On Dec. 12, retired military leaders from Taiwan and China met at the first symposium on Sun Yat-sen Thought and the Whampoa Spirit at the 2010 Cross-strait Sun Yat-sen Forum.
Participants from Taiwan included former director of National Defense University, General Hsia Yin-chou (夏瀛洲), former military adviser to the Presidential Office and former director of the General Political Warfare Bureau Tsao Wen-shen (曹文生), former navy commander-in-chief Admiral Miao Yung-ching (苗永慶), former deputy air force commander-in-chief Lee Kui-fa (李貴發), and former president of the Graduate Institute of Strategic Studies at National Defense University Tseng Chang-jui (曾章瑞).
The Chinese participants included former deputy director of the technological research department at China’s National Defense University Wu Guifu (武桂馥), former director of the Institute for Strategic Studies at National Defense University Pan Zhenqiang (潘振強), former director of the Department of Strategic Research at the Chinese Academy of Military Science Yao Youzhi (姚有志), deputy director of the Department for Foreign Military Studies at the Chinese Academy of Military Science Fu Liqun (傅立群) and researcher at the Department of Strategic Studies at the Chinese Academy of Military Science Peng Guangqian (彭光謙).
This gathering grabbed the attention of officials and the media in Taiwan, the US and Japan.
Recently there has been a change in the domestic view of cross-strait affairs. When former National Security Council secretary-general Su Chi (蘇起) and Charles Kao (高希均), founder and chief executive of Commonwealth Publishing Group, participated in a Harvard University Forum in late May, they quoted an opinion survey by CommonWealth Magazine showing that after the signing of the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA), 53 percent of respondents agreed that it was still necessary to purchase better defensive weapons from the US. That was an increase of 5 percent on the previous year.
Although President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) has on several occasions demanded that China remove the missiles it aims at Taiwan, both the incumbent and former national defense ministers have told the legislature that doing so “is of no substantial military significance.” Quite a few domestic and external observers are already questioning Ma’s actions. In February US military expert Richard Fisher said that the Ma administration’s national defense policies lacked both pragmatism and vision and Mei Fu-hsing (梅復興), director of the US-based Taiwan Security -Analysis Center, has penned articles questioning the government’s use of the US administration’s indecision over arms sales as a bargaining chip.
It is worth noting that according to the transcript of a meeting between US Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg and former Singaporean prime minister Lee Kuan Yew (李光耀) on May 30 last year recently made public by WikiLeaks, Lee said that Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) would be pragmatic on Taiwan, believing that the key is to first build economic links.
This corroborates what former deputy minister of national defense Lin Chong-pin (林中斌) said at a forum on Taiwan Strait security and mutual trust in June, namely that Beijing has realized that “it is cheaper to buy Taiwan than to attack it.”
Another thing worthy of note is that the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) made was less critical of cross-strait affairs during the recent special municipality election campaigns than it has been in the past, and once they were over the DPP announced its intention to establish a think tank aimed at initiating exchanges with China. This implies an acceptance that regardless of which party holds power, cross-strait exchange is now an unstoppable trend.
This unofficial, non-governmental exchange — the so-called second track — differs from previous meetings between retired high-ranking military officers in that it is organized and has a direction and an agenda.
Although retired Chinese officers still focus on the idea of national revival as a way to resolve the Taiwan issue, retired military officers from Taiwan emphasized the need to set up a mechanism for cross-strait military contacts through non-military means rather than focus on the most intractable aspects of the cross-strait relationship. They expressed the view that cross-strait development should take precedence over the threats of the past, in the hope that China would take a more enlightened approach to the promotion of mutual trust.
Both the retired Chinese and Taiwanese officers had things that they insisted on, but the Taiwanese side rejected the currently optimistic Chinese view, stressing Taiwanese democracy and identity. They also suggested a multilateral model to facilitate stability in the Taiwan Strait and deal with threats that are not purely military in nature, including the removal of the missiles China aims at Taiwan.
It is certainly more pragmatic and innovative to rely on simulation analysis as a scientific basis for the promotion of practical and feasible cross-strait military exchange.
Wang Jyh-perng is an associate research fellow at the Association for Managing Defense and Strategies.
TRANSLATED BY PERRY SVENSSON
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