Timetable needed for unification of Taiwan

By Zhou Zhihuai Source:Global Times Published: 2017/8/13 20:08:39

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

After I put forward the idea that Beijing should set a timetable for the unification of Taiwan, some Taiwanese scholars believed this symbolized a shift in the mainland's attitude toward the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP)'s government. From their point of view, setting a timetable would only make Taiwanese feel antipathy against the central government and deteriorate cross-Straits relations, as polls suggest the majority of Taiwanese people hope to maintain the status quo and only a few of them want unification. Others believe that setting a timetable paves the way for Beijing to introduce a law of unification.

Even if the Taiwanese public wants to maintain the status quo, public opinion in the mainland requires national reunification. As far back as the 1980s, former Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping raised the question: Are we going to give up reunification if Taiwan authorities refuse to negotiate with us? Does it mean the central government can no longer pursue unification if Taiwan wants to maintain the status quo? Obviously not.

The great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation pushes us to set a timetable for reunification. Today's China is the closest ever to realizing the great rejuvenation. An increasing number of scholars are starting to explore the relations between the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation and national reunification, and have divergent views on whether we should set a timetable and what kind of a timetable is needed.

Peter Enav, former Taiwan correspondent for the Associated Press, believes that the mainland will use force to unite Taiwan in 2018, and conditions are increasingly mature for the mainland government to forcefully take over Taiwan. Apparently, this speculation lacks supporting evidence.

Some believe that a flexible Taiwan policy is better than setting a timetable. At the beginning of the 21st century, some observers argued that there were no connections between national reunification and the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation, noting that even in the heyday of the British Empire in the 19th century, the country failed to achieve unification. They argued that despite being haunted by the Northern Ireland problem, the UK is recognized worldwide as a developed country, and Germany, South Korea and other nations realized a peaceful rise after WWII despite unresolved sovereignty issues.

But as far as I am concerned, now it is time to set the timetable to reunite Taiwan.

Prior to his visit to the US in 1979, when Deng was questioned about whether the mainland had a timetable to solve the Taiwan question by force, he said, "We try to use peaceful means to bring Taiwan back to the motherland and achieve national unification. The problem is that if we promise that we will not use military forces, it will tie our hands and make the Taiwan authorities refuse to negotiate with us for peaceful reunification. This will in turn lead to the use of military force to solve the problem." He didn't elaborate on the time frame to reunite Taiwan, as it was obviously immature to set a timetable at that time.

About 20 years later, then Chinese leader Jiang Zemin told then visiting US president Bill Clinton that "the settlement of the Taiwan question should be pursued with a timetable." This was the first time that the Chinese leadership put forward the concept of a timetable in addressing the Taiwan question.

In 2000, the State Council issued a white paper entitled "the One China Principle and the Taiwan Question," systematically and comprehensively elaborating the central government's stance and policies on the One China principle and cross-Straits relations in a governmental document for the first time.

"As the Chinese government has successively resumed the exercise of sovereignty over Hong Kong and Macao, the people of the whole of China are eager to resolve the Taiwan question as early as possible and realize the total reunification of the country. They cannot allow the resolution of the Taiwan question to be postponed indefinitely," according to the white paper.

Jiang said in his speech for the 50th anniversary of People's Republic of China in 1999 that the complete reunification of the motherland and the maintenance of its security are the very foundation for the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation and the unshakeable will of all the Chinese people.

In 2008, then Chinese president Hu Jintao put forward a "Six-Points" proposition to Taiwan in his speech commemorating the 30th anniversary of the "Message to Compatriots in Taiwan," and stressed that reunification is at the very core of our efforts to resolve the Taiwan question. Hu said the objective is to safeguard and ensure national sovereignty and territorial integrity, pursue happiness for all Chinese including the compatriots in Taiwan and achieve the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.

President Xi Jinping stressed at a ceremony marking the 95th anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party of China that "advancing the process of China's peaceful reunification, and accomplishing this great cause is a prerequisite for realizing the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation."

While it was a strategic consideration to put forward the notion of a timetable to address the Taiwan question decades ago, conditions for the mainland to set the timetable are now mature. National reunification is organically connected to the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation, and it is time for us to work out a 30-year timetable.

Under the One China principle, the mainland could be patient with Taiwan, but if the DPP government accelerates its provocative activities, the mainland will for sure speed up its efforts to realize the complete unification of China and the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.

The author is executive vice president of the National Society of Taiwan Studies and former director of the Institute of Taiwan Studies, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn Follow us on Twitter @GTopinion

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