A semi-official meeting between US and Chinese representatives earlier this month exposed how wide the gap is in how they gauge developments in cross-strait relations, the conference report released on Thursday showed.
During the annual Forum on Asia-Pacific Security, which is held by the National Committee on American Foreign Policy, experts from the two countries had different takes on who is responsible for the gridlock in ties between Taiwan and China over the past two years.
Several Chinese speakers at the meeting in New York on June 4 and June 5 said that the fundamental cause of rising cross-strait tensions was that President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) has “damaged the political basis” of the relationship that existed under former president Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九).
China believes that the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) is still determined to achieve formal independence, the Chinese speakers said, adding that pro-independence forces in Taiwan have become even “more brazen” of late.
US experts recommended that Beijing find a way to resume dialogue to prevent further deterioration in cross-strait relations.
However, Chinese participants said that Taiwan’s acceptance of a “constitutional one China” formula is not enough to satisfy Beijing.
Tsai will need to start by at least indicating in some way that cross-strait relations are “not state-to-state” relations, they said.
With respect to new formulas or “off-ramps” to reopen talks, they added that such negotiations would have to be conducted by unofficial, but authoritative persons through secret channels.
However, no one knows whether such channels remain, they said.
Chinese participants also said that Tsai appears unable and unwilling to re-establish cross-strait dialogue.
Tsai has been promoting formal independence not only through her words, but also through her actions, they said, citing her appointment in September last year of Premier William Lai (賴清德), who has told the Legislative Yuan that he is a “pro-independence worker.”
The Chinese also voiced concerns about the US’ deepening ties with Taiwan, including proposing measures to strengthen military cooperation and promote high-level exchanges with Taiwan.
The US is sending the wrong signal to Taiwan and emboldening its pro-independence forces, they said, adding that such actions would harm not only US-China relations, but also the interests of Taiwan.
US speakers said that Washington’s latest measures have been relatively restrained and “not as significant as China sees them.”
China’s aggressive military and diplomatic actions have strengthened the DPP’s position, they said.
Those moves include more frequent aerial and naval patrols in closer proximity to Taiwan, and pushing five of Taiwan’s diplomatic allies to switch recognition to Beijing over the past two years.
Such actions have influenced views in Taiwan, but also in the US, where they are viewed as “unreasonable” and “bullying,” US participants said.
The US sees Tsai as pragmatic and committed to maintaining the “status quo,” even though Beijing might see her as a “committed separatist,” they said.
The meeting was attended by senior officials, including US Department of State Office of Taiwan Coordination Director James Heller and China’s Taiwan Affairs Office Vice Minister Chen Yuanfeng (陳元豐).
On the non-governmental side, participants included Pacific Century Institute president Raymond Burghardt and Peking University School of International Studies dean Jia Qingguo (賈慶國).
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