On Wednesday last week, Mainland Affairs Council Minister Chen Ming-tong (陳明通) held an international academic seminar at the US Heritage Foundation think tank themed “Opportunities and Challenges of Cross-strait Relations.”
At the seminar, Chen spoke on democratic freedom as an important foundation for the development of cross-strait relations.
Judging by the content of the speech — and the reaction to it from various quarters — it is a definitive work that represents the culmination of two years of the Democratic Progressive Party administration’s thinking on cross-strait policy.
The position and policies advanced by Chen have caused politicians from across the aisle — government and opposition politicians, pro-unification and pro-independence campaigners, as well as academics — to provide their own interpretations of different points he made, mostly giving positive assessments.
Even Chinese academics, working within the constraints of their country’s authoritarian political system, have responded positively to the speech’s references to “progress.”
Furthermore, China’s Taiwan Affairs Office Minister Liu Jieyi (劉結一) was only able to fall back on hackneyed “actions speak louder than words” rhetoric and reiterate the demand that the government adhere to the so-called “1992 consensus” and the “one China” principle.
In fact, Beijing’s insistence on the “one China” principle and the “1992 consensus” is no different from its absurd claim to sovereignty over the entirety of the South China Sea. Not only are its demands inconsistent with the new cross-strait situation, they are also a key cause of the impediment to interaction and communication between the two sides.
Beijing likes to claim that it holds sovereignty over Taiwan, yet it is unable to achieve recognition for its position from the world’s leading democracy, the US. Furthermore, Beijing seeks to obliterate both the name Republic of China (ROC) and the Taiwan-centered movement and force Taiwanese to relinquish management of their own affairs and become a mere dependency of China, a state that the vast majority of Taiwanese could never accept.
The “one China” principle that China’s leaders doggedly pursue is not the historical, geographical, cultural and ethnic “one China” that exists in the imaginations of a minority of Taiwanese. No, Beijing’s “one China” is the annexation of the ROC by the People’s Republic of China (PRC).
Ever since the establishment of the PRC by the Chinese Communist Party in 1949, and in each of the Three Joint Communiques signed by the US and China between 1972 and 1982, Beijing has consistently argued that the PRC is the only legal representative government of China and that Taiwan is part of China.
The US was unwilling to accept China’s position and would only agree to “acknowledge” China’s territorial claim over Taiwan.
US lawmakers enacted the Taiwan Relations Act into US domestic law, which recognizes Taiwan’s de facto sovereignty.
Despite this, Beijing has continued to employ its unreasonable Orwellian tactics to stir up trouble and use its economic “hard power” to coerce the international community into rejecting ROC sovereignty.
Former National Security Council secretary-general Su Chi (蘇起) in 2000 admitted that he made up the term “1992 consensus.” More than a decade later, China’s interpretation of the term no longer comes attached with the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) “one China, each side with their own interpretation” formula.
Despite numerous forums between the KMT and the CCP and a meeting between then-president Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) in 2015, the KMT formula has now vanished without a trace. In fact, from beginning to end, Beijing never actually recognized the KMT’s formula as part of the “consensus.”
During the 1992 talks between then-Straits Exchange Foundation chairman Koo Chen-fu (辜振甫) and then-Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits chairman Wang Daohan (汪道涵), China proposed an 86-character clarification of its “one China” position, clearly stating that Taiwan’s political status must be included within “one China” as a prerequisite for any talks. It was a clear attempt by Beijing to belittle Taiwan’s sovereign status.
Needless to say, the Straits Exchange Foundation opposed China’s proposal, and after the meeting, the consensus was that there was no such thing as a “1992 consensus.”
If China is to face up to the reality of the position outlined in Chen’s speech, get the cross-strait relationship back on an even keel and maintain regional peace, then it needs to abandon its hegemonic mindset. Both sides are independent, sovereign nations. China cannot use force to change the cross-strait situation, as that would destroy regional peace.
Taiwanese will never give up their sovereignty in exchange for a vague possibility of peace, nor will the community of democratic nations allow the future of the Taiwanese model of democracy to be decided by anti-democratic China.
Beijing needs to wake up to international realities. China will not be given free rein to reshape the global order, international structures and the cross-strait relationship as it pleases. The entire international community has a stake in this.
Masao Sun is a former diplomat.
Translated by Edward Jones
Burger King Taiwan on Wednesday last week posted an update on Facebook advertising a new “Wuhan pneumonia” (武漢肺炎) home delivery meal, catering to customers hankering for a Whopper, but who wished to avoid visiting one of its outlets. “Wuhan pneumonia” is the term commonly used in Taiwan to describe COVID-19. Beijing has been waging an extensive propaganda campaign against the use of the words “Wuhan” or “China” in reference to the novel coronavirus, calling it racist and discriminatory. Meanwhile, Chinese officials have claimed that the coronavirus might have originated in the US. The intention is obvious: to distract attention from the Chinese Communist
Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Air Force Shaanxi KJ-500 airborne early-warning aircraft and Shenyang J-11 fighters on March 16 conducted a nighttime exercise in the waters southwest of Taiwan and, in doing so, came close to the nation’s air defense identification zone. Three days later, the PLA Navy’s fleet for Gulf of Aden escort mission sailed north in the Pacific off Taiwan’s east coast via the Miyako Strait on its way home. Meanwhile, the US carried out freedom of navigation operations in the South China Sea and assembled the USS Theodore Roosevelt carrier strike group with the Expeditionary Strike Group to conduct
Italy, Spain, France, the UK and the US are all depending on social distancing to fight COVID-19 and have fallen into terrible situations, with mounting positive cases and many deaths. Social distancing might flatten the curve, so that the peak is not so high that hospitals are overwhelmed with patients, the problem is that the pandemic could extend further into the future, hurt the economy more and become unbearable for society. Taiwan, South Korea, Japan and Singapore have controlled the spread of COVID-19, and the main reason is that most Asians wear masks. It can be illustrated as follows: If someone contracts the
Having returned to the UK late last year and with a Taiwanese spouse remaining in Taiwan, I have been afforded the chance to compare and contrast the UK and Taiwanese governments’ responses to the COVID-19 crisis. My early conclusions are that Taiwan benefits from a rational, competent government, which quickly recognizes, adapts to and confronts large-scale disasters. It is led by a government that does more than just talk of respecting democracy and human rights, one that is scrutinized and responds to criticism, one that is concerned about public opinion, and one that is used to dealing with emergencies on