An Interview on “Huanqiu Shibao”: the too-optimistic Expert

It’s being said time and again, in the Chinese media, that the Ma-Xi meeting in Singapore tomorrow has “milestone significance” (有里程碑式的意义). With neither glorious economic growth rates nor more former colonies’ returns to the motherland to report in the evening news, it seems that the Singapore meeting came almost like a last straw for the great-expectations propaganda.

This interpretation, of course, would be an exaggeration. But the CCP’s publicity behavior sometimes does look desperate. If there’s no countdown to the return to the motherland as was the case with Hong Kong and Macau, try Taiwan, even if you do not know the day or the hour.

And there’s desperation on the other side of the strait, for sure. Not in the DPP headquarters, but at the KMT’s. That’s probably not the only reason for Ma Ying-jeou to meet Xi Jinping. There’s reason to believe that consolidation of a “peace and stability” trend in the bilateral relations is on Ma’s mind. But if the KMT was faring better in the election campaign, maybe there wouldn’t be a meeting of this kind on Saturday.

Huanqiu Shibao published an interview with a retired diplomat, Hu Zhongle (胡中乐), on Wednesday. [Update 20151107 »Ersatzlink] Hu is on the board of an association of particular authors, the Old Diplomatic Service Cadres’ Writing Association (外交部老干部笔会, or in short, 外交笔会). He’s also a blogger.

Hu Zhongle praises former party secretary Hu Jintao who had “lost no time”, after the KMT’s electoral defeat in 2005 [Hu Zhongle seems to confuse the 2005 local elections with some other elections here], and had invited Lien Chan (KMT) and James Soong (PFP, the KMT’s Shining Path), to Beijing, in their capacities as party leaders.

Obviously, it was impossible for Ma Ying-jeou and Xi Jinping to meet as party leaders, as Ma wasn’t the KMT’s chairman. Meeting as “two cross-strait leaders”, rather than with formal titles, would avoid conflict with the “one-China principle”, and help to consolidate the achievements in the cross-strait relations of the past years, said Hu Zhongle.

Asked if Ma’s meeting with Xi would help the KMT in catching up to the DPP, Hu said that the effect would be rather limited. The long-standing military confrontation between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait had come to an end, and the concept of “Taiwan independence” had become “history”. When people [in China, that is] heard about the DPP, they associated the party with Taiwanese independence, but the DPP had adjusted its strategy.

In fact, there was no Taiwan issue [or Taiwan question, 台湾问题] anymore, said Hu. There should be no ambiguity [on the part of Beijing] concerning the “one-China principle”, said Hu. Citing a CCP management philosophy from the late 1990s (抓大放小, i. e. focusing on the management of big enterprises and decentralizing or macro-controlling small and medium-sized ones), he suggested that on smaller issues, far below the “one-China threshold, Beijing could adopt a constructive stance. Even military cooperation with Taiwan was conceivable, given its strategic position near the South China Sea.

Hu wasn’t terribly precise in what he said, but he added to a feelgood atmosphere. Or might have, if he had talked to a normal newspaper rather than to one that caters to a fairly nationalistic readership.

The verdict of the commentariat – at least if you go by the more recent ones – appears to be near-unanimous:

Intellectuals are too optimistic about the issue. (知识分子,看问题太乐观)

What Mr. Hu says is simply bullshit. (胡中乐先生说的简称“胡说”。)

[A suggestion that the “expertise” came across as dim] (这专家姓胡名扯,字瞎说,号忽悠!)

Blindly optimistic!” [太盲目乐观了!]

and a comment with more detail:

To say that the “Taiwan question is no longer a problem”, I believe an extreme mistake, and harmful talk. The DPP holds on tightly to Taiwan independence, and ruling Ma doesn’t want unification, clinging to the Republic-of-China zombie. clamoring about a sovereign and independent Republic of China. Besides, he sides with Japan to oppose the mainland, serving as America’s and Japan’s running dog. I’m asking you – is this “not a problem”? Are you saying that we need no reunification? [“台海问题已不是问题”,我认为这是极端错误和有害的言论。民进党死抱台独党纲不放,执政的“马不统”死抱中华民国的僵尸不放,叫嚣台湾是主权独立的中华民国,并且,亲美友日反大陆,充美日走狗,请问,这不是问题吗?难道不要国家统一了吗?]

Not least (this could be read as an answer to the management of big and small enterprises, or priorities, as mentioned by Hu Zhongle):

If you don’t solve America, the Taiwan issue will never be solved! [不解决美国,台湾问题就始终是个问题!]

The Huanqiu readership isn’t necessarily representative for the more general Chinese public. But it would be premature to think that the meeting in Singapore would automatically add to the CCP’s publicity capital. It may also increase the publics appetite for yet more patriotic glory, or lead to dangerous disappointment when Taiwan doesn’t play along with the screenplay from Beijing.

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