Sat, Jun 15, 2013 - Page 8 News List

Conflict in cross-strait relations

By David Huang 黃偉峰

So far, in all important international organizations where both China and Taiwan are members or observers, Taiwan’s participation is based on a status of non-state and de-sovereignized entity.

Intensive cross-strait integration from 2008 as a result of Ma taking office has not offered much leverage for Taiwan to expand its international space.

Taiwan’s observer status with the World Health Assembly (WHA) is under annual invitation by the WHO secretary-general, acting under the auspices of China’s secret 2005 memorandum with the WHO Secretariat.

Leaked contents of this memorandum demonstrate that China assumes the position of Taiwan’s host country at WHO-sponsored meetings.

In the case of the nation’s accession to the WTO’s Government Procurement Agreement, the Taiwanese presidential office and central government ministries are listed in the attachment, but are referred to a separate WTO resolution which explicitly categorizes them as “having no implication of sovereignty.”

In other words, Ma’s achievement in expanding the nation’s participation in international organizations has, on the contrary, confirmed that Taiwan accepts its non-state and de-sovereignized status in the international community.

Ma has indirectly reinforced China’s claim of sovereignty over Taiwan.

Therefore, the unintended consequence of cross-strait integration since 2008 is the following:

First, institutionally speaking, a process of sharpening the distinction in administrative jurisdiction between China and Taiwan, in conjunction with a process of “de-sovereignizing” the nation in international affairs.

Second, in terms of cultural attitudes, Taiwanese identity continues to grow stronger, not only in the number of people who support it, but also in terms of their strength of attachment.

At the same time, Taiwanese will increasingly feel that unification with China is inevitable, even though they are acting as a sovereign entity in a democracy with limited options.

In light of these two conflicting trends, what are their implications for the nation?

If cross-strait integration continues to expand as China plans, firstly, a de facto “one country, two systems” will emerge, given that Taiwan is de-sovereignized internationally while its administrative jurisdiction is consolidated through cross-strait functional agreements.

Secondly, the “1992 consensus” will be abandoned in the case of cross-strait negotiations on political and military matters, as well as on the issue of Taiwan’s international space.

Thirdly, even if the “1992 consensus” is not abandoned for negotiations on economic and functional matters, it will be replaced by a common understanding of the “one China” principle.

Without this, China’s economic concessions will become less likely.

Finally, the dilemma for Ma and Xi is that any redefinition of the “1992 consensus” in line with the “one China” principle that enhances the inevitability of unification would prompt Taiwanese to strengthen their feelings of a Taiwanese identity and preference for the autonomous “status quo.”

Ma understands the electoral consequence of this growing trend in support of Taiwanese identity, so he is opting to stall China’s proposal for official political dialogue and negotiation.

However, the question is, how long can China wait?

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