Wed, Nov 01, 2017 - Page 8 News List

The Liberty Times Editorial: Xi unlikely to give Tsai time or space

Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) sent congratulatory telegrams to Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) at the opening and closing of the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) 19th National Congress, and Xi replied upon the reconfirmation of his leadership. It goes without saying that the two parties repeatedly mentioned the “1992 consensus.”

However, unlike on previous occasions, Xi sent his reply as Chinese president to Wu directly, and there is speculation that this in itself entailed a special message. We can perhaps make some interpretations of the direction of China’s Taiwan policy through recent developments in cross-strait and international affairs.

First, the CCP’s modus operandi to date has been to insist upon its principles and pressuring adversaries to alter theirs. Despite President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) offers of goodwill and sincerity to Beijing, Xi might not be interested in resuming cross-strait negotiations or taking the Tsai administration as a counterpart until she agrees to accept the “1992 consensus,” which claims that the two sides of the Taiwan Strait belong to “one China” under the “one China” principle.

China has strength on its side. If Taiwan’s international space continues to shrink, Xi has no reason to reinstate cross-strait relations. Tsai’s call for a new model of interaction is not in line with the vision of the 19th CCP National Congress.

Second, Beijing will continue to support the KMT and suppress the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). It will try to stabilize Wu’s leadership so the KMT will not collapse and the pan-blue camp will not descend into chaos.

Wu is largely following the course set by former president Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九). Born in Taiwan, Wu has a lot of political experience and can be extremely flexible. Compared with other prominent KMT members or fundamentalists, he has a greater influence in central and southern Taiwan, and is more likely to be accepted by Taiwanese voters.

Beijing might well feel more comfortable with former KMT chairwoman Hung Hsiu-chu (洪秀柱), the New Party and the Chinese Unity Promotion Party, but it might not be able to accomplish anything with them.

Third, as democracy becomes a norm in Taiwan, the political pendulum will swing back and forth. Despite the DPP’s present domination of the government, it has failed to give full play of its role, and Tsai’s honeymoon is over.

If Beijing can help the KMT to retain its momentum, it would not be impossible that the party could regain power by capitalizing on the DPP’s flaws, just as it did in 2008.

Beijing, then, might choose to deny the Tsai administration the political oxygen of improved cross-strait relations, and might block the public sector while luring the civil sector as part of its united front efforts.

Fourth, from its experience with Ma, Beijing has learned that, despite growing skepticism from Taiwanese over the KMT’s decision to work closely with China, collaboration between the two parties is welcomed by the international community, especially the US.

It is worth remembering that the US generally has had no problems with Ma’s policy of “maintaining the ‘status quo’” across the Taiwan Strait. There is, therefore, no need for Beijing to work out a new model of cross-strait relations with the Tsai administration, at least not before next year’s local elections.

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