Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) might have touched more than a few nerves when he said in Shanghai that Taiwan and China belonged to “one family.” However, if we look past the political rhetoric and focus on the fact that the Taipei-Shanghai forum had run its course and that Ko met with officials of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), we might find that Ko’s visit could have borne some fruit.
Ko, who has previously described his political stance as “deep green,” is hardly the most pleasant guest for China. However, during his three-day visit, the treatment he received from the Shanghai City Government was no less glamorous than that received by his predecessor, the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌).
Ko was received by Shanghai Mayor Yang Xiong (楊雄): The authorities even blocked off the roads surrounding the Museum of the First National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party and extended the site’s opening hours while he was there.
The reception showed that Beijing acknowledges Ko as the top official of the Republic of China’s (ROC) capital and a high-profile Taiwanese politician. It could have a profound influence over future developments in cross-strait relations.
It is unlikely that the forum was organized entirely without Ko having to make some compromises. Beijing has said that the so-called “1992 consensus” must be the foundation for cross-strait talks; this contentious issue at one point brought forum negotiations to a standstill.
Ko last month reportedly said in response to the gridlocks in organizing the forum that: “There will always be discussion and compromise over anything as important as this,” but added that “everything is still moving forward.”
While the public is unclear of what compromises Ko made, it is apparent that he had been keen to move cross-strait relations forward by participating in the forum, which was taken to an official level in 2010 when Hau met with former Shanghai mayor Han Zheng (韓正).
Ko neither denied, nor confirmed that Yang brought up the “1992 consensus” during a banquet on Tuesday, saying only that he understood and respected China’s stance on cross-strait issues and just hours following the banquet, delivered a speech about his “2015 new standpoint” before the Chinese leadership during which he said that the two sides across the Taiwan Strait belong to one family.
While the intent of the statement could lie somewhere between pleasantry aimed at “increasing goodwill,” which Ko said was the purpose of his trip, and an attempt to provide input to help solve an age-old issue that is beyond his purview as the Taipei mayor, it sounded dangerously pro-unification to the ears of even apolitical Taiwanese.
It is true that Taiwan, with its heavy economic dependence on China, should at least retain a certain level of interactions with China, but there is a fine line between unofficial exchanges and exchanges that would in any way undermine Taiwan’s sovereignty.
Let us not forget that Beijing has not abandoned its policy of annexing Taiwan by force if necessary — just last month footage aired on China Central Television showed Chinese People’s Liberation Army troops attacking an edifice modeled after the Presidential Office Building in Taipei — and if given the chance, it would seek to achieve cross-strait unification by any other means necessary.
Ko should provide a clear explanation as to what kinds of cross-strait exchanges he wants to see and how they are to be carried out using his “public goes first; government supports” method, so that such exchanges do not cross the line.
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