Sun, Oct 22, 2017 - Page 6 News List

Let Xi give way without losing face

By John Lim 林泉忠

As predicted, President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) much anticipated address at the Double Ten National Day celebration followed the administration’s “three noes” policy regarding cross-strait relations — no mention of the so-called “1992 consensus” or “one China,” no new definitions for the cross-strait relationship and no new suggestions for resolving the “cold peace” standoff.

Consequently, it was no surprise that many commentators have described the speech as “lacking in new ideas,” while several Chinese media outlets have criticized the address for taking Taiwan yet further down the road toward Taiwanese independence.

The “three noes” all touch on highly sensitive subjects — the issues on which Taiwan and China are least likely to reach a consensus. Considering the intricacy of these issues, the National Day celebration was neither the time nor the place for dealing with them.

BREAKING CONTACT

First, there is nothing so urgent that it absolutely must be addressed.

While China has been putting pressure on Tsai by breaking off official and semi-official contacts since May 20 last year, labeling Tsai a promoter of “cultural Taiwanese independence” and accusing her of “desinicization” activities, Beijing’s overriding concern this year, and especially the second half of the year, has been to maintain stability ahead of the Chinese Communist Party’s 19th National Congress.

As Beijing during this time has not announced any new Taiwan policies or made any military moves on Taiwan, there is no need for Tsai to make any new suggestions or announce any new approaches to the highly delicate cross-strait situation.

BILATERAL

Second, as long as Beijing continues to reject all cross-strait exchanges, Tsai will not initiate unilateral cross-strait policy suggestions at any public event such as the National Day celebration.

Unless she has first received a positive response from Beijing, she will refrain from doing so, as such efforts would be in vain because Beijing pours cold water on them and they invite ridicule and accusations of ineptness from the pan-blue camp.

On the other hand, Taiwanese are paying close attention to any changes to Beijing’s Taiwan policy that might be introduced after the party congress.

Although there is no direct connection between the congress and China’s cross-strait policies, there are two reasons why Beijing will take a step-by-step approach to a new Taiwan policy.

First, every past Chinese leader has had a distinctive Taiwan policy representing their time at the helm. Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平), who wants to make a difference, will not be an exception.

His predecessors, Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) and Jiang Zemin (江澤民), proposed their “six points” and “eight points,” but what will Xi’s cross-strait policy be?

It is becoming clear that, while Hu’s Taiwan policy emphasized peaceful cross-strait development, Xi has been focusing on integrated cross-strait development.

However, he needs a new way to summarize his approach to Taiwan, and the only uncertainty is whether he will propose his own points or find another format.

NOT JUST SLOGANS

More importantly, Xi’s policy will be more than a political vision, as past Taiwan policies were. It will have a clear and concrete policy direction.

Second, since Xi wants to make a difference, he will not allow the cold peace to continue throughout his term, as that would leave him with zero achievements and would make him go down in history as having made no contribution to cross-strait relations.

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