Archive for December 7th, 2010

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Cross-Strait Relations: Enjoy your Work

The Taiwan Affairs Office of China’s State Council (TAO) implements policies toward Taiwan as the State Council (or, in effect, the CCP’s politburo) prescribes them. They – semi-officially – prepare negotiations with Taiwan’s government (or authorities, as referred to in China). Their counterpart is the Straits Exchange Foundation in Taiwan.

As far as it is up to the TAO, Taiwan’s November 27 municipal elections won’t change anything:

After the municipal elections in Taiwan, the TAO issued this notice:

Xinhua Net, Beijing, November 28 – TAO spokeswoman Fan Liqing replied to a question, that we are paying close attention to Taiwan’s five municipal elections and hope that Taiwanese society will be peaceful and stable, that the people will live in peace and enjoy their work. Over the past more than two years, the improvement and development of cross-strait relations have brought tangible benefits for the compatriots on both sides of the Taiwan Strait, and support for the peaceful development of cross-strait relations has become consensus for the compatriots on both sides. We will continue our joint efforts with all Taiwanese circles, continuously broaden broaden and deepen cross-strait exchange and cooperation, steadily promote the development of cross-strait relations, and further the happiness and welfare of the compatriots on both sides of the Taiwan Strait.
新华网北京11月28日电 国务院台湾事务办公室发言人范丽青11月28日应询表示,我们关注台湾五个城市的选举结果,希望台湾社会安定、人民安居乐业。两年多来,两岸关系改善和发展给两岸同胞带来了实实在在的利益,支持两岸关系和平发展已经成为两岸同胞的共识。我们将继续与台湾各界共同努力,不断扩大和深化两岸交流合作,稳步推进两岸关系发展,增进两岸同胞的福祉。

They “will continue”. But what does “joint efforts with all Taiwanese circles” amount to? Would that  include the DPP?

An editorial, published by the Taipei Times on Tuesday, would – even if with some big footnotes – suggest that the DPP itself wouldn’t turn a deaf ear to an invitation to “joint efforts” – joint efforts for a better mutual understanding, that is:

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.

Pretty much for sure, the Taiwan Brain Trust allowed Chinese scholars in  to watch and discuss the municipal election campaigns. Liu Shih-chung (刘世忠), a research fellow with the thinktank, and once an adviser to former president Chen Shui-bian, told an Atlantic Council audience that

before the elections, as a thinktank and as researchers, we have had a lot of conversations with Chinese scholars. China sent a lot of scholars to Taiwan to monitor the elections. And in our conversation, most Chinese scholars agreed that it isn’t about seats that each party can get from Saturday’s elections. It is more about the vote each party can get, and they agreed that the DPP as the opposition had better chances to get more votes than the KMT. *)

So there is some preparedness both on the part of China and the DPP to talk.

The Taipei Times editorial points out that

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.

That a (possible) DPP president, from 2012, may find it easier to work with China is something Liu Shih-chung believes, too. But he cautions that

Just as Jiang Zemin did back in 2000 / 2001. One of the reasons why, despite the former DPP president, Chen Shui-bian, tried to send a lot of good will across the strait to the other side, I think, in 2000 / 2001, and the Chinese refused to take that is because Jiang Zemin was about to pass his torch to Hu Jintao. There was no way for Jiang Zemin to leave his legacy, or for Hu Jintao to take over, to react .. to Chen Shui-bian’s good will. Something might happen in 2012, assuming that the new DPP president continue to send good will to the other side, and that the new Chinese leadership may take some time to watch his or her words and deeds.*)

That said, the KMT is hardly “discredited”. The municipal elections were a setback or a warning – on that much much of the regional press seem to agree to. But it was no crushing defeat – and at least some CCP leaders will be aware that Taiwan was governed by a DPP president before Ma Ying-jeou was elected. In the view of David Brown, also on the Atlantic Council panel on December 1, the Chinese will be in no rush to push political talks with Taiwan:

They will continue, in my mind, to focus on the economic side, and as Shih-chung conveyed the impression that Beijing will be pushing Ma Ying-jeou to move into the political area of maybe getting into cross-strait confidence-building measures […] my perception is that Beijing was pushing rather hard on that in late 2009 and early 2010, but that since then they have backed off and talked about building mutual trust. That’s what they are going to be working on in the next period of years. They will focus on the economics, focus on cross-strait cultural issues and things like that, and, in my mind, not push Ma precisely because they realize that if they do that, he is going to have to take positions domestically which will cost him support. *)

Is the KMT “discredited” with Beijing? It will likely remain the negotiation partner of choice for the Chinese leadership – the way negotiations between Taipei and Beijing are going to continue should provide some evidence for that in that Beijing will do what it can to keep Ma Ying-jeou in power in Taiwan.

But probably, the CCP will also prepare itself for new partners after the 2012 elections – just in case that the Taiwanese people should indeed vote the DPP back into power. The transitional period the CCP itself will be in during 2012 won’t necessarily be helpful. When Chen Shui-bian sent feelers to Beijing, only for possible exchanges to be aborted , Beijing was in a similar transition of leadership, from Jiang Zemin‘s “generation” to Hu Jintao‘s – but history doesn’t need to repeat itself, so long as political issues keep lingering backstage.



*) The Atlantic Council hosted a panel to review and analyze Taiwan’s upcoming domestic elections and their implications for cross-Strait, U.S.-Taiwan, and Sino-American relations on December 1. It can currently be downloaded from the linked webpage. Towards the end, Taiwan’s long-term options are also discussed in some detail.

File duration about 1 hour, 38 minutes.


Investment Protection Agreement Delayed, Focus Taiwan, Dec 2, 2010
Tsai Ing-wen: the Turning Point, November 27, 2010
ARATS, Wikipedia

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