Tue, Jan 08, 2019 - Page 8 News List

EDITORIAL: Xi Jinping disconnected from reality

Chinese President Xi Jinping’s (習近平) speech on Wednesday last week exposed his failure to grasp the pulse of public opinion in Taiwan and Taiwanese’s perception of China.

Largely a repeat of the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) long-standing policies and rhetoric, Xi’s speech marking the 40th anniversary of Beijing’s “message to compatriots in Taiwan” could be summed up in five points:

Xi reiterated that “Taiwanese compatriots are members of the Chinese ethnic group (Zhonghua minzu, 中華民族)” and therefore ought to play their role “in promoting peaceful unification”; explored a Taiwanese version of the “one country, two systems” model that “would fully respect Taiwanese compatriots’ way of life and guarantee their properties, religious beliefs and legitimate rights”; maintained that while Beijing will not renounce the use of force, it is willing to put forth its best efforts and sincerity to strive for peaceful unification, because “Chinese do not fight against Chinese”; suggested institutionalization of cross-strait economic cooperation to “vitalize and boost the economy of the greater Zhonghua minzu”; and expressed the hope that “all Taiwanese compatriots could pursue unification as they would pursue a lifetime of happiness.”

Calling Taiwanese “flesh and blood” and “friends,” Xi hopes his words would convince Taiwanese to develop emotional bonds with China. He also dangled promises of economic prosperity to try to woo Taiwanese.

However, China’s abysmal record in honoring its promises and Xi’s failure to connect with Taiwanese are proof that he is destined for failure.

If Xi wants to gain a deeper understanding of Taiwanese’s perception of China, he should take a look at a poll conducted by the Cross-Strait Policy Association in May last year, which showed that nearly 80 percent of Taiwanese believe that China is unfriendly toward Taiwan.

Judging by China’s continued efforts to squeeze Taiwan’s international space, the forced disappearance of Beijing’s critics and the arbitrary imprisonment of Taiwanese human rights advocate Lee Ming-che (李明哲), Xi can rest assured that Taiwanese’s negative impression of China is bound to remain that way in the foreseeable future.

Xi can make emotional appeals to Taiwanese all he wants — Taiwanese are not buying any of it, especially after comparing his words with the reality of Beijing’s belittlement of Taiwan at every opportunity.

Xi’s proposal for a Taiwanese version of the “one country, two systems” framework is bound to fail as well, given the responses from Taiwan’s political parties.

Aside from Taiwan being a sovereign, independent nation that elects its own president and lawmakers, runs its own military and operates its own judicial and economic systems, Beijing has itself to blame for lacking evidence that its words are credible as Hong Kong stands as a warning sign reminding Taiwanese to refuse the “one country, two systems” model.

Under the Basic Law, Hong Kongers were promised that Chinese laws would not apply to them and that they would enjoy the same freedoms and rights as before the territory’s handover from the UK in 1997.

However, over the past two decades, Taiwanese have witnessed how living standards, and the rights and freedoms of Hong Kongers have regressed.

The rosy picture that Xi paints might appear harmless and come across as sincere, but Taiwanese are not as easily fooled as he might think.

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