China and Taiwan are still unable to establish “real mutual trust,” Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) Minister Andrew Hsia (夏立言) told a conference in Washington on Monday.
The absence of trust has led to friction and conflicts when dealing with high-level issues in politics, security and international participation.
In a keynote address at a Brookings Institution conference on relations across the Taiwan Strait, Hsia said that nearly 70 years of division and separate governance have created differences in ways of life, systems and values between the two sides.
Despite advances over the past seven years, “fundamental and intractable political differences remain,” he said.
Hsia said the lack of trust was “the fundamental factor that has always created estrangement, suspicion and psychological opposition between the two sides.”
China has never understood why its expressions of goodwill to Taiwan have failed to win the hearts of Taiwanese, he said.
“Many of my friends around the world tell me that China’s confidence is growing, but personally, I think China is actually fearful — facing an uncertain future — and afraid that it might lose all that it has gained,” Hsia said. “This has prompted it to constantly adopt safeguards and precautions that frequently touch on deepwater regions and sensitive areas between the two sides.”
“This is also the key factor that has caused the recent setbacks and tensions in cross-strait interactions,” Hsia added.
China’s attempt to break the “intangible and tangible” boundaries across the Taiwan Strait led it to recently roll out a series of unilateral measures aimed at unification with Taiwan, he said.
“This has met with outcries in Taiwan,” said Hsia.
Answering a question, Hsia said China’s unilateral actions did not take into account Taiwan’s dignity and respect.
He said people thought that confidence would come with China’s increasing power, but that Beijing was worried and concerned about the coming election in Taiwan.
“They are worried because they do not know what will happen — and this is the beauty of a democracy: that you just do not know,” he said.
China has placed roadblocks at every turn to stop Taiwan’s participation in non-governmental organizations, regional economic integration and bilateral free-trade negotiations with other nations, he said.
“This has inevitably been a cause of concern and disappointment to the people of Taiwan,” Hsia added.
“As such, China’s contradictory initiatives in response to developments in Taiwan have, in some respects, had the unintended effect of widening the psychological distance between the two sides,” he said.
Hsia said that he was convinced that these challenges and difficulties could be resolved only with stronger confidence on both sides.
He called on China to institutionalize cross-strait negotiations, strengthen official interactions, put aside political objectives and calculations, and to stop marginalizing Taiwan and excluding it from international affairs.
Hsia said he hoped that China would respect Taiwan’s dignity and public opinion.
Asked whether Taiwan was worried about a planned September visit to the US by Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平), he said that Taipei was “fairly confident.”
Taiwan would be discussed during Xi’s visit, Hsia said.
“Based on our past relationship with the US, we are confident that our security and interests will not be compromised,” Hsia said.
He was asked if he could “shed some light” on a case earlier this year in which it was alleged that former MAC official Chang Hsien-yao (張顯耀) had spied for Beijing, which Chang strongly denied.
“This is a sensitive and tough question,” Hsia said.
“I went to office in February and I was told about this case. The prosecutor decided not to prosecute because of the lack of evidence. The public prosecutor’s statement was confidential and so we cannot discuss that openly,” Hsia said.
“All I can say is that from the statement made by the prosecutors’ office, Mr Chang obviously handed over some papers to a friend of his. For any public servant, this was not appropriate. Secondly, Mr Chang — apart from having an office in the government — also had a private office sponsored by businessmen. Again, I do not think that was appropriate,” Hsia said.
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