Putting political differences aside is the only way to ensure peace and development across the Taiwan Strait. At the end of 2008, Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) proposed that Taiwan and China engage in political talks. At the start of November this year, a report delivered at the Chinese Communist Party’s 18th National Congress proposed that the two sides look further into cross-strait political relations under the “special condition” that Taiwan and China are not “yet” unified. This shows that China wants to gradually forge a consensus and mutual trust with Taiwan in terms of cross-strait politics. However, China’s premise for political talks is the “one China” principle and it wants the result of any peace accord to be unification. This is why we have seen so many problems with cross-strait political talks getting underway.
National Chengchi University’s Election Study Center uses a poll called the cross-strait independence unification index. This subtracts the number of people who support independence from those who support unification. In 1995, this index was at its highest at 10.1 percent, but it has continuously dropped ever since. In 1999, it was minus-0.9 percent, in 2007 it was minus-9.6 percent and it is now at minus-9.8 percent. This means that more people in Taiwan support Taiwanese independence than support unification with China and there is no way that the Taiwanese can accept the premise of the “one China principle” and Ma’s idea of “eventual unification.” This is why Ma has, on several occasions, refused cross-strait political talks.
A few days ago, the deputy director of China’s Taiwan Affairs Office, Sun Yafu (孫亞夫), said during the closing ceremony of a forum in Taipei, that discussions on cross-strait political relations should not be based upon any particular premise and the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) should be invited to take part. It seems that China is confident that if peace and development are to be guaranteed between Taiwan and China, political consensus and mutual trust are needed, and to reach these goals we cannot base talks on any preconditions. In addition, the DPP has to take part in the process to see that the views of the Taiwanese get represented. Sun’s proposal was pragmatic and reflects precisely what the cross-strait peace index and opinion polls have been telling us.
Tung Chen-yuan is a professor in the Graduate Institute of Development Studies at National Chengchi University.
Translated by Drew Cameron