Scholars see 3 ways to realize reunification with Taiwan

By Yang Sheng Source:Global Times Published: 2019/1/3 23:08:39

Debate emerges over best realistic measures to achieve reunification

A gathering to commemorate the 40th anniversary of issuing "Message to Compatriots in Taiwan" is held at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Wednesday. Photo: Xinhua

Chinese scholars predicted on Thursday that there will be three major ways to realize the reunification of the island of Taiwan with the Chinese mainland - war, peaceful negotiation and brinkmanship without actual violence, with brinkmanship the most likely option regarding the current situation across the Taiwan Straits.

President Xi Jinping's remarks on Wednesday at a gathering in Beijing to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the issuing of a "Message to Compatriots in Taiwan" have delivered a strong message announcing the mainland's determination and sincerity regarding the peaceful reunification of the country.

He stressed that "peaceful reunification" and "one country, two systems" have proved to be the best path to achieve the goal of national reunification, the Xinhua News Agency reported. 

The message has triggered heated discussion among scholars across the Straits on realistic measures to realize reunification.

Li Fei, a professor with the Taiwan Research Institute at Xiamen University, told the Global Times on Thursday that "peaceful reunification through political negotiation is the priority for sure, even if its probability is not high at all, because the cost and return risks are minimal."

The mainland has surpassed the island of Taiwan in many fields and is getting more and more attractive to ordinary people from the island, not only business persons, but also the youth, including students and young job seekers.

Therefore, building mutual understanding and improving integration for the people from both sides is just a matter of time, and the mainland has confidence and patience, but now the major problem is that the political exchange is at a deadlock, analysts from the mainland noted.

Not only the exchange and communication between the two peoples, but reunification also requires Taiwan to have a strong political party to represent the majority of Taiwan compatriots and accept the reunification rather than wavering between independence and maintaining the status quo, Li said.

Unfortunately, there is no such party in Taiwan at this moment, said Chang Ya-chung, a professor from the Department of Political Science at National Taiwan University.

"At least before 2020 [the 'general election' year of the island], Taiwan's political structure will remain divided," Chang noted. 

Currently, the pro-independence ruling party of the island, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), has actively refused the initiative from the mainland on Wednesday. After experiencing failure in a series of "regional elections" in the island in November 2018, the DPP has lost control in most cities and countries on the island, and the political structure of the island will face reconfiguration in 2020.

Xi proposed on Wednesday that political parties, and all sectors on both sides of the Straits, may recommend representatives to conduct extensive and in-depth democratic consultation on the basis of the common political foundation of upholding the 1992 Consensus and opposing "Taiwan independence."

"The purpose is much greater than influencing one or two elections, but to lay a political foundation for the political exchange for all parties in the island, and also exclude the separatist groups like the DPP from future negotiations," said Song Luzheng, an analyst of Taiwan affairs and a research fellow at the China Institute of Fudan University in Shanghai.

"The people who support peaceful unification in Taiwan welcome Xi's initiative since it calls for negotiation and consultation, and the mainland is willing to discuss the 'two system' arrangement, and after the political exchange restarts in the future, we hope the two sides can enlighten each other to find more creative and innovative ideas," Chang said.

Foreign forces, military solution

The ideal way for peaceful reunification is that pro-reunification parties in the island can regain power in 2020 and kick off negotiations with the mainland, Song noted.

"Both sides need to reach an agreement on the way and time for reunification first, and then they need to realize it step by step, and prevent the interruption from separatists, proxies controlled by foreign forces, and other countries that don't want to see a reunified China. 

Chang, as a scholar from Taiwan, warned that "even the KMT [Chinese Kuomintang Party in Taiwan, which acknowledges the 1992 Consensus], which is accepted by the mainland as a negotiator, will be reluctant to touch the reunification issue should it come to power, because it cannot get rid of the influence from the US."

"If the peaceful solution fails, the solution of brinkmanship that combines political efforts and military pressures will be used," Li from Xiamen University echoed.

Brinkmanship is the practice of trying to achieve the reunification outcome by pushing the situation to the brink of active military conflict, he said.

Jin Canrong, associate dean of Renmin University of China's School of International Studies, told the Global Times on Thursday that there is a successful example of brinksmanship in history - the peaceful liberation of Beiping in 1949 (Beiping is the old name of Beijing before 1949).

In this case, KMT forces in Beiping surrendered under heavy military pressure from the People's Liberation Army (PLA) and the joint efforts from both sides kept the city from being destroyed by war.

Li said that this kind of solution is the most likely, and it will take place when the sincere initiative for a peaceful solution proposed by the mainland has been refused by all parties on the island and the People's Liberation Army (PLA) has the overwhelming military advantage in the region that can ensure victory against any kind of intervention from any country, especially the US.

Xi said in his Wednesday's speech that "the reunification of the country is the inevitable requirement for national rejuvenation."

Worst solution

Another danger is from the US' behavior of challenging the one-China principle, Jin noted.

"In 2018, the US decided to have frictions with China on trade issues, and if it shifts the conflict zone from trade to the Taiwan question, it will bring huge crisis as well. After losing power in most regions of the island, the DPP has started to embrace extreme separatists and the conservative forces of the US. This is a dangerous signal that the mainland should be worried about," he said.

The latest incident that proved this kind of concern is that the DPP welcomed the Asia Reassurance Initiative Act, approved by the US Congress and signed by US President Donald Trump in December, which allows arms sales and high-level visits by the two sides.

Li said that if China is forced to solve the Taiwan question in the near future, then this would be the worst option for reunification, and this one will only happen when the hope of peaceful reunification has totally perished.

Observers noted that under this condition, the mainland must launch the preemptive offensive even if an absolute military advantage in the region is not fully realized yet, because Taiwan would have activated article 8 of China's Anti-Secession Law. The cost and sacrifices might be huge if the US decides to launch a military intervention.

According to article 8 of the law, "In the event that the 'Taiwan independence' secessionist forces should act under any name or by any means to cause the fact of Taiwan's secession from China, or that major incidents entailing Taiwan's secession from China should occur, or that possibilities for a peaceful reunification should be completely exhausted, the state shall employ non-peaceful means and other necessary measures to protect China's sovereignty and territorial integrity."

The parties on the island need to be aware that if reunification is realized by war, there will be no "one country, two systems," because then reunification will be no different from other Chinese provinces the PLA had liberated in the mainland in the past, Li noted.


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