Former vice president Annette Lu (呂秀蓮) on Saturday expounded on her concept of replacing “unification” with China with “integration.”
Lu does not she think the idea would be welcomed in its current form; rather, she wants to elicit discussion on a third way to break the current unification/independence impasse, especially given heightened concerns over China attacking Taiwan in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
She has apparently formulated her ideas around the number “three.”
First, she envisions cross-strait relations developing in three stages: having Beijing lay to rest the idea of unification of “one China” (一個中國); next replacing this with the “integration” of a more abstract “one China” (一個中華) entity — the difference in the final Chinese character is key, as it implies ethnicity rather than a state or nation — along the lines of the EU or ASEAN; and finally moving on to forming a “Chinese federation” (中華邦聯) that would include Singapore.
Including Singapore betrays a lack of understanding of that nation’s long-standing policy of careful calibration of ethnic balance: Singapore would have great reservations about joining a “Chinese nation” alliance.
Second, she would like to see a “northeast Asian golden triangle” comprising Taiwan, Japan and South Korea, as well as the formation of a “Pacific Democracies Alliance” that would include the aforementioned grouping, plus the US and Canada on the other side of the Pacific. She would also like to have these two alliances balance each other, as well as the US-China relationship and the cross-strait relationship.
Lu has also put forward her “three wars” concept (三戰說) of “maintaining peace, shunning war, avoiding bloodshed” — the same idea said in three different ways — or the idea of “preparing for war” (備戰), which includes facing up to war (面對戰爭), recognizing what war is (認識戰爭) and avoiding war (避免戰爭).
A response can also come from three directions.
First, taken at face value, an idea that could genuinely solve the current impasse and avoid war should be seen as a desirable addition to the debate. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and Taiwanese have seen in Ukraine how naive the idea of a rapid conclusion to any potential invasion of Taiwan is, and that it would be brutal, protracted and costly in terms of human life and devastating economically.
Lu intends to reduce tensions with her idea of offering an alternative road map to Beijing — it could at the very least buy more time for other options to be explored — and to develop her suggested network of balancing alliances that would also strengthen Taiwan’s voice internationally in a way that is uniquely Asian and not overly reliant on the US.
Second is the political perspective. Lu has long been associated with the Democratic Progressive Party, but her talk of rapprochement with the CCP and jabs at “provocation” are closer to the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) approach and its suspicions of President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) strategic closeness to the US. It also mirrors Russian President Vladimir Putin’s accusations that the US and NATO forced his hand in invading Ukraine.
Third is the biggest flaw in her thinking. Her veiled accusations of provocation completely ignore the role of the CCP and Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平), not just in being the aggressor, but also in believing that either would agree to her ideas or be trusted to honor them in the future.
Even if Beijing signaled provisional interest in the idea, the CCP is notorious for its unreliability and for gradually chipping away at agreed terms to end up with what it wanted in the first place.
Lu is right to want to avoid war, but astonishingly naive in her proposed solution because of her apparent misunderstanding of what the CCP wants of Taiwan.
Rapprochement might buy time, but as a solution to secure long-term peace or protect Taiwan’s sovereignty, independence or identity, it is a dead end.
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