Politics can no longer be separated from economics and both sides of the Taiwan Strait should engage in dialogue on political issues to build up bilateral trust, a former National Security Council (NSC) official said on Saturday.
Former NSC secretary-general Su Chi (蘇起), who is currently a professor at Tamkang University, made the remarks at a forum on cross-strait challenges arising from China’s leadership transition in the wake of the Chinese Communist Party’s 18th National Congress last month.
At the forum sponsored by the university, Su identified what he said were the three most important elements in cross-strait relations: inseparable political and economic issues, political dialogue and cross-strait trust.
He said that the concept of focusing on “economics first and politics later” that dominates cross-strait exchanges was the result of a specific period in bilateral relations.
However, the signing of the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) in 2010 was a milestone in low-end political exchange, Su said.
Past discussions on the ECFA were focused on tariff concessions, but he said this subject was too narrow and “has entirely underestimated and misconceived the political significance” of the agreement. He predicted that in the next four years, there will be more extensive discussions on economic issues, as well as on political matters.
Although there is no rush to stage formal cross-strait political talks, some form of political dialogue should occur, he said.
Su praised Mainland Affairs Commission Minister Wang Yu-chi (王郁琦) for allowing Sun Yafu (孫亞夫), the deputy director of China’s Taiwan Affairs Office under the State Council; and Huang Wentao (黃文濤), the director of the research bureau, to visit Taiwan recently to attend a forum, which he said “would contribute to the forging of cross-strait political dialogue.”
Su also said that although the “1992 consensus” is important in developing Taiwan-China relations, political trust is more important.
The “1992 consensus” refers to an alleged tacit agreement between Taiwan and China that there is only one China, with both sides free to interpret its meaning,.
On Feb. 21, 2006, Su admitted that he made up the term “1992 consensus” in 2000, before the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) handed over power to the Democratic Progressive Party. Su said he invented the term in order to break the cross-strait deadlock.
Meanwhile, Beijing Union University associate professor Hu Shuhui (胡淑慧) said that Taiwan should avoid contradicting Beijing’s “one China” principle while seeking to sign free-trade agreements (FTA) with other countries.
She said that in China’s eyes, Taiwan inking FTAs with other countries would highlight its sovereignty in the international community, which is a sensitive matter for cross-strait ties and that if Taipei signed such pacts with countries that maintain relations with China, it would contravene the “one China” principle between China and its allies.
However, Chen Te-sheng (陳德昇), a former adviser to the National Security Council and a researcher at National Chengchi University, said the obstacles to Taiwan signing FTAs with other countries have not come from China, but were mainly due to Taiwan being too conservative and not economically open enough.