Thu, Jul 12, 2018 - Page 8 News List

Cross-strait ‘status quo’ is a myth

By Jack Broome

Taiwan’s international space is shrinking at an alarming rate. Regarded as a wayward province in the eyes of Beijing, a concerted effort by the Chinese government aims to deny the nation any means to operate as a separate sovereign entity.

Whether international space is measured in terms of the number of diplomatic allies, membership in international organizations or simply presence on the world stage, Taiwan is under siege from all directions.

Most recently, Chinese maneuvering has resulted in the loss of another of Taiwan’s diplomatic allies, with Burkina Faso switching recognition to the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in May. This has brought the total number down to just 16 following a difficult month for Taiwan, in which the Dominican Republic also established diplomatic relations with China.

Renewed pressure to prevent private corporations from treating Taiwan as a nation has been apparent as of late. In April, the Chinese Civil Aviation Administration issued a statement to 36 airlines requiring that they conform to the “one China” principle and list Taiwan as “Taiwan, China” on their Web sites. This was met with a harsh rebuke from the White House, which denounced efforts to control how US airlines referred to Taiwan, Hong Kong or Macau as “Orwellian nonsense.”

Despite Washington’s protestations, with the exception of major US airlines, which have asked for extensions, most carriers have opted to comply, fearing the potential repercussions. A similar event occurred in January, when Delta Airlines was forced to apologize for listing Taiwan and Tibet as separate nations on its Web site.

Outside of the aviation industry, this year alone Gap, Marriot, Zara and medical equipment maker Medtronic have all made public apologies for infringements of the “one China” principle.

Taiwan needs to take a radically new approach to diplomacy to counteract China’s attempts to isolate it. Central to this must be recognition of the fact that maintaining the “status quo” is not a viable policy. Not only does China have no long-term interest in maintaining the “status quo,” but also the idea that a “status quo” ever existed is a complete myth.

Even during the supposed diplomatic truce under former president Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration, Beijing continued its efforts to erode Taiwan’s economic independence. While the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) was hailed as significant progress in cross-strait relations by members of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) strongly objected to what it saw as creeping unification and placed its support behind the Sunflower movement.

China is Taiwan’s largest trading partner, accounting for almost 30 percent of exports and more than 50 percent of imports, while Taiwan is only China’s seventh-largest trading partner. About 2 million Taiwanese live and work permanently in China and many Taiwanese companies conduct business across the Taiwan Strait.

One of the most crucial turning points in cross-strait relations has been the election of Xi Jinping (習近平) as the seventh president of the PRC. Having adopted a more hawkish stance compared with his predecessor, Hu Jintao (胡錦濤), Xi has stated that the issue of Taiwan cannot be continually deferred to future generations and re-emphasized the PRC’s commitment to reunification.

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