Earlier this month, approximately 120 important figures from Taiwan and China gathered at the first ever cross-strait peace forum held in Shanghai.
Apart from being attended by Chinese government officials and policy advisers, several former political officials from the pan-blue and pan-green camps also took part, which made the forum something of a first. China presented an overall attitude of being candid, open and tolerant during this forum.
Each person was allowed to openly express themselves, including former vice premier Wu Rong-i (吳榮義) of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), who proposed the idea that Taiwan and China represent an “allegiance of brotherhood,” while the Taiwanese academics in attendance insisted that the Republic of China (ROC) be acknowledged.
However, the forum also highlighted the political chasm that exists between Taiwan and China. China is still unable to accept the existence of the ROC, while Taiwan’s blue and green camps are both unable to accept China’s precondition of unification.
Why would China, a nation vastly stronger than Taiwan both economically and politically, be willing to go through nongovernmental political dialogue to promote cross-strait political talks?
When the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) was in power, Taiwan hoped to engage in political dialogue to facilitate the establishment of an interactive framework for cross-strait peace and stability. President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) government is not willing to do so, while China has had to resort a public forum to promote the idea of cross-strait political dialogue. So, just what are China’s goals?
China wants to pressure Ma into engaging in political talks. In the face of the Ma government’s refusal, China now wants to use the more relaxed atmosphere of nongovernmental political dialogue to lower the psychological resistance to cross-strait political talks and to create a mindset among Taiwanese that is supportive of them.
However, as soon as the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) government accepts China’s idea of political negotiations, the KMT’s past verbal promises on cross-strait policy will all have to be turned into written agreements. This will be very hard for the Ma government to pull off. The verbal promises were aimed at brushing China off; writing these agreements into law would definitely meet with strong resistance from the public.
The goals of China’s “peaceful offensive” are probably not just aimed at the Ma administration. Given that Ma only has two-and-a-half years left in office, it will be impossible to get him to sign a cross-strait peace initiative, especially when he has already promised that he will not enter into any talks on a cross-strait peace initiative with China during his term.
Over the past five years, Taiwan and China have signed 19 agreements, but the cross-strait diplomatic and military standoff has never ended and Taiwanese are opposed to unification. The number of people who consider “Taiwan” to be their country is rising quickly, even faster than the number of people who thought so during former president Chen Shui-bian’s (陳水扁) two terms in office. This raises major doubts for long-term peace in cross-strait developments. Peace could become nothing more than an illusion if accidents happen or if there is another change in the ruling party.