Whether former legislative speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) should lead a Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) delegation to the Straits Forum caused an uproar among the KMT, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and even the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) after a China Central Television (CCTV) program said that Wang’s visit to China was to “sue for peace.”
After CCTV did not publicly apologize, the KMT on Monday announced that it would no longer be sending a formal delegation to this year’s forum.
However, a focus of the CCTV report was its accusation that Wang was to serve as the DPP’s “messenger” — an issue that deserves greater discussion.
CCTV anchorwoman Li Hong (李紅) “poured cold water” on Wang to dampen any enthusiasm for him. Thus, the Beijing mouthpiece described him as a DPP envoy, citing his long-term role in the Legislative Yuan as the “king of negotiation.”
Later, Li changed her tone by praising Wang for his help in promoting cross-strait exchanges, but as the old saying goes: “Spilt water cannot be gathered up,” and she accidentally spoiled the CCP’s political game of uniting with the KMT against the DPP.
Clearly, Chinese authorities still hold divergent opinions on the timing and necessity of a “negotiator.”
The term “negotiator” can be divided into three types in international diplomacy: “initiator,” “mediator” and “arbitrator.” Each type of intermediary has distinct qualities for resolving confrontations.
An initiator should be enthusiastic and assertively draw disputing parties together at the negotiation table. This type of intermediary should be someone trusted by all sides so that the parties can be persuaded to reach an agreement.
Former US secretary of state Henry Kissinger was able to achieve the normalization of China-US relations [as then-US president Richard Nixon’s national securiy adviser] because he was authorized by the US side and simultaneously trusted by the Chinese side.
In the 1993 meeting between then-Straits Exchange Foundation chairman Koo Chen-fu (辜振甫) and his Chinese counterpart, then-Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits president Wang Daohan (汪道涵), in Singapore, then-Singaporean prime minister Lee Kuan Yew (李光耀) functioned privately as an initiator.
A mediator assists disputing parties to seek a solution and eventually arrive at an agreement.
In addition to being influential and trustworthy like an initiator, this type of intermediary should have a deep understanding of the issue and be aware of each party’s core interests in the dispute. The mediator should also be experienced and creative in dispute settlement, helping the parties to forget former enmities and making “mission impossible” possible.
In about 2014, China wanted to act as a neutral mediator in an Afghanistan peace settlement, and invited Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and a Taliban delegation to visit Beijing, but the results fell short of expectations.
An analysis by Japanese experts showed that, although China had built connections with the Afghan political elite, it has little understanding of Islam, not to mention that the CCP is atheist, so Beijing’s inability to gain Afghans’ trust in terms of religion was a fatal Achilles’ heel.
An arbitrator should have a compelling influence on the disputing parties and the ability to have a decisive effect if he decides to lean toward a specific side. With such strength, an arbitrator can demand that the parties settle their dispute and shake hands to make peace.
US President Donald Trump not only demanded that Israel and the United Arab Emirates promise to establish diplomatic ties, but also demanded that Kosovo and Serbia reconcile with each other. It was clearly the typical role of an arbitrator.
There have been countless intermediaries between Taiwan and China since their 1949 breakup, but most failed at the task because they did not meet these conditions.
Many of them were just like ancient warlord Cao Cao’s (曹操) persuasive talker Jiang Gan (蔣幹) — who became a laughingstock in Chinese history after being duped by rival strategist Zhou Yu (周瑜) into bringing back false information to Cao.
Clearly, the successful intermediary needs talent.
Not long ago, Wang assured KMT Chairman Johnny Chiang (江啟臣) that President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) had not told him to pass along a message to Chinese authorities.
Given that, Beijing is likely to suffer from its own action, as its mouthpiece makes groundless accusations against Wang.
Tzou Jiing-wen is the editor-in-chief of the Liberty Times (sister paper of the Taipei Times).
Translated by Eddy Chang
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