The possibility of China rushing into political dialogue with Taiwan after its pending leadership transition is low, as such a hasty move would only impede cross-strait development and put President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) in a difficult position, a US academic told a gathering in Washington on Monday.
Alan Romberg, the director of the East Asia Program at the Stimson Center and a specialist on cross-strait affairs, made the remarks at the launch of his new book, Across The Taiwan Strait: From Confrontation to Cooperation 2006-2012, in Washington, which was also attended by former American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) chairman Richard Bush and China expert Ken Lieberthal.
Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) said during his work report to the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) 18th Party Congress, which ended on Wednesday last week, that both sides of the Taiwan Strait should jointly explore political relations, set up military security confidence-building mechanisms and push for the inking of a peace agreement.
Hu’s statement has given rise to speculations that Beijing will soon push for political talks with Taipei, particularly after he was replaced as CCP chairman by Chinese Vice Premier Xi Jinping (習近平) on the last day of the congress.
“There are no indications yet that either side of the strait will carry out a political dialogue or sign a peace accord, since Ma does not have the flexibility to do so in Taiwan. Besides, he [Ma] has specifically stated that the signing of a cross-strait peace agreement has to be decided via a referendum,” Romberg said.
“Apparently, Ma has no timeline for engaging in cross-strait political talks, or for signing a peace accord,” Romberg said.
Commenting on Hu’s much-publicized work report, Romberg said China would prioritize the establishment of mutual trust between the two sides in an effort to lay the groundwork for political talks.
“Rushing into political dialogue would only hinder cross-strait development and place Ma in an awkward position,” Romberg said.
Turning to Taiwan’s quest for international space, Romberg said China would oppose any issues related to Taiwan’s assertion of sovereignty.
This could be seen in Taiwan-Singapore ties in the form of an economic cooperation agreement instead of a free-trade agreement, over which China expressed serious concern and sought to ascertain if Singapore adhered to the “one-China” policy, Romberg said, urging China to show more flexibility in such matters.