Recent speculation that the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) was becoming more amenable to talks with Chinese officials rang truer last week when DPP Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) announced the creation of a party think tank which, among other duties, would encourage mutual understanding across the Taiwan Strait through dialogue.
Rumor even has it that the DPP recently allowed Chinese Communist Party (CCP) officials to enter its sacred ground — party headquarters in Taipei.
This occurs at a time when Chinese officials have allegedly complained to a pan-blue newspaper that information they have received from the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) painted such an incomplete picture of the mood in Taiwan that it prompted Zhongnanhai to look elsewhere.
Should this be true, Taiwan and China could be on the brink of taking their real first steps toward mutual understanding, or at least toward clearing the ideological air that has poisoned Chinese perceptions of Taiwan for so long. If the noise coming out of Beijing is true and the CCP is indeed realizing that its KMT interlocutors have not been straight with it on the Taiwanese polity’s reaction to President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) detente, this could signify that Beijing is becoming more attuned to the multiplicity of voices that characterizes Taiwanese society.
Although one should speculate on such matters with the utmost caution, this could signify a refinement of Beijing’s approach to Taiwan, or at least the realization that the number of people who don’t see eye-to-eye with it on unification is much more substantial than a “clique,” the term often used to characterize DPP supporters and those who oppose unification.
Equally encouraging is that the DPP is showing a willingness to engage China and institutionalize the process. This shows maturity and self-confidence, likely boosted by a resurgence in its popular appeal, even in defeats such as the Nov. 27 special municipality elections, in which it won only two of five mayoralty seats, albeit with 400,000 more total votes than the KMT.
Ma and his party’s popularity appear to have peaked in 2008, with the DPP in the ascendancy since. That the DPP could turn its fortunes around so quickly and do so at a time when Ma could flaunt the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) and myriad Chinese sweeteners is no small achievement. This tells Beijing that the pan-green camp is a force to be reckoned with and that there is life after former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁).
Unwilling to accept that there could be another game in town, the KMT — which cannot be unaware that its appeal is waning — appears to have engaged in a game of deception with Beijing, just as US officials in Saigon for years sent rosy pictures of the situation in South Vietnam back to Washington until reality kicked in. Maybe, just maybe, Chinese officials have enough wisdom to avoid a similar mistake.
However, it is too early for optimism, as this isn’t the first time the DPP has been willing to talk (which should not be confused with having political negotiations) with China. Soon after entering office in 2000, the Chen administration sent feelers to Beijing, only for possible exchanges to be aborted after Beijing imposed preconditions such as the “one China” principle and the abandonment of the party’s independence clause.
There is no knowing whether similar caveats would be imposed this time around, but there is a major difference between then and now: The KMT seems to have discredited itself in Beijing’s eyes.
The People’s Republic of China (PRC) has over the past few months continued to escalate its hegemonic rhetoric and increase its incursions into Taiwan’s air defense identification zone. The US, in turn, has finally realized how its “strategic ambiguity” is increasingly wearing thin. Similarly, any hopes the US had that the PRC would be a responsible stakeholder and economic player have diminished, if not been abandoned. Taiwan, of course, remains as the same de facto independent, democratic nation that the PRC covets. As a result, the US needs to reconsider not only the amount, but also the type of arms
Taking advantage of my Taipei Times editors’ forbearance, I thought I would go with a change of pace by offering a few observations on an interesting nature topic, the many varieties of snakes in Taiwan. I will be drawing on my experiences living in Taiwan five times, from my teenage years in Kaohsiung back in the early sixties, to my last assignment as American Institute in Taiwan Director in 2006-9. Taiwan, with its semitropical climate, is a perfect setting for serpents. Indeed, one might say serpents are an integral part of the island’s ecosystem. Taiwan is warm, humid, with lots of
China constantly seeks out ways to complain about perceived slights and provocations as pretexts for its own aggressive behavior. It is both victimization paranoia and a form of information warfare that keeps the West on the defensive. True to form, China objected even to the innocuous reference to Taiwan at April 16’s summit meeting between US President Joe Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga. Neither leader’s prepared remarks even mentioned Taiwan, out of deference to the Japanese side. Biden’s opening statement was modest: “Prime Minister Suga and I affirmed our ironclad support for US-Japanese alliance and for our shared security.
Determined to keep a permanent grip on power, Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) has abandoned former paramount leader Deng Xiaoping’s (鄧小平) dogma of “hiding our capacities and biding our time” along with the “peaceful development” line that prevailed under former Chinese presidents Jiang Zemin (江澤民) and Hu Jintao (胡錦濤). Instead, he is treading a “wolf warrior” path of diplomacy that resorts to coercion, debt entrapment and hostage-taking. Externally, Xi’s China has claimed that it would never seek hegemony, yet it challenges the free, rules-based international order wherever it can. While insisting that it will not export its ideology, it has