Any signs that cross-strait relations are improving will disappear when Beijing no longer needs to keep up pretenses once the Olympic Games in August have come and gone, pro-independence academics said yesterday.
They predicted that Beijing would not make any drastic concessions despite its recent Taiwan-friendly rhetoric following the election of President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九).
Chao Chien-ming (趙建民), a social science professor at the Sun Yat-sen Graduate Institute, said Beijing was not impressed with Ma’s apparent lack of commitment to eventual unification.
“What Beijing wants is for Ma to clarify what he means by ‘no unification,’ since unification with Taiwan has always been and will remain the top priority for the Chinese Communist Party [CCP],” he said.
In his inaugural speech on Tuesday, Ma said that he would maintain the “status quo” in the Taiwan Strait under the framework of the Republic of China Constitution and the principle of “no unification, no independence and no use of force.”
Chao said that, in the 1990s, China was willing to engage in dialog with the then-Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) government because eventual unification had still been the KMT’s overarching long-term goal at the time.
“But Ma is now saying that the Republic of China is a bona fide country and that there would be no unification in his lifetime,” he said.
To avoid appearing belligerent from now until July, Chao said, Beijing was likely to be friendly toward Taiwan by agreeing to weekend direct charter flights and allowing Chinese tourists to visit Taiwan, but the government should not expect the honeymoon to last past the end of next year, Chao said.
Taiwan Foundation for Democracy deputy executive director Tung Li wen (董立文) shared Chao’s views.
Tung said that while Beijing was offering Ma gifts with the one hand, it was slapping him with the other by inviting KMT Chairman Wu Poh-hsiung (吳伯雄) to meet Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) next week, instead of Straits Exchange Foundation chairman-designate Chiang Pin-kung (江丙坤).
“It is clear that the Chinese Communist Party is showing Ma that it has the upper hand in the game, because it will talk to whomever it wants, which is not necessarily Ma’s preferred choice,” Tung said.
It is rumored that Wu and Hu are likely to reach a deal on weekend charter flights next week. If they do, the Straits Exchange Foundation, the only government-commissioned civic organization empowered to negotiate with Beijing, would be completely sidelined.
The academics also called on Ma to clarify what he meant by calling for a “diplomatic truce” with Beijing.
“Does Ma mean Taiwan’s international space will be maintained or does he want Beijing to relent and stop barring Taiwan from participating in international organizations? If so, it wouldn’t be a truce because it would be asking Beijing to retreat while Taiwan advances,” Chao said.
Lo Chih-cheng (羅致政), chairman of Soochow University’s political science department, said the future of cross-strait relations would basically depend on Beijing’s whims.
“China will be the one calling the shots on whom it wants to talk to, when the talks will take place and what roles the different Taiwanese officials will play. Ma will have virtually no say in the matter,” Lo said.