Sat, Jun 15, 2013 - Page 8 News List

Conflict in cross-strait relations

By David Huang 黃偉峰

Anxiety can be detected by the conflicting attitudes toward Taiwanese identity and the nation’s future.

Surveys conducted last year found 54.3 percent of people identify themselves as “Taiwanese only,” another 38.5 percent as “both Taiwanese and Chinese,” and less than 4 percent of people identify themselves as “Chinese only.”

At the same time, several surveys show that a great majority of Taiwanese people (61.6 percent) prefer “maintaining the status quo,” more than 15 percent prefer “independence,” and only about 10 percent prefer “unification.”

On the other hand, a survey by Emerson Niou this year shows that about 52 percent of Taiwanese anticipate that Taiwan and China will be unified in the near future.

The discrepancy between Taiwanese preference and expectation toward their future deserves attention.

One plausible explanation about conflicting Taiwanese attitudes is that cross-strait social and economic integration since 2008 has made it impossible for Taiwanese to feel they control or choose their own future.

Taiwanese perceive their country as less autonomous and more dependent on China for its social and economic development.

China’s influence is perceived as so omnipotent that it makes Taiwanese turn inward to consolidate their “Taiwan identity,” while at the same time reinforcing their preferences for the “status quo.”

Cross-strait integration not only sharpens the distinction between Taiwanese identity and Chinese identity, but also institutionalizes the distinction between the Chinese and Taiwanese governments.

As hoped by Ma’s government, cross-strait integration has moved from “mutual non-denying de facto jurisdiction” to “mutual recognition of de facto jurisdiction” through the 18 cross-strait agreements, as well as the incoming agreement on establishing the Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) and the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits (ARATS) representative offices in China and Taiwan.

Of course, China does not want to confirm the Ma government’s de facto administrative jurisdiction in Taiwan, preferring to use semi-official agencies to undermine the Taiwanese government’s authority.

Yet that these semi-official agencies are authorized by the Taiwanese government and accepted by the Chinese authority makes it more likely that China has already tacitly consented to Taiwan’s exclusive administrative jurisdiction.

Indeed, Beijing’s “Anti-Secession” Law enacted in 2005 indirectly acknowledges that the Taiwanese government has its own administrative jurisdiction until its unification with China, even though the law proclaims that Taiwan’s sovereignty belongs to China.

What China wants to see through cross-strait integration is Taiwanese changing their minds and preferring unification.

A lapse of administrative control in Taiwan, from Chinese perspectives, is desirable given that “one (sovereign) country, two (administrative) systems” is still China’s policy with Taiwan.

Therefore, the unintended consequence of cross-strait integration, which consolidates separate administrative jurisdictions between China and Taiwan, is tolerable to China as long as it helps influence Taiwanese society.

What China does not want is “two Chinas” or “one China, one Taiwan” created as a result of Taiwan’s participation in international affairs and organizations.

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