Finding a model for a peace deal

By Lin Cho-shui 林濁水  / 

Wed, Oct 26, 2011 - Page 8

China’s refusal to renounce the use of force to resolve cross-strait issues has always been a dark cloud over Taiwan. Although Taiwanese long for assurances of peace, signing a peace agreement is not the solution. This follows the same logic that says that although the public want legislative reform, that should not be achieved by halving the number of legislative seats.

The signing of a cross-strait peace agreement was first proposed by former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), and President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) is now following in his footsteps. In the past, China proposed that an agreement to cease hostilities be negotiated, but after the 2005 meeting between former Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) chairman Lien Chan (連戰) and Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤), Beijing began insisting on the “one China” principle as a precondition for any peace agreement.

Most warring countries sign peace treaties or ceasefire agreements, while warring groups within a country sign peace agreements. Most such treaties and agreements stipulate ceasefires, prisoner exchanges, compensation, territorial rights and arms control.

War between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait ceased more than half a century ago. There is no need for prisoner exchanges or compensation because the Chinese Civil War is long over, nor does either party have any territory under its jurisdiction that was occupied during the war and must be dealt with. The two sides have even reached the point where they signed the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA). There is really no need to go back and sign a peace agreement.

The signing of a peace agreement has become an issue because Beijing believes Taiwan’s status is a remnant of the Chinese Civil War and that Taiwan — “a part of China’s sacred territory” — continues to be occupied by the “illegal” Republic of China (ROC). China hopes to use the peace agreement to get Taiwan to recognize the “one China” principle and Beijing’s sovereignty over Taiwan, while Taiwanese politicians hope to use the public’s hopes for peace to attract votes.

However, through the 1991 abolishment of the Period of National Mobilization for Suppression of the Communist Rebellion (動員戡亂時期臨時條款), Taiwan clearly showed its determination to leave the Chinese Civil War behind it. If Beijing is sincere about promoting peace, all it has to do is announce that it will not settle the cross-strait issue by force. There is no need to sign a peace agreement to terminate a conflict that already ended so long ago. The reason China stresses the necessity of a peace agreement is to demonstrate that the civil war is ongoing so it can threaten the nation into exchanging its sovereignty for peace. However, the war between the KMT and Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is part of the history of those two parties and is nothing Taiwanese should have to suffer for.

If Taiwanese sacrifice their sovereignty, there are three scenarios for future cross-strait relations: a situation similar to the relations between Tibet and China following the signing of the 17-point peace agreement between Lhasa and Beijing; a situation similar to China, where people stage 180,000 protests every year and the government spends astronomical sums to maintain social order; or a situation similar to Hong Kong, with a public that gradually loses its freedoms and democratic rights. And since China holds Hong Kong up as a model for Taiwan, it is easy to see what will happen to Taiwan after it gives up its sovereignty by looking at Beijing’s “one country, two systems” formula and the values that are eroding in Hong Kong.

By exchanging sovereignty for peace, Taiwanese will only have transformed a lack of peace across the Taiwan Strait into a lack of peace between Taiwanese and their new rulers. If Taipei stakes its sovereignty on negotiations, it is bound to lose, and will lose everything.

Ma says a peace agreement will make peace systemic. However, peace agreements often fail to systematize peace. The Double Tenth Agreement of 1945 that brought in an armistice between the KMT and the CCP, the peace agreement between China and Tibet in 1951 and the 2005 peace agreement between Sudan and the south’s Sudan People’s Liberation Movement all failed to end war. The South Sudan issue was in the end resolved by a referendum rather than a peace agreement.

Neither the Double Tenth Agreement nor the Sudanese peace agreement managed to guarantee peace despite intervention by the US and the UN. That Beijing is calling for a cross-strait peace agreement rather than a treaty makes it very clear that China intends to exclude all international involvement. And given Ma’s policy of placing cross-strait relations above foreign diplomacy, he would not dare call for international intervention. As a result, Taiwan will be dominated by Beijing because the “one China” principle dictates that cross-strait relations are strictly a domestic Chinese issue.

Peace agreements can, of course, yield positive results, as in the Basic Treaty of 1972 between East and West Germany and the 1953 Korean Armistice Agreement between Pyongyang and Seoul. However, neither the two-Germany nor the two-Korea model suits the “one China” principle of the KMT and CCP.

It is impossible to imagine that Ma would not know the differences between the German, Sudanese and Tibetan models. Since he believes a peace agreement is worth pursuing, he should tell the public which model he wants. Such a significant matter must not be muddled out of electoral concerns.

Lin Cho-shui is a former legislator for the Democratic Progressive Party.

Translated by Eddy Chang