It was already quite certain before President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) gave her inaugural address on Friday last week that she would not use it to accept the so-called “1992 consensus,” even as threats from China and the gang of sellouts around former president Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) continued right until the last moment.
What many academics and experts are talking about is what will emerge in cross-strait relations now that Tsai is president. Even the Chinese government is thinking about its policies regarding Taiwan. Only grovelers like Ma are still bogged down in the mire of the “1992 consensus.”
On May 12, the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) informed all major Chinese news Web sites about its criticism of the Global Times newspaper and its associated Web site, saying that the newspaper, right before the government transfer in Taiwan, published the results of an opinion poll claiming that 85 percent of Chinese support using military force to unite Taiwan with China.
The CAC announcement said that the report was a bad influence. It also mentioned sensitive commentaries that the newspaper published concerning Hong Kong and the US.
The announcement said that the CAC called Global Times’ management for an interview and gave them a deadline of one month to put their affairs in order.
That this kind of criticism was not circulated as an internal document and was not delayed until after Tsai’s inauguration shows that its purpose was to tell the Chinese media not to speculate on this or similar issues prior to the inauguration. Hence, only certain idiots kept stirring things up for their own purposes.
Now that Tsai has taken office, what is likely to emerge in cross-strait relations is a state of “cold peace and cold confrontation” — “cold” rather than “hot.”
During the eight years of Ma’s presidency, there has been a “hot peace,” with the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) hooking up and vying for their respective interests — the so-called “peace dividend.”
“Hot confrontation,” on the other hand, describes the situation that prevailed under former KMT and CCP leaders Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) and Mao Zedong (毛澤東), when Chiang wanted to “recover the mainland” and Mao wanted to “liberate Taiwan.”
What will Tsai’s and China’s cross-strait policies be like? The two sides will have to observe one another and try each other out, so there is sure to be a cool period at first. When relations improve there could be a “cold peace” and when they worsen there could be a “cold confrontation.” China is a big nation and it is the one that wants to unite Taiwan with itself, so China will be the dominant side.
Taiwan would like to have a “hot peace,” but it is not easy to achieve. Furthermore, China has a tradition of nationalistic expansionism, and its rich and powerful have their own interests to protect.
Following the KMT’s big defeat in the November 2014 nine-in-one elections, Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) met with People First Party Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜) and they arrived at a consensus about China needing to woo Taiwan’s “three middles and the youth,” namely small and medium-size enterprises; middle and low-income families; residents of central and southern Taiwan; and young Taiwanese.
However, CCP and KMT party officials are not interested in the idea. They have nothing to gain from it, so they have no enthusiasm.
If the CCP does not reform and Chinese officials go on behaving like Gong Qinggai (龔清概), the disgraced former deputy director of China’s Taiwan Affairs Office, how can the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) government be on cordial terms with them?
“Hot confrontation” would not happen easily either — not because of China’s goodwill, but because China has to face reality.
Admiral Harry Harris, commander of the US Pacific Command, talks about how his forces must be ready “to fight tonight.”
US President Barack Obama has given Harris the power to decide to go to war.
The US is always tempting China to shoot first, but China does not dare. China has been very low-key regarding the moves to write the “six assurances,” which then-US president Ronald Reagan made to then-president Chiang Ching-kuo (蔣經國) in 1982, into law. This is a measure of how China knows it cannot match the US’ military might and if things got too hot it would be hard for China to back down.
China’s rulers are not afraid of being seen through by the US or Japan, but by China’s angry youth, which would result in a loss of authority and also difficulty maintaining social stability.
The main sanction that China can inflict is an economic one and that is something that Tsai’s government must be wary of.
However, China has plenty of economic problems of its own and must take care not to shoot itself in the foot.
Furthermore, any such action by China would push Taiwanese, especially businesspeople with investments in China, even further away.
Since the future is one of “cold peace and cold confrontation,” this should be an opportunity for Taiwan to focus on transforming its economy and growing stronger.
There is no need to fear that China will not stay close, because if China wants to continue its united-front policies and penetrate Taiwanese society, it can hardly do so if it does not stay in touch with Taiwan.
Paul Lin is a political commentator.
Translated by Julian Clegg
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