Asked about the Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) China policy in an interview with Radio Taiwan International last week, DPP Chairman Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) responded with two concepts: “Seagull on the beach” and “China plus one.”
Su said the cross-strait relationship should be like “a seagull on the beach” because “a man on a beach should learn how to watch a seagull and appreciate its beauty from a distance. If he tried to catch it, it would fly away.” He also urged Beijing to create a “China plus one” situation by stopping the oppression of Taipei’s international space and respecting it in bilateral engagements, so that both sides could coexist in the international community.
His comments immediately drew criticism from party members and supporters, with some saying that the seagull would have to fly away eventually and others arguing that the description of China as a human being and Taiwan as a bird was belittling.
Neither did China have a nice word to say about it, as a Taiwan Affairs Office spokesperson said the DPP remains supportive of Taiwan independence and no shortcut should be taken.
Su had to dispatch the DPP’s representative to the US, Joseph Wu (吳釗燮), to Washington to elaborate on and explain the concepts. The DPP’s effort in seeking a replacement for the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) so-called “1992 consensus” as the foundation of cross-strait engagement and summarizing its China policy with a simple term or set phrase appears to have failed once again.
However, the situation is not unprecedented, as former DPP chairperson Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) failure to impress the US with her “Taiwan Consensus” initiative during the 2012 presidential campaign resulted in Washington’s blatant interference in the election and the DPP’s eventual loss.
Beijing and Washington’s requirement for Taiwan’s China policy to be summarized in a simple term is the greatest myth as well as one of the greatest dangers in interpreting Taiwan’s cross-strait strategy.
The demand for such a term appears to have come from the Chinese, and in particular, the Chinese Communist Party’s habit of naming its national goals and propaganda campaigns — such as the Great Leap Forward, the Destruction of Four Olds and “one country, two systems.”
While political ideology and campaigns are often presented in a simple way for the public to understand, in Taiwan’s case, an oversimplification of those ideas, especially for winning endorsement and praise from foreign governments, would be ignoring the heart of the matter.
President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration was able to impress China and the US while accelerating cross-strait engagement through the KMT’s “1992 consensus” initiative, which, ironically had earlier been rejected by Beijing and was always loosely defined — the same reasons Washington viewed Tsai’s initiative as unappealing. The results of using the “1992 consensus” term over the past five years, which the US praised as a reduction of cross-strait tensions, has been Taiwan’s increasing alignment with China in almost every policy area. Whether the term serves the US’ strategic interests in the Asia-Pacific region is up for debate.
It is arguable, given the complexity of cross-strait engagement following the developments under the Ma administration and the ever-changing dynamics in the Asia-Pacific region, that the Taiwan-China policy could be summed up by an oversimplified phrase. The DPP would have to convince and persuade the public that it is capable of managing cross-strait relations at least as good as, if not better than, the KMT.
The livelihoods, interests and political aspirations of 23 million Taiwanese are too great to be summarized in a word or a phrase.
Beijing and Washington should understand that.
When Chinese Communist Party (CCP) leader Xi Jinping (習近平) wakes up one morning and decides that his People’s Liberation Army (PLA) can win a war to conquer Taiwan, that is when his war will begin. To ensure that Xi never gains that confidence it is now necessary for the United States to shed any notions of “forbearance” in arms sales to Taiwan. Largely because they could guarantee military superiority on the Taiwan Strait, US administrations from Jimmy Carter to Barack Obama practiced “forbearance” — pre-emptive limitation of arms sales to Taiwan — in hopes of gaining diplomatic leverage with Beijing. President Ronald
As the US marks one month under the leadership of President Joe Biden, the conversations around Taiwan have shifted. As I discussed in a Taipei Times article (“No more talk of ‘bargaining chips,’” Jan. 30, page 8), with the end of former US president Donald Trump’s administration — and all of the unpredictability associated with it — Taiwan would not have to worry about being used as a “bargaining chip” in some sort of deal with the People’s Republic of China. The talk of Taiwan being used as a bargaining chip never subsided over those four years, but under Biden, those
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Lin Wei-chou (林為洲) talked about “opposing the Chinese Communist Party [CCP]” in a recent Facebook post, writing that opposing the CCP is not the special reserve of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). Not long after, many people within the KMT received a mysterious letter signed “Chinese Nationalist Party Central Committee” containing what looked like a declaration of opposition to, and a call to arms against, the CCP. Unexpectedly, the KMT’s Culture and Communications Committee came forward with a clarification, saying that the letter was not sent by the KMT and telling the public not to believe
The Canadian parliament on Monday passed a motion saying that China’s human rights abuses against the country’s Uighur Muslim population in Xinjiang constitute “genocide.” Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has so far avoided using the word genocide in regard to Xinjiang, but if he did, it would begin to generate solidarity among G7 nations on the issue — which is something Trudeau has called for. Former US president Donald Trump used the word genocide regarding Xinjiang before leaving office last month, and members of US President Joe Biden’s administration have been pushing for him to make the same declaration, a Reuters report