Mutual trust needed with China

By Tung Chen-yuan 童振源  / 

Wed, Dec 26, 2012 - Page 8

The Center for Prediction Markets at National Chengchi University just released its 18th cross-strait peace indices. The indices showed that the overall peace index across the Taiwan Strait stood at only 42.6 points out of 100. Despite cross-strait interaction being frequent over the past four years, the index depicting the warmth of cross-strait interaction measured only 35.6 points. These figures show that cross-strait peace is still in its infancy. If China and Taiwan are unable to come to a consensus on political issues and develop mutual trust with each other, cross-strait peace will be hard to establish and cross-strait interaction will become a mere formality.

According to the results, the cross-strait sovereignty conflict index and the cross-strait diplomatic conflict index measured 54.9 points and 57.7 points respectively, while the index reflecting the assurance of cross-strait peace stood at only 33.1 points. These three indices might represent warning signals.

Even though the governments of Taiwan and China have both stated that it is their common goal to pursue peaceful development and have signed 18 agreements, there are still fundamental conflicts between the two sides and there is a considerable lack of systematic and sustainable guarantees when it comes to cross-strait peace.

The above-mentioned results highlight the lack of mutual recognition by people in Taiwan and in China and the lack of goodwill between the Taiwanese and Chinese governments. The index showing how much of Taiwanese society identified with China stood at only 32.3 points, while the index showing how much Chinese society identifies with Taiwan stood at only 37.9 points. In addition, despite China continuously making economic concessions to Taiwan, while trying to avoid making military threats and openly containing Taiwan in the international community over the last four years, the goodwill shown by the Chinese government to Taiwanese only gained 35.1 points.

Opinion polls have also showed similar results. The Election Study Center at National Chengchi University uses an index which subtracts the percentage of Taiwanese who identify themselves as being Chinese from those who identify themselves as being Taiwanese, which is called the Taiwanese identification index. The Taiwanese identification index increased from 7.9 percent in 1992 to 24.4 percent in 2000 and then increased again to 38.3 percent in 2007. It now stands at 50.7 percent. The increase in this index during President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) time in office has been far greater and quicker than when former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) was in power, which shows that fewer and fewer Taiwanese are relating to China and see themselves as Chinese.

Furthermore, according to the results of an opinion poll commissioned by the Mainland Affairs Council, in the past four years, the proportion of Taiwanese who sense hostility from the Chinese government toward the Taiwanese government has dropped by between 10 and 15 percentage points from previous years.

However, in the past 10 years, the proportion of Taiwanese who sense hostility from the Chinese government toward Taiwan has remained at between 40 and 50 percent. The latest poll, conducted at the end of August, showed it was 46.4 percent — higher than in 2008.

The feelings of Taiwanese are very clear. They know that the economic concessions China has bestowed upon Taiwan and the regular interaction between the two governments are only skin-deep. Sovereignty, diplomacy and military conflict are the crux of cross-strait issues. However, China’s policies toward Taiwan have not become any friendlier on these fronts. As such, the Taiwanese identification index continues to rise and the goodwill shown by the Chinese government to Taiwanese continues to stay at a low level. These results reflect the lack of satisfaction and trust Taiwanese feel toward the Chinese government.

Putting political differences aside is the only way to ensure peace and development across the Taiwan Strait. At the end of 2008, Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) proposed that Taiwan and China engage in political talks. At the start of November this year, a report delivered at the Chinese Communist Party’s 18th National Congress proposed that the two sides look further into cross-strait political relations under the “special condition” that Taiwan and China are not “yet” unified. This shows that China wants to gradually forge a consensus and mutual trust with Taiwan in terms of cross-strait politics. However, China’s premise for political talks is the “one China” principle and it wants the result of any peace accord to be unification. This is why we have seen so many problems with cross-strait political talks getting underway.

National Chengchi University’s Election Study Center uses a poll called the cross-strait independence unification index. This subtracts the number of people who support independence from those who support unification. In 1995, this index was at its highest at 10.1 percent, but it has continuously dropped ever since. In 1999, it was minus-0.9 percent, in 2007 it was minus-9.6 percent and it is now at minus-9.8 percent. This means that more people in Taiwan support Taiwanese independence than support unification with China and there is no way that the Taiwanese can accept the premise of the “one China principle” and Ma’s idea of “eventual unification.” This is why Ma has, on several occasions, refused cross-strait political talks.

A few days ago, the deputy director of China’s Taiwan Affairs Office, Sun Yafu (孫亞夫), said during the closing ceremony of a forum in Taipei, that discussions on cross-strait political relations should not be based upon any particular premise and the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) should be invited to take part. It seems that China is confident that if peace and development are to be guaranteed between Taiwan and China, political consensus and mutual trust are needed, and to reach these goals we cannot base talks on any preconditions. In addition, the DPP has to take part in the process to see that the views of the Taiwanese get represented. Sun’s proposal was pragmatic and reflects precisely what the cross-strait peace index and opinion polls have been telling us.

Tung Chen-yuan is a professor in the Graduate Institute of Development Studies at National Chengchi University.

Translated by Drew Cameron