Academics participating in a roundtable seminar hosted by the Institute for National Policy Research and the Mainland Affairs Council yesterday were divided on whether China would step up its efforts for political dialogue with Taiwan over the next three years.
Boston University professor Joseph Fewsmith said on the second and last day of the conference in Taipei that China is concerned that Taiwan might see another transfer of power that would bring the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) back into office.
China would wish to consolidate cross-strait relations and entertains hopes that bilateral relations would warm to the levels that resolution of any political problems would become possible, Fewsmith said.
“It’s very possible that the Chinese Communist Party [CCP] would wish to engage in political dialogue in the next three years,” Fewsmith said.
However, Institute for National Policy Research chief executive Tsai Cheng-wen (蔡正文) said Taiwan would maintain its “no unification, no independence and no use of force” policy advocated by President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and continue to interact with China on social and cultural matters on the basis of the [so-called] “1992 consensus.”
Taiwan will not consider engaging in political talks with China anytime soon, Tsai said.
China is more concerned about the fact that Taiwan does not wish to engage in political dialogue, Tsai said, adding that there were some in China who wanted to resolve the impasse as soon as possible so they could turn their attention to other pressing matters.
Cross-strait relations will be stable in the next two years, but will not be all smooth sailing, Tsai said.
Former Mainland Affairs Council member Chao Chien-min (趙建民) described the current state of cross-strait relations as very good, benefiting both sides of the Taiwan Strait.
Chao added that no matter who came to power on either side, “the situation would continue unchanged.”
He added that Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping (習近平), the anointed successor to Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤), would build on current cross-strait relations, but with his own individual stamp on it.
Taiwan will have to be prepared for the possibility that China might begin to exhibit a tougher stance on cross-strait issues, but Taiwan need not read too much into cross-trait political dialogue because there has always been a gap between China’s guiding principles on Taiwan and what it actually implements, Chao said.
Chu Yun-han (朱雲漢), a research fellow at Academia Sinica’s Institute of Political Science, said Xi was likely to stop making concessions in bilateral trade negotiations and might also push Taiwan to “face up to” political issues, such as a military and mutual security trust mechanism and a peace agreement.
“[Beijing] will ask Taiwan to start responding, or at least begin facing up to and discussing [such issues],” he said.
“Although no considerable headway will be seen in the short term, Taiwan cannot keep avoiding [such issues],” he said.
Tsai Ming-yen (蔡明彥), a professor of international politics at National Chung Hsing University, said domestic unrest in China could push Xi to take a tougher line on foreign policy than his predecessor.
The current domestic situation in China is “very different” from that in 2002 when Hu took office, Tsai Ming-yen said on the sidelines of the conference.
In 2002, Chinese society was relatively stable with fewer protests, but rapid economic growth over the past decade has given rise to different social needs and sparked mounting discontent over corruption, environmental degradation and other issues, he said.
The government may look for a way to divert attention from the country’s domestic ills, and nationalistic displays could be an option, he said.
“The concern now is that domestic unrest could lead China to adopt a more aggressive foreign policy,” Tsai Ming-yen said.
China’s handling of tensions over the Diaoyutai Islands (釣魚台), when it stoked anti-Japanese nationalistic fervor and made a show of force in waters near the disputed East China Sea islets, was an example of what the future might hold, he said.