The seven senior politicians and academics who make up a self-proclaimed bi-partisan group recently introduced the “broad one China framework,” a one-night sensation that drew attention, but was soon forgotten.
Led by former Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) chairman Shih Ming-te (施明德), the group included former Mainland Affairs Council chairman Chen Ming-tung (陳明通), and former National Security Council secretary-general Su Chi (蘇起) of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT).
Tamkang University professor Andy Chang (張五岳), former DPP legislator Hong Chi-chang (洪奇昌) and a pair of former KMT administration officials, Cheng Chien-jen (程建人) and Chiao Jen-ho (焦仁和), were also in the group.
Their “five principles” can be summed up as: first, calling for both sides to respect the “status quo” and restrain from changing it unilaterally; second, recognizing the coexistence of the Republic of China and the People’s Republic of China; third, replacing Beijing’s “one China principle” with the “broad one China framework” since the “one China principle” has been interpreted as representing the PRC; fourth, jointly establishing an “incomplete international entity” as a political umbrella that serves as an interim mechanism between the two countries; lastly, the elimination of hostility, a mutual commitment to the non-use of force and not signing military agreements that jeopardize the safety of either side and to participate equally in international organizations, including the UN.
This ambitious proposal, said to be the result of nine months of discussions, is an attempt to set a brand new framework that defines cross-strait relations.
Intriguingly, one can easily see in the initiative elements that come from almost all major previous proposals that originated on this side of the Taiwan Strait.
With regards to the recognition of separate governance and the co-existence of the PRC and the ROC, the same ideas were advocated in former president Chen Shui-bian’s (陳水扁) and pro-independence groups’ “one country on each side,” and former premier Frank Hsieh’s (謝長廷) “two sides, two constitutions.”
While the group failed to explain what an “incomplete international entity” means, the concept was similar to the “one China with three constitutions,” proposed by pro-unification National Taiwan University professor Chang Ya-chung (張亞中) and the “one China roof” theory supported by the People First Party and the pro-unification United Daily News.
“Non-use of force and not signing military agreements” are similar to the “Nation of Brotherhood” theory developed by staunch independence supporter Koo Kwang-ming (辜寬敏). The resemblance to previous theories failed to earn the initiative much recognition.
Beijing’s Taiwan Affairs Office denounced the proposal due to its promotion of a “state-to-state relationship” and neither pro-Taiwan advocates or DPP politicians have nice things to say about it because of its long-term one China arrangement.
If a successful China policy should be “desirable by Taiwanese, accepted by Washington and tolerated by Beijing” — as Frank Hsieh said, this initiative is unlikely to satisfy any of the three stakeholders.
The dangers of the proposal are in two areas: First, it has completely ignored the implications of the recent Sunflower movement, as well as the democratic values that Taiwan cherishes. Second, the design of the framework tries to shift Taipei away from its current “invisible alliance” with Washington and Tokyo, which is both impractical and unreasonable.
As the pursuit of the ultimate plan for the cross-strait relationship continues, the failure of this much-touted initiative serves as a reminder for those would plan such proposals in the future.
The proposals should not originate in a top-down fashion like they used to, as the KMT’s so-called “1992 consensus” did for example, but should emerge from the bottom-up, since 23 million Taiwanese should always be — and have every right to be — the final decisionmakers.
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