Sat, Oct 22, 2016 - Page 8 News List

The Liberty Times Editorial: Cooling relations pressure Beijing

In her Double Ten National Day address, President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) said she has three main audiences: The first, Taiwanese, of course, then Beijing and Washington.

Officials in Beijing and Washington have responded and made their positions clear. The US’ fundamental position has consistently been that it supports and encourages cross-strait dialogue, which mitigated a response from China’s Taiwan Affairs Office (TAO), which talked about “dead-end, evil ways” and resulted in the continued frosty state of the cross-strait situation. This raises an interesting question: As cross-strait relations cool down, who is coming under more pressure?

Giving a clear and concise answer requires a long-term perspective. Since the beginning of cross-strait relations in 1949, frosty relations have been the norm.

For example, of all former presidents — Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石), Chiang Ching-kuo (蔣經國), Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) and Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) — Ma’s eight years in office was the only period that has avoided such a state of affairs. It was also the only period during which the so-called “1992 consensus” was recognized by Taiwanese authorities.

The “1992 consensus” is an anomaly in the long relationship between Taiwan and China.

In other words, if there are any changes in cross-strait relations on Tsai’s watch and if relations cool down even further, that would only be a return to normal.

However, for Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平), the Ma era was an opportunity that presented itself to Xi’s predecessor, Hu Jintao (胡錦濤), courtesy of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT).

In Xi’s eyes, that opportunity will disappear if he lets his guard down even for a minute, which is why Taiwanese hear the Chinese government talking about how those who go with the flow of history prosper, while those who oppose it perish. Still, they have seen the truth and Beijing’s selective short-term memory is nothing but a slap in its own face.

Throughout the past 67 years, Taiwan has existed and it continues to exist, whether the cross-strait relationship has been frosty or warm.

The state of this relationship has been reflected in the economy: When the relationship has been frosty, Taiwan’s economy rose and fell in step with the international economy. However, during the eight years when relations warmed, Taiwan’s GDP plummeted to new depths and unemployment reached new heights, while salaries stagnated and even fell.

The data explain why there is no logical basis for the pro-Chinese faction’s assumption that if cross-strait relations continue to deteriorate, Tsai will have to work harder to save the economy.

The data also show that when a small nation stands up to a big one, the small nation’s road to survival lies in maintaining a cool head, and responding wisely and promptly to changes based on the asymmetry between the two.

Tsai did not mention the “1992 consensus” in her inaugural address on May 20 and she left it out again in her Double Ten National Day address on Oct. 10. The result will be the end of the “1992 consensus.”

The TAO is talking about “the support of the powerful public opinion of 1.3 billion people” in response to Tsai’s popularly elected government and her emphasis on how maintaining the “status quo” is the choice of Taiwanese, as if it is trying to initiate a battle between the public opinion of the people on either side of the Taiwan Strait.

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