The week ahead is expected to see a focus on cross-strait issues as China’s Taiwan Affairs Office (TAO) Director Zhang Zhijun (張志軍) begins his four-day visit on Wednesday. It is to be the first time a Chinese official in that role pays a visit to Taiwan.
It could be described as a return visit following Mainland Affairs Council Minister Wang Yu-chi’s (王郁琦) trip to China in February, although the visit comes at a sensitive time after TAO spokesperson Fan Liqing (范麗青) said on June 11 that the future of Taiwan must be decided by all 1.3 billion Chinese, including the “compatriots” in Taiwan.
The dates of Zhang’s visit were set long ago. Had Zhang been serious when he said in April at the Boao Forum that the student-led Sunflower movement in March had given him an insight into why the cross-strait service agreement is being met with opposition from the public in Taiwan, Fan would not have made such an incendiary remark.
Fan’s statement, in reply to a Xinhua news agency reporter asking about what Greater Tainan Mayor William Lai (賴清德) said in China — that there is consensus among Taiwanese that the country’s future must be determined by its 23 million people — appears to have been carefully planned. Fan’s statement was not just rhetoric that rejected the contention that Taiwan has the right to self-determination. China decided to follow Fan’s comments with Zhang’s visit to Taiwan to show that China will be able to get its hands on Taiwan.
When China enacted the “Anti-Secession” Law in March 2005, formalizing its policy of using “non-peaceful means” against Taiwanese independence, then-Chinese president Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) said that any issues concerning the nation’s sovereignty and territorial integrity should be decided by all Chinese. Hu restated this position at the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) 17th National Congress in 2007.
It is true that Fan’s statement on June 11 was just a repetition of Beijing’s stance that there is only one China and that Taiwan is part of China, but when it comes right ahead of Zhang’s visit to Taiwan, a trip that has been facilitated and welcomed by President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration, it sends a message to the international community that Taiwan has acquiesced to China’s demand that the fate of Taiwan is not only in the hands of its 23 million citizens, but should be decided by 1.3 billion Chinese.
In November 2005, then-TAO director Chen Yunlin (陳雲林) was invited by the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) to attend the KMT-CCP forum, but the then-Democratic Progressive Party administration rejected his entry application to protest against China’s refusal to repeal the “Anti-Secession” Law.
In 1999, then-president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) redefined cross-strait relations as a special state-to-state relationship in an interview with Deutsche Welle Radio of Germany to forestall the then-chairman of the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits Wang Daohan’s (汪道涵) scheduled trip to Taiwan because Lee said Wang was going to proclaim that Taipei accepted Beijing’s “one China” principle.
The Ma administration’s response to Fan’s statement has been ridiculed as weak and ineffective. Some have even accused the Ma administration of giving a response in line with what Fan said.
That response — that the future of the Republic of China should be determined by its 23 million citizens as per the Republic of China Constitution — leaves room for interpretation in China’s favor because the constitution still claims sovereignty over the People’s Republic of China.
It may not be too late for the Ma administration to make up for what it has failed to do by lodging a protest with Zhang over Fan’s statement before it proceeds with pursuing its cross-strait agenda.
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