Public support can challenge Tsai’s ‘status quo’

Source:Global Times Published: 2016-6-6 19:48:01

Editor's Note:

It has been over two weeks since Taiwan leader Tsai Ing-wen assumed office on May 20. Yet in terms of her outlook on cross-Straits ties, a series of moves from the current administration has already given people cause for concern. Where is the relationship headed during Tsai's term? How should we deal with the over 60-year-old Taiwan question? Global Times (GT) reporter Li Aixin talked to Wang Zaixi (Wang), vice president of the National Society of Taiwan Studies and former vice president of the Association for Relations across the Taiwan Straits, over these issues in an exclusive interview.

Wang Zaixi. Photo: Cui Meng/GT

GT: It is generally believed that Tsai will promote a strategy of "soft independence" in order to take a larger step away from the mainland without direct confrontation. Do you agree?

Wang: The mainland's stance is very clear - if Taiwan refuses to recognize the 1992 Consensus, it won't be possible for cross-Straits relations to steadily move forward.

For the moment, Tsai still refuses to acknowledge the 1992 Consensus, which means that the foundation of cross-Straits dialogues no longer exists.

As a result, negotiations between the mainland and Taiwan may suspend, visits between personnel from the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council and Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council may stop, and the now hotline across the Straits may become meaningless.

If the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) sincerely wants to continue dialogue, the solution is very simple - acknowledge that both sides belong to one China.

Tsai has just taken office, so her priority is to consolidate power. That's why she vows to maintain the cross-Straits "status quo." But in the long run, uncertainties in the cross-Straits ties are growing.

"Taiwan independence" will soon become a real danger. A few days after the DPP took power, moves toward de-Sinicization and Taiwanization have emerged.

Moreover, the DPP and Kuomintang (KMT) view the "status quo" differently. The latter believes that the two sides across the Straits are neither united nor two separate countries. It also believes in a reunification in future.

However, according to Tsai and the DPP, the cross-Straits "status quo" is that the island is already an independent sovereign state.

They view any effort by the mainland to promote reunification or by the Ma Ying-jeou government to develop warming ties with the mainland as act of altering "status quo."

GT: Some say that Tsai is using delay tactics. How do you respond?

Wang: As far as I am concerned, the "Chinese dream" has two core connotations: to realize a prosperous and strong country, and reunification. The latter is an inevitability of the former.

At all times and in all countries, no strong power is a divided one. China is becoming stronger. So personally, I believe the Taiwan question cannot be delayed for too long, and China will surely be united in the near future.

There can be no timetable in resolving the Taiwan question, but we must have the sense of urgency about it.

GT: What should we do about this sense of urgency?

Wang: We must be patient. After all, reunification is a battle of comprehensive strength. Compared with the Chen Shui-bian period, the balance of power across the Straits has been changed. Now the mainland has absolute military superiority over Taiwan.

Suitable guidance and policy is needed. I think that peaceful reunification and not ruling out the use of force must go hand in hand.

In addition, we must win support from the people in Taiwan. Due to the anti-CPC propaganda from the KMT during the early years, as well as the de-Sinicization and Taiwanization promoted by Lee Teng-hui and Chen Shui-bian, many of Taiwan's people are wary of unifying with the mainland.

We have to proactively guide public opinion in Taiwan so that more people could better understand and accept peaceful reunification as well as the "one country, two systems" policy.

Reunification will not arrive if we just wait and do nothing. And I don't agree with the view that as long as our economy develops, the two sides will be unified one day.

GT: What do you think of our prospects in winning people's support in Taiwan?

Wang: We have quite a few advantages. Over the years, Taiwan has witnessed the mainland's progress and achievements led by rapid economic development.

We should explain that both sides across the Straits are facing development opportunities, and if we cooperate, both sides will benefit.

More importantly, we must promote Chinese culture across the Straits. A very important bond is Chinese culture. Despite the fact that Taiwan's people have a different ruling party, and even language from that of mainlanders, we still share the same culture. We must ponder on how to unify through cultural identity.

GT: There are those on the mainland that are pessimistic over a peaceful reunification across the Straits. Can you comment on this?

Wang: Taiwan independence is no longer possible. It is only the wishful thinking of a few separatist forces, and a way for certain politicians to win more votes.

On March 14, 2005, the Anti-Secession Law was adopted by China's National People's Congress. The law articulates three conditions under which the mainland would use force against Taiwan: "The fact" of Taiwan independence is achieved; "major incidents" transpire to force Taiwan's separation from China; all possibilities for reunification are completely exhausted. When we resolve the puzzle one day, we will abide by the law.

We have the confidence in solving the Taiwan question. As Xi said to Taiwan politician Vincent Siew during the APEC meeting in 2013, "the longstanding political division between the two sides will have to be eventually resolved step-by-step as it should not be passed on generation after generation."

GT: Some say that peaceful reunification and not giving up the right to use force are contradictory in nature. Which is the priority?

Wang: For the moment, we must strive for peaceful reunification. We must try our best not to let our compatriots in Taiwan suffer as long as there is any choice. Yet in the meantime, we should also prepare for the worst.

Not ruling out our right to use military force is by no means directed against the people of Taiwan, but separatist forces. If they try to divide the island from China, we will not have any other option but to fight against them.

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