On May 4, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman and New Taipei City Mayor Eric Chu (朱立倫) is scheduled to visit Beijing and meet with Chinese President and Chinese Communist Party (CCP) General Secretary Xi Jinping (習近平).
This will undoubtedly be heralded as another step forward in the rapprochement between China and Taiwan.
While it is obviously a positive sign that the two sides of the Taiwan Strait are meeting and talking, there are a number of underlying problems with this meeting.
First, Beijing does not view or treat Taiwan as an equal neighbor, but considers it a “lost territory” that needs to be recovered — by force if necessary.
Its current strategy toward Taiwan is to gradually envelop it by economic means, so in due time it can impose political unification.
Second, the meeting in Beijing is set to be a KMT-CCP party-to-party affair. It is clear that the KMT does not represent the full range of public opinion in Taiwan.
For long-term peace and stability between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait it is essential that there is a better consensus in Taiwan on the way forward in relations with China.
Third, Beijing has a habit of backing its diplomatic efforts with force in its relations with neighbors, as it has demonstrated in the South China Sea, East China Sea, Tibet and East Turkestan.
It has not shown itself to be acting as a “responsible stakeholder” in these incidences.
So, can we expect it to adhere to any promises and agreements it might make with Taiwan?
In view of these rather serious concerns, it would be good if Chu would impress the following points on Xi:
Taiwan is a free and democratic nation, and in a democracy one can expect there to be changes of administration. China needs to accept this, and pursue peace and stability between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait, irrespective of the government that is elected in Taiwan.
Taiwanese want the nation to be accepted as a full and equal member in the international community.
If Beijing respects the wishes of Taiwanese it must cease its objections to Taiwan’s membership of international organizations such as the UN and the WHO.
Taiwanese do not want to live with the threat of more than 1,600 missiles aimed at their homeland.
It would be helpful, to say the least, if China would dismantle these missiles and end the threat of military force.
Chu could tell Xi that the failure of Beijing to move on these issues would increase tensions in the region, and would not be beneficial to peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.
An agreement on these three issues would constitute a real breakthrough and would provide the basis for a long-term framework for positive relations across the strait, as friends and neighbors.
Such an agreement — which could be called the “2015 consensus” — would be much more preferable than a perpetuation of the old and vague myth of the so-called “1992 consensus” — which is still being promoted in some quarters.
We need to move away from outdated concepts and move relations into the 21st century, laying the basis for a better future for both Taiwan and China.
Respect for Taiwan’s existence as a free and democratic nation would be an appropriate first step.
Mark Kao is president of the Formosan Association for Public Affairs, a Taiwanese-American grassroots organization based in Washington.