Sat, Apr 01, 2017 - Page 8 News List

Risky cross-strait misperceptions

By Eric Chiou 邱奕宏

China’s detention of Taiwanese human rights advocate Lee Ming-che (李明哲) can be viewed as a blunt retaliation against Taiwan’s detention early last month of Chinese former student Zhou Hongxu (周泓旭) on suspicion of recruiting officials for a spy ring. Due to the lack of direct communication and mounting misperceptions on both sides, relations across the Taiwan Strait have gradually headed into a vicious spiral.

Since President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) inauguration in May last year, relations between Taiwan and China have plunged into a deep quagmire of “cold peace,” distinct from the “warm peace” during former president Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) terms.

From Beijing’s perspective, this dramatic conversion can be attributed to the new administration’s refusal to recognize the so-called “1992 consensus,” which is highly regarded by Beijing as the foundation of maintaining peaceful cross-strait relations.

From Taipei’s viewpoint, with the latest mandate of the people, the Tsai administration has few reasons to uphold the “flawed and fabricated” consensus between the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and the Chinese Communist Party.

Since Taiwanese broadly believe that cross-strait relations during the Ma administration resulted in overdependence on China, it was necessary for the Tsai administration to adjust its China policy in response to the expectations of its electorate.

Due to different understanding of each other’s behavior, political friction between Taipei and Beijing becomes inevitable. Irrefutably, lack of mutual trust between political leaders on the two sides has made relations increasingly fragile. Any reckless rhetoric and policies by one side might easily be misinterpreted as malicious and hostile behavior by the other.

Since peaceful, stable and sustainable relations are beneficial for both sides, leaders must sagaciously manage any flash points of conflict, while preventing any remarks and policies that could be perceived as provocative in the eyes of the other.

Most importantly, political leaders in Taipei and Beijing should devote more efforts toward facilitating empathic understanding, while doing their best to minimize the risks of foolhardy policies due to misperception of their counterpart’s behaviors. After all, the accumulation of misperceptions would eventually lead to an irreversible self-fulfilling prophecy, which would not only distort decisionmakers’ comprehension of their counterpart’s intentions, but could also trigger catastrophic consequences that neither side wants.

The hazards afforded by misperceptions are especially pervasive and precarious in today’s delicate relations. Its crucial effect lies in its ability to twist or conceal reality to mislead political leaders into making flawed decisions.

To Beijing, the most conspicuous obstruction is Tsai’s refusal to acknowledge the “1992 consensus.” However, it might merely be a verbal excuse. Many Taiwan experts in Beijing might have subjectively assumed that Tsai is an ingrained proponent of Taiwanese independence and might subconsciously hold pessimistic prospects about the next four years.

Tsai’s downplaying of the “1992 consensus” might fit into Beijing’s existing assumption that she is a low-profile, but determined adherent to independence. The worst consequence of this self-fulfilling prophecy is its influence on the distortion and screening of undesirable facts that shape reality in accordance with anticipated outcomes.

Comments will be moderated. Keep comments relevant to the article. Remarks containing abusive and obscene language, personal attacks of any kind or promotion will be removed and the user banned. Final decision will be at the discretion of the Taipei Times.

TOP top