Brookings Institution senior fellow Richard Bush has published a study “decoding” Chinese President Xi Jinping’s (習近平) latest statements about Taiwan.
According to Bush, there was “some nervousness” following the election of president-elect leader Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) because Beijing suspected the DPP wanted to permanently separate Taiwan from China.
In the study, Bush quotes Xi as saying on March 5 that if the historical fact of the so-called “1992 consensus” is recognized, the two sides would have a common political basis and positive interaction could be preserved.
“We will resolutely contain the separatist path of any form of Taiwanese independence, protect state sovereignty and territorial integrity, and absolutely not allow a repetition of the historical tragedy of national separation,” Bush quoted Xi as saying.
Bush, a former chairman of the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT), said the quotes are key.
“They state what the new DPP government should do if it wishes to maintain healthy cross-strait relations and affirms Beijing’s resolve to oppose any behavior it doesn’t like,” Bush said. “Xi didn’t threaten specific actions, but he probably didn’t have to. As always, Beijing reserves the right to decide what DPP attitudes and actions constitute separatism and a quest for Taiwan independence.”
Bush said that Xi made its clear that if “disaster” occurred it would be the DPP’s fault.
“Tsai accepts the 1992 meetings as a historical fact and acknowledges that the two sides did reach an agreement of sorts, but does not accept the ‘1992 consensus’ itself as a historical fact,” Bush said.
Bush said that Tsai has spoken more about process than content and has said that the Republic of China’s ‘current constitutional order’ is part of the foundation.
He said that some have read this as Tsai’s acceptance that China and Taiwan are both parts of China’s territory, but that he is “not so sure.”
“Tsai did not reject Xi’s requirements out of hand, but she framed them in her own way,” he said.
Bush said that the stream of Chinese articles and statements that explicitly restate Beijing’s longstanding preconditions are reason to doubt that much accommodation is actually occurring.
“The three basic scenarios I outlined last December — accommodation, limited Chinese punishment of the Tsai administration, and comprehensive punishment — are still in play and the key variable remains whether Xi and his subordinates trust Tsai Ing-wen’s basic intentions,” Bush said.
“The next milestone will be May 20, when Tsai Ing-wen gives her inaugural address and may provide a more detailed formulation of her approach to China,” he said.
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