Redefining cross-strait relations

By Paul Lin 林保華  / 

Mon, Nov 19, 2012 - Page 8

The political report from the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) 18th Party Congress takes a passive approach toward political reform, but is quite aggressive in its approach to cross-strait relations. As a result of President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) cooperation with Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) over the past four years, the report affirms the so-called “1992 consensus.” Beijing’s next steps will be to make further demands on Ma.

To follow up on its success in tying Taiwan to the cross-strait Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement, China aims to embark on a political cooperation framework next.

This is what Hu meant, when he suggested in the report that Taiwan and China “jointly explore cross-strait political relations and make reasonable arrangements for them under the special condition that the country is yet to be reunified.”

He also said: “We hope the two sides will discuss the establishment of a cross-strait military security confidence-building mechanism to maintain stability in their relations, and reach a peace agreement through consultation so as to open a new horizon in advancing the peaceful growth of these relations.”

The possibility of a military security confidence-building mechanism and a peace agreement is something that Ma for several years has hinted at, and mentioned to Hu both directly and indirectly. Last fall, Ma even sent his top aide, former Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) secretary-general and now representative to the US, King Pu-tsung (金溥聰), to promote the idea in the US, before he had to step back due to a strong backlash from Taiwanese.

What is of greater concern is how cross-strait relations will be defined from now on, given Hu’s statement that “cross-strait political relations … under the special condition that the country is yet to be reunified.”

Ma always upholds the principle of “one China, with each side having its own interpretation,” while Beijing merely recognizes the first part, “one China.”

However, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) still has not accepted this view. It will be impossible to forge a consensus in Taiwan as long as the DPP rejects it.

Today, the party continues to adhere to the view that there is “Taiwan and China, one country on each side [of the Taiwan Strait],” which was proposed by former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) during his two terms in office. It has not proposed a new approach to this issue.

As for Hu’s definition of cross-strait political relations “under the special condition that the country is yet to be reunified,” the key here lies in the word “special.”

During an interview with Voice of Germany in July 1997, then-president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) said that cross-strait relations were considered “special state-to-state relations.”

Since Lee’s stance lies somewhere between that of Ma and Chen, there is a possibility that it could be the foundation of a consensus.

The problem of course, is which view China will take.

During former Chinese president Jiang Zemin’s (江澤民) time in office, he was opposed to the special state-to-state model of cross-strait relations, based on the erroneous belief that he could threaten Taiwanese with use of force. He was even opposed to Taiwan’s now defunct Guidelines for National Unification (國家統一綱領). However, the result was that voters protested and put the DPP in power.

Politics is often considered to be the art of compromise.

Despite Ma’s cooperation with China, Taiwanese will never allow China to annex Taiwan. That is why Ma has to act clandestinely.

Taiwanese should be allowed to decide whether they want to accept the “special state-to-state” dictum.

What is so special about the “special state-to-state dictum?”

First, it takes Taiwan’s historical background into account. Second, it takes Taiwan’s sovereignty into account, and third, it takes into account the blood relationships and cultural inheritance that the CCP cares so much about.

The CCP might be hopping mad to hear the phrase “state-to-state,” but what is Taiwan if not a state?

If Taiwan is seen as an “area” rather than a country, and we come up with a “special area to area” dictum, then the People’s Republic of China (PRC) would have to change its name to the People’s Areas of China.

In Hong Kong, some activists have launched a “city-state autonomy movement.” Is China willing to be a union of city-states? Is Hu or his successor, Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping (習近平), willing to be an area or union leader?

How long will the special condition of cross-strait relations last?

That will depend on when the political systems of the two sides become sufficiently similar, at which time it could be decided whether or not Taiwan and China should be unified.

Paul Lin is a political commentator.

Translated by Eddy Chang