Peace agreement nothing but a trap

By Paul Lin 林保華  / 

Sun, Oct 30, 2011 - Page 8

President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) has hit a snag in his re-election campaign with talk of a cross-strait peace agreement revealing his intentions to “replace independence with gradual reunification.”

No one is opposed to peace, but no one wants it to come at the price of having to serve under a new dictatorial regime. Are we to suppose that we can live in peace and security if we become part of China? When we talk about cross-strait peace, it is important to keep an eye on the differences between the system we live under and that in China.

In the final years of his presidency, former US president Bill Clinton became more pro-China in his cross-strait policy. However, during a visit to Taiwan in 2005, speaking in a private capacity, he said signing a mid to long-term peace agreement with China would be inadvisable for three reasons. First, he said, it is not really possible to set a term for peace, and that there could be no genuine guarantees. Second, it would be leaving the problem for the next generation. And third, when the agreement expired it would actually be an excuse for China to attack Taiwan.

Clinton’s first point concerns how exactly one defines the medium or long term. However you choose to define these, the fact remains that it will be a finite period and that China won’t sign a permanent peace agreement. This would lead to the following preposterous situation: There is currently already peace in the Taiwan Strait and if we were to now sign a peace agreement with a finite term, that would imply that once the agreed period is up, China and Taiwan would enter a state of war. For Ma to sleepwalk us into a state of war with China is insanity by any measure.

When China regained the territory of Hong Kong it promised no changes for 50 years. I do not know if that is supposed to be considered long or mid-term, but the fact of the matter is that changes have already happened. The agreement signed in 1984 between the UK and China on Hong Kong’s future was a state-to-state agreement subsequently registered with the UN as an international treaty. However, China already regards Hong Kong as a domestic issue. This shows why Clinton doubted the ability to obtain any genuine guarantees after an agreement is signed. What would possess Taiwan to walk into such an obvious trap?

China and Japan also dispute the sovereignty of the Diaoyutai Islands (釣魚台), but there is no talk of a peace agreement between them. Former Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping (鄧小平) said the issue should be left to the next generation of leaders. Deng was the second generation and China is now led by a fourth generation, yet the issue is still to be resolved. Why doesn’t Ma just leave it to the next generation?

When any potential agreement expires, the politicians of the future will be haunted by Ma’s legacy, with no option but to re-sign the agreement or consign the country to a state of war. Furthermore, China would be sure to come up with new demands and conditions during the negotiation process, and if the talks failed to yield results, it would be just as Clinton said: China will have an excuse to launch an attack. Therefore, Ma’s intention to sign a peace agreement with China at this juncture is tantamount to selling out the next generations of Taiwanese.

One thing is for certain; if Taiwan did decide to go ahead and sign a peace deal with China, the negotiations would likely be laborious and drawn out, unless we agreed to all their demands. If we did not, China would stir up public opinion, saying how Taiwan had sabotaged the talks, and therefore hopes of peace, in such a way that it would have an excuse, with the public’s blessing, to start a war. Basically, once we go to the negotiation table, it would be very difficult to leave. Hasn’t the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) learned its lesson yet?

Paul Lin is a political commentator.

Translated by Paul Cooper