Beijing is exerting “immense pressure” on President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration to move toward cross-strait political dialogue that will lead to a peace agreement and unification, a former top Taiwanese official has warned.
“Ma has so far stuck to a formula of ‘economics first, politics later,’ limiting cross-strait interaction to economic relations,” former National Security Council secretary-general Parris Chang (張旭成) said.
However, Beijing will not take no for an answer and has been doing what it can to “pressure, push and prod” Ma’s regime to change course, he said.
In a paper published by the Washington-based Jamestown Foundation, Chang — a professor emeritus of political science at Pennsylvania State University — said that Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) is “pushing harder and faster” to implement Beijing’s policy agenda in Taiwan.
Chang says that during Ma’s second term in office, China’s efforts to bring Taiwan further into the People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) orbit have backfired —– resulting in a weakened presidency “that cannot deliver the mainland’s goals.”
As a result, Beijing appears to be looking ahead to the next two elections “trying to make as much progress as possible before Ma leaves office while simultaneously trying to establish ties with possible successors,” Chang said.
Chang says that former Chinese president Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) confided to his inner circles that it was easier and less expensive to “buy” Taiwan than to “conquer it through military means.”
“Beijing’s implementation of this strategy has employed both economic means and a united-front operation to make inroads among corporate leaders, ruling and opposition parties, the media and the public,” Chang said. “But Beijing does not offer a free lunch — Chinese leaders’ ultimate goal is unification.”
Beijing has utilized economic means to “reach out to and co-opt Taiwan’s business elite” and as a result “most of the business elite have become staunch supporters of cross-strait rapprochement.”
Chang said that Xi has placed Ma in a difficult position, repeatedly forcing him to choose between the demands of Beijing and those of Taiwanese.
“His attempts to navigate these demands have contributed to declining poll numbers and a widespread perception that he is a lame-duck president,” Chang said.
From Beijing’s perspective, the service trade agreement is also intended to perform “vital political and united-front functions in Taiwan.”
“As shown by the experience of Hong Kong,” the pact will provide legal cover for China’s agents to live and work in Taiwan, Chang said.
“Through Chinese enterprises and shops, China’s operatives will be able to use the pact to continue to build up resources and capabilities to influence Taiwan’s political process and strive for peaceful unification,” he said.
With the seven-in-one elections to be held at the end of the year and the presidential and legislative elections in 2016, many Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) leaders — and Beijing — are apprehensive that voters could reject KMT candidates this year and vote the KMT out of government in 2016, Chang said.
“Beijing has much at stake and appears to be seeking alternatives to the Ma government,” he added.
Chang said Beijing “is sure” to try to intervene and try to influence the outcome of Taipei’s mayoral election this year and the presidential and legislative elections in 2016.