is unable to manufacture itself. Previous remarks about taking part in the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and the International Civil Aviation Organization were replaced by talk about taking part in events related to these issues run by specific UN organizations. Ma also mentioned how Taiwan and China could demonstrate mutual tolerance and assist each other at events operated by international non-governmental organizations.
All these statements have a strong pro-“one China” connotation and are a proclamation to the international community that Taiwan is giving up its independence.
Ma has already sent a clear message to Beijing that he is willing to enter into political talks under its “one China” framework. Ma’s inauguration speech was one in which he essentially offered Taiwan on a silver platter to China. This is something Taiwanese need to be aware of.