What is the East China Sea peace initiative? When President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) presented this framework for dealing with the Diaoyutai Islands (釣魚台) dispute in August last year, it was generally felt that shelving disputes and working together would be an alternative to interaction and negotiations, aimed at establishing shared understanding and interests and building peace when dealing with clashes over sovereignty. Unexpectedly, just a year later, the essence of this initiative was revealed when China unilaterally declared its East China Sea air defense identification zone (ADIZ). The peace of the East China Sea peace initiative is in fact a selective and bogus peace used to wrap an alliance with China in a veil of virtue.
Taiwan is a victim of China’s ADIZ, but in the name of the East China Sea peace initiative, our president is calling on Japan, the US, China and other concerned countries to act with self-restraint and not to escalate the confrontation, as if he were an outside observer.
China’s unilateral announcement — which was made without holding any talks — is an invasion of aviation freedom in the airspace over international waters, but Taiwan’s government was quick to request that airlines inform China about their flight schedules, thus giving its stamp of approval to China’s attack on the current peace. Let us delve a bit deeper into the government’s contradictory stance.
How do we reach the conclusion that the goal is to enter into an alliance with China, and what is the goal of this alliance? To answer these questions, it is necessary to discuss China’s Taiwan policy following the ascent of Xi Jinping (習近平) to the presidency.
Following the third plenary session of the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) 18th National Congress, it has become clear that the strategic goal established by Xi is to formalize the particular political arrangement prior to unification in law.
There are three reasons for this.
The first is that Xi has stabilized his power base by gaining control of the party, government and army in a very short time.
Second, he is a center-left nationalist, and his statement that “to be turned into iron, the metal itself must be strong” makes it clear that he is a hardliner.
Finally, he was not pleased with former Chinese president Hu Jintao’s (胡錦濤) China policy. Hu, in turn, was not pleased with the Taiwan policy of his predecessor, former Chinese president Jiang Zemin (江澤民), because he felt that although Jiang was threatening Taiwan to force it to rein in its horses, every time Taiwan neared the edge of the cliff, he would just find ways to extend the solid ground beneath her feet.
That was why Hu created the “Anti-Secession” Law, which states: “In the event that the ‘Taiwan independence’ secessionist forces should act under any name or by any means to cause the fact of Taiwan’s secession from China, or that major incidents entailing Taiwan’s secession from China should occur or that possibilities for a peaceful reunification should be completely exhausted, the state shall employ non-peaceful means and other necessary measures to protect China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
Xi believes that Hu was successful in opposing Taiwanese independence, but that his contributions to promote unification were very limited. The expanded cross-strait exchanges have increased Taiwanese understanding of China with the result that identification with China has dropped, and this matters to China.
When Ma said there would be neither unification nor independence, Hu offered Taiwan more advantageous terms, and Xi disagreed with this, which is why he will not follow in Hu’s footsteps, but rather find other approaches.
At the third plenary session, it became clear what practical steps Xi will take after the strategic goals have been set. Organizationally, Taiwan will be elevated to the level of the recently announced National Security Council, and in terms of personnel arrangements, Huang Wentao (黃文濤), the director of the Taiwan Affairs Office’s (TAO) research bureau, has been demoted and will be replaced by Zhou Ning (周寧), director of the TAO’s Bureau of Laws and Regulations.
A reasonable interpretation of these developments would be that the formalization of the particular political arrangement prior to unification in law has been put on the agenda.
There are many things Xi could do to highlight the special political arrangement, such as a peace agreement, ending hostilities, setting up a mechanism to build mutual military trust and even creating a political arrangement prior to unification.
The goal is to make unification Taiwan’s only option while Ma is still in office, and the intent is to tell Taiwanese that China is in no rush to unify, and that it is offering a reasonable arrangement for cross-strait relations, although it is all a matter of different stages that will lead up to unification.
At the same time, Xi’s Taiwan experts are delicately continuing to manipulate forces within Taiwan. Using discussion of a peace agreement as a pretext, they recently managed to attract a group of people from the pan-green camp. In addition, New Taipei City (新北市) Mayor Eric Chu (朱立倫), a possible future leader of Taiwan, attended a peace forum organized by former speaker of the now-defunct Taiwan Provincial Assembly Kao Yu-jen (高育仁). For the rest, the Ma administration is trying to bait them with the prospect of a Ma-Xi meeting.
If such a meeting could be held next year, Xi would demand that a communique be issued to trap Taiwan with a written statement, even if such a meeting were to take place at the APEC summit. Xi could use this to show the international community that Taiwan has finally returned to the fold. As unification becomes Taiwan’s only option, China can continue by requesting that the US end its arms sales to Taiwan, in a direct challenge to the Taiwan Relations Act.
A closer analysis of Xi’s Taiwan policy and comparison of this analysis with Ma’s alliance with China shows how closely they match.
Taiwan’s only remaining option is for the legislature and the public to oppose Ma’s dictatorial ways, the total lack of democratic discussion and the complete disregard for procedural justice.
Translated by Perry Svensson