The government’s strongly worded dismissal of a Chinese official’s remark that Taiwan’s future should be decided by “all Chinese” was a bid to shore up public support for President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) China policy, but could be a strain on bilateral ties, a cross-strait relations expert said yesterday.
In the statement, the Ma administration said that the nation’s future is in the hands of its 23 million residents, rejecting the claim by China’s Taiwan Affairs Office (TAO) spokesperson Fan Liqing (范麗青) on Wednesday that Taiwan’s future “must be decided by all Chinese people, including [our] Taiwanese compatriots.”
Aside from seeking to promote Ma’s China stance, the statement also represents a bottleneck in the development of cross-strait ties, said Tung Chen-yuan (童振源), director of National Chengchi University’s Graduate Institute of Development Studies.
Even though Fan’s comment was a reiteration of Beijing’s well-known position, it sparked angry responses from the public, analysts and politicians across party lines, with some netizens warning China to keep its hands off Taiwan.
The Mainland Affairs Council and the Presidential Office issued statements on behalf of the Ma administration saying that the future of the nation and its relationship with China should be decided by its citizens.
Commenting on the strong reaction, Tung said the idea that the nation’s future should be left to Taiwanese is a consensus between the governing Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), which favors closer ties with China, and the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).
“It’s taken for granted that the DPP would have responded the way it did,” he said, adding that the KMT administration had no choice but to follow suit given the high level of public distrust in the government.
“Had the administration not rebuked Fan’s comments, its lack of response would have been construed as acquiescence, which would have further eroded support for the Ma administration’s cross-strait policy,” said Tung, who served as deputy chief of the council in the DPP administration.
With political and sovereignty issues left unresolved, the closer economic and social integration Taiwan and China have engage in since Ma took office in 2008 has led to greater unease among the public about the cross-strait relationship, he said.
That public opinion has run counter to Beijing’s Taiwan policy over the past six years means that the development of cross-strait relations has reached a bottleneck, Tung said.
The relationship could regress if Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) is forced to adjust the “peaceful development” framework established by his predecessor, former Chinese president Hu Jintao (胡錦濤), Tung said.
Only 27 percent of people surveyed see Taiwan and China as “one China,” while 61 percent disagree, a poll released last month by Taiwan Indicators Survey Research showed. The figures compare with 39 percent in favor and 48 percent against in April last year.
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