Former premier and Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) chairman Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) recently visited to a bartending event in Beijing.
While Hsieh’s trip may appear to have been a relatively straightforward visit, it could very well become an icebreaker for interaction between the DPP and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and a move that could help establish trust between both sides. Hsieh’s brave act is something that the CCP should appreciate and look to build upon.
In 1971, the Cold War was at its height. The US was embroiled in all-out war with Vietnam and was also at odds with China, which was providing support to the Vietnamese communists. Back then, the Cultural Revolution, a movement that had certain anti-US imperialist elements, was also in full swing across China.
This combination of factors saw relations between the US and China become extremely tense. However, the “Ping-Pong diplomacy” of the early 1970s and the subsequent icebreaking trip made by then-US national security adviser Henry Kissinger to China finally opened the door to interaction and the establishment of diplomatic relations between Washington and Beijing.
There were a number of powerful forces working against any reconciliation between the US and China. For example, former Chinese leader Mao Zedong (毛澤東) was strongly against what he viewed as evil US imperialism.
Meanwhile, then-US president Richard Nixon was an extreme right-wing anti-communist and back then, the US was at war with Vietnamese communists.
On the surface, such a situation would seem to make it difficult, if impossible, for the US and China to have any sort of positive interaction. However, in the face of the Soviet Union, a common enemy at the time, the US and China managed to come together. When Mao saw Nixon, he surprisingly remarked how much he liked the right-winger.
However, it was no easy task for the US and China to interact with each other and develop a degree of mutual trust and understanding.
In July 1971, Kissinger pretended to suffer from an upset stomach during a banquet in Pakistan and after leaving, undertook a top-secret visit to China in which he and then-Chinese premier Zhou Enlai (周恩來) engaged in three days of talks.
This fulfilled Nixon’s goal of initiating high-level communication with China. It turned out to be a momentous decision that changed the course of world history forever.
International strategic interests are often influenced by the sentiment that political concessions the other side makes harms their national interests. This is always something that poses a difficult challenge to the wisdom of a country’s leaders.
After the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989, then-US president George H.W. Bush sent then-US national security adviser Brent Scowcroft to board a military cargo aircraft to travel to China for a private meeting with Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping (鄧小平) on July 1.
Apart from US secretary of state James Addison Baker III and the deputy secretary of state, Bush did not let anyone else know about the visit.
Of course, Deng also kept the visit a secret, which almost resulted in calamity as the US aircraft narrowly avoided being shot down by Chinese forces.
China today is not the same place it was 41 or even 20 years ago. It is the world’s second-largest economy and the second-most powerful nation in terms of international influence. This is a fact that Taiwanese have to face up to. It is only by acknowledging this that the people of Taiwan can effectively protect their own national interests.