China is putting pressure on president-elect Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) two months before her inauguration on May 20. Beijing does not want to give up, although the pro-China policies promoted by President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) have been rejected by Taiwanese. It continues to define the so-called “1992 consensus” as the bottom line in bilateral relations and tries to force the incoming government to accept the “one China” principle.
On Friday last week, China’s Taiwan Affairs Office Minister Zhang Zhijun (張志軍) said at the Boao Forum for Asia that the touchstone for bilateral relations is how people treat the “1992 consensus” and define cross-strait ties.
Zhang said that “the ball is in the other court [Taiwan],” requesting an answer from Tsai.
Beijing continues to play the same old tune, which proves yet again that you cannot teach an old dog new tricks.
China is not only displeased with, but also worried over, Tsai’s refusal to accept the “1992 consensus.”
Ever since Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) said, more than a year ago, that “if the foundation [the ‘1992 consensus’] is not solid, the earth will move and the mountains will shake,” Beijing has been trying to force Tsai and her Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) to accept the “1992 consensus.”
Apart from issuing verbal threats, Beijing has used Taiwanese pro-China media outlets and the like-minded Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) to threaten Taiwanese voters with disastrous consequences if they do not accept the so-called consensus.
China has met its Waterloo, just as the KMT suffered a major defeat in the Jan. 16 elections, because Taiwanese are used to hearing China’s verbal attacks: The threat of using military force to influence the outcome of elections lost its efficacy a long time ago. The outdated trick can no longer fool post-Sunflower movement Taiwan.
Also, despite its acceptance of the “1992 consensus,” the KMT has not dared to make its own interpretation of the so-called “one China” principle. Since the party has not only hurt national dignity, but also disappointed the public, voters showed their discontent through their votes.
Even pan-blue talk show host Jaw Shaw-kong (趙少康) criticized the party for leaning toward China, saying: “Did the KMT say a word about the arrest of five staff members of Causeway Bay Books in Hong Kong or about the territory’s fight for democracy?”
Taiwan and China did hold talks in 1992, but they failed to reach a consensus on “one China.” Beijing refused to admit the existence of a consensus and then-Mainland Affairs Council minister Su Chi (蘇起) invented the term in 2000. Repeating a lie does not make it the truth, but surprisingly, both the KMT and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) treat the phrase as a foundation for steering the “one China” idea.
It is difficult for Taiwanese to accept the situation, which only serves to highlight the lack of progress in the two parties.
Since voters made their opinion clear in the presidential and legislative elections, China should face Taiwanese in a pragmatic way to help cross-strait relations develop smoothly.
However, Beijing has failed to do so. Instead, it keeps intimidating Taiwan and takes unfriendly actions, using Tsai’s inaugural speech as a pressure point in an attempt to force Taiwan to accept the “one China” condition.
China’s recent maneuvering on the diplomatic front is a good example of this: Resuming diplomatic ties with the Gambia and opposing US support for Taiwan’s bid to enter Interpol. The actions show that the “one China” doctrine is so rigid that Beijing would stand against Taiwanese public opinion at any cost. They have also exposed the emptiness of Ma’s “flexible diplomacy,” which is a ploy aimed at deceiving both the government itself and everyone else.
This would not send Taiwanese into a panic over a potential wave of severed diplomatic relations, but it would deepen their dislike for China, as well as bringing about a pragmatic evaluation of the nation’s diplomatic allies and a move toward closer relations with democracies such as the US and Japan.
China is turning its back on Taiwanese public opinion because of the CCP’s nature and because its way of doing things as a united front is running into problems. The party’s authoritarian and dictatorial qualities cause it regard democracy and dissent as enemies, and this fills it with hostility and covetous ambition toward democratic Taiwan. It has organized united fronts against Taiwan through its political and business representatives in the nation, but the public is irritated by the fact that all the profits are going into the representatives’ pockets.
In addition, China has opposed Taiwanese public opinion through smear campaigns directed by pro-Chinese media outlets and it has hurt Taiwanese’s feelings by oppressing the nation in the international community.
As a result, the public’s dislike for China has grown, as it has been growing in Hong Kong. Perhaps China should reflect over its own actions and ask itself why neighboring nations are taking a dislike to it during its rise to become a major power.
A Chinese saying goes: “Keep those close to you happy and those who are distant will soon join you.”
However, China is doing the opposite. Despite its status as a major global power, it is unable to make a favorable impression on other nations.
Since Tsai was elected in a landslide victory, she would be able to speak on behalf of the nation in her inaugural address, highlighting Taiwan’s status as a sovereign state.
Even if the US is concerned with the content of her speech, it is unlikely that Washington would intervene publicly.
However, China repeatedly intervened in her upcoming speech by commenting on what she should and should not say, setting preconditions, drawing “red lines” and making irresponsible remarks both directly and indirectly, which is causing irritation among Taiwanese.
It would be impossible for Tsai to please all sides with her inaugural address, so she should prioritize her responsibility toward Taiwanese. More importantly, Taiwanese have no claims over the territories of neighboring nations, including China, nor do they force others to be Taiwanese.
At a time when a new president is about to take office and a new political situation is about to begin, Taiwan should declare to the international community that although it is facing difficulties, it deserves a higher level of recognition. It would benefit peace and prosperity not only in East Asia, but in the entire world.
In terms of cross-strait relations between Taiwan and China, the threat of conflict never comes from Taiwan and obstacles to the relationship are not caused by it. In other words, the ball is, in fact, in China’s court.
Translated by Eddy Chang
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