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Generational Dynamics Web Log for 28-May-2008
Taiwan / China relations thaw in wake of election and earthquake

Web Log - May, 2008

Taiwan / China relations thaw in wake of election and earthquake

Taiwan's new President reiterated the "three noes" in his inauguration speech last week.

When Ma Ying-jeou and his Nationalist Party (KMT) overwhelmingly won the Taiwan presidency in March, it was with the "pro-China" campaign promise to reduce tensions with Beijing and to improve business ties.

At that time, worldwide attitudes towards China were bad and getting worse. The crackdown on Tibet had started, and Europeans would soon be using the words "horrible Chinese thugs" to refer to Chinese guards protecting the Olympic torch.

However, worldwide sympathy for the Chinese people following the horrible Sichuan earthquake devastation began a period of international good will directed at China. The good will was bolstered by China's uncharacteristic openness in dealing with the crisis. Human rights demonstrations directed at the Chinese that were so prevalent around the world a month ago have now all but disappeared.

In this atmosphere, relations between China and Taiwan have improved enormously, and last week's inauguration speech by Taiwan's new president Ma Ying-jeou has been greeted warmly by Beijing's leaders.

The following excerpts from Ma Ying-jeou's inauguration speech describe Taiwan's relationship with China:

"On the day of Taiwan's presidential election, hundreds of millions of ethnic Chinese worldwide watched the ballot count on TV and the Internet. Taiwan is the sole ethnic Chinese society to complete a second democratic turnover of power. Ethnic Chinese communities around the world have laid their hopes on this crucial political experiment. By succeeding, we can make unparalleled contributions to the democratic development of all ethnic Chinese communities. This responsibility is ours to fulfill. ...

As President of the Republic of China, my most solemn duty is to safeguard the Constitution. ...

Taiwan has to be a respectable member of the global village. Dignity, autonomy, pragmatism and flexibility should be Taiwan's guiding principles when developing foreign relations. As a world citizen, the Republic of China will accept its responsibilities in promoting free trade, nonproliferation, anti-global warming measures, counter-terrorism, humanitarian aid, and other global commons. ...

I sincerely hope that the two sides of the Taiwan Strait can seize this historic opportunity to achieve peace and co-prosperity. Under the principle of "no unification, no independence and no use of force," as Taiwan's mainstream public opinion holds it, and under the framework of the ROC Constitution, we will maintain the status quo in the Taiwan Strait. In 1992, the two sides reached a consensus on "one China, respective interpretations." Many rounds of negotiation were then completed, spurring the development of cross-strait relations. I want to reiterate that, based on the "1992 Consensus," negotiations should resume at the earliest time possible. As proposed in the Boao Forum on April 12 of this year, let's "face reality, pioneer a new future, shelve controversies and pursue a win-win solution." This will allow us to strike a balance as each pursues its own interests. The normalization of economic and cultural relations is the first step to a win-win solution. Accordingly, we are ready to resume consultations. It is our expectation that, with the start of direct charter flights on weekends and the arrival of mainland tourists in early July this year, we will launch a new era of cross-strait relations.

We will also enter consultations with mainland China over Taiwan's international space and a possible cross-strait peace accord. Taiwan doesn't just want security and prosperity. It wants dignity. Only when Taiwan is no longer being isolated in the international arena can cross-strait relations move forward with confidence. We have taken note that Mr. Hu Jintao has recently spoken on cross-strait relations three times: first, in a conversation of March 26 with U.S. President George W. Bush on the "1992 Consensus;" second, in his proposed "four continuations" on April 12 at the Boao Forum; and third, on April 29 when he called for "building mutual trust, shelving controversies, finding commonalities despite differences, and creating together a win-win solution" across the Taiwan Strait. His views are very much in line with our own. Here I would like to call upon the two sides to pursue reconciliation and truce in both cross-strait and international arenas. We should help and respect each other in international organizations and activities. In light of our common Chinese heritage, people on both sides should do their utmost to jointly contribute to the international community without engaging in vicious competition and the waste of resources. I firmly believe that Taiwan and mainland China are open-minded enough to find a way to attain peace and co-prosperity.

The Republic of China was reborn on Taiwan. During my presidency, we will celebrate the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Republic of China. This democratic republic, the very first in Asia, spent a short 38 years on the Chinese mainland, but has spent nearly 60 years in Taiwan. During these last six decades, the destinies of the Republic of China and Taiwan have been closely intertwined. Together, the two have experienced times good and bad. On the jagged path toward democracy, the ROC has made great strides. Dr. Sun Yat-sen's dream for a constitutional democracy was not realized on the Chinese mainland, but today it has taken root, blossomed and borne fruit in Taiwan."

Note the following points about Ma's speech:

Despite the fact that western media outlets are saying that there's a new policy of détente between China and Taiwan, it's very difficult to find any official Chinese commentary on the new Taiwanese president. The Chinese Foreign Ministry web site is completely silent on the subject. There's very little on Xinhua's China Daily web site or China View web site.

And that illustrates the point -- there are few people who believe that anything has seriously changed.

Ma couldn't have gone any farther in accommodating China because there's a large and growing population of Taiwanese who consider themselves to be "Taiwanese, not Chinese." This population has been growing larger and larger as young Taiwan-born generations replace older generations that fled from the mainland in 1949.

And Chinese officials won't go any farther in accommodating Taiwan because "for China, one INCH of the territory is more valuable than the LIVES of our people." With 1.5 billion people, people are a commodity to China, while territory is invaluable.

In fact, pro-independence academics in Taiwan say that Beijing was not impressed at all by Ma's speech. According to one expert, "What Beijing wants is for Ma to clarify what he means by ‘no unification,’ since unification with Taiwan has always been and will remain the top priority for the Chinese Communist Party."

They add that Beijing will no longer keep up pretenses once the Beijing Olympic games end in August.

This is the view of a lot of people, including this writer.

The Dalai Lama said last week that he's received information from a "military source" in Tibet that Beijing has plans to flood the Tibet region with ethnic Han Chinese once the Olympics games have ended. He indicated that construction plans have already begun. This is an uncomfirmed rumor at the present time.

From the point of view of Generational Dynamics, Taiwan and China are headed for war with 100% probability. The current situation of temporary good will is interesting, but it's like November in New York City -- just because there's a heat wave doesn't mean that winter isn't coming. (28-May-2008) Permanent Link
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