Few want to see a ‘scorched earth’ Taiwan if war breaks out: former KMT chairperson

By Fan Lingzhi Source: Global Times Published: 2020/10/11 19:30:34

Editor's Note:

Since Taiwan's Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) came into power four years ago, cross-Straits relations have retrogressed as the DPP has refused to acknowledge the 1992 Consensus and fanned separatist sentiments on the island. Meanwhile, selling weapons to Taiwan and passing bills supporting separatists on the island, the US has been trying to leverage the island to disrupt China's reunification efforts. Former Kuomintang (KMT) Chairperson Hung Hsiu-chu (Hung) has been repeatedly threatened by the separatist DPP over her steadfast pro-reunification stance. The following is a transcript of Global Times (GT) reporter Fan Lingzhi's latest  exclusive interview with Hung.

The view of Taipei Photo: VCG

GT: The DPP recently strongly hyped the visit of the US undersecretary of state and the Czech Senate speaker to Taiwan as major "diplomatic breakthroughs." In your opinion, what do the DPP authorities and the Taiwan people get from all this hype? What's your opinion of their hyping and what do you think is the real purpose of those visits?

Hung: Cross-Straits relations experienced dramatic change this year. The Tsai authority escalating the anti-China campaign, together with the US presidential election and its "China-bashing" tone, quickly facilitated US-Taiwan relations. Tsai's full power on the stage, and weakened supervision from the opposite parties, also accelerated the deterioration of Taiwan's relations with the mainland.

The US is well aware that the Taiwan question is a core issue of vital importance to the Chinese mainland, so it drove up the "Taiwan card" by increasing levels of official engagement to bolster its leverage against China.

Tsai, who advocates preventing China from "subjugating" the island, attempted to convince the public that the US would support her and has sufficient capacity and willingness to guarantee the security of Taiwan. The move is intended to consolidate the DPP's power.

However, as a country oriented by practical interests, the US will require Tsai to pay a price in trade deals, along with the US pushing arms sales to the island, if Tsai maintains its risky gamble on the US.

Ractopamine-enhanced US pork and overaged US beef exported to Taiwan may be just the beginning. The bigger risks would be  a request for lower taxes on agricultural imports, cars and energy, as well as scrutiny and interference with Taiwan's currency controls.

GT: Some people on the island put hopes on the US to bring Taiwan back to the UN. Is that possible?

Hung: First, in the Joint Communiqué in Shanghai (also known as the Shanghai Communiqué) the US and China signed on February 28, 1972, the US acknowledges that "all Chinese on either side of the Taiwan strait maintain there is but one China and that Taiwan is a part of China. The United States Government does not challenge that position."

Second, the US' Taiwan Relations Act [enacted in 1979] stated that "any effort to determine Taiwan's future by other than peaceful means is of grave concern to the United States." In other words, for the security of Taiwan, the US did not give any specific assurances or measurements other than its "grave concern."

Third, the Taipei Act, signed by US President Donald Trump in March, was designed to emphasize US support for Taiwan's "informal partnerships" with other countries, rather than formal state-to-state diplomatic relations.

Hung Hsiu-chu Photo: cnsphoto

GT: Do you believe the Cross-Straits Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) would be renewed amid DPP's recent ban on e-commerce platform Taobao Taiwan, which is a subsidiary of Chinese mainland's e-commerce giant Alibaba Group, and mainland streaming services providers Tencent and iQIYI? What will it mean for Taiwan if the ECFA is not renewed?

Hung: Before and after the ECFA was signed in 2010, the DPP obstructed it with all kinds of slurs, calling it "sugarcoated poison" and "an asymmetric treaty." However, today, ironically, the Tsai authority has publicly called on the mainland not to stop the ECFA.

Moreover, the DPP promotes the ECFA but is unwilling to recognize the 1992 Consensus on which the ECFA was signed, which has naturally shaken public confidence in the renewal of the ECFA.

ECFA is the litmus test to see if the Tsai government is sincere in seeking the well-being of the people.

If the ECFA fails to proceed, three economic dilemmas will immediately emerge in Taiwan: First, given that the mainland is Taiwan's most important import and export market, if the ECFA is terminated, the core programs on the "early harvest" list of the agreement will also come to an end, hurting small and medium-sized businesses, especially those hit by the epidemic.

Second, Taiwan's products will lose their global competitiveness. If Taiwan is excluded from both the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) and ECFA, the average tariff on products on the "early harvest" list exported to the mainland will be raised to 7.3 percent (equivalent to the average tariff rate in non-FTA regions).

Third, after "decoupling with the mainland" in the economic and industrial chain, Taiwan may have to pay higher prices in order to make up profits from economic and trade deals with the US, a country that always stresses the most realistic and practical interests.

GT: It seems the communication between the mainland and the island has narrowed. Will this frustrate people who truly care about Taiwan? Looking back over the past two decades, the cross-Straits relations are always up and down. Is the hope of peaceful reunification breaking?

Hung: It cannot be denied that the "pro-independence" atmosphere has been more noticeable in the Taiwan society. This may be because of political manipulation of the reunification or independence polls, and the defeat of the KMT in several elections which shook the confidence within the KMT. Some KMT members suspect the party has lost the mainstream public support, and even become increasingly hesitant to say "I am Chinese." 

Now, the latest poll in Taiwan shows that the acceptance and satisfaction of DPP's Tsai authority are at a high level. But I want to emphasize that "public opinion is like flowing water; the water supporting a ship can also upset it." It is possible that the people's sentiment will change accordingly. To regain the confidence of Taiwan people, the KMT strives and must believe that the cross-Straits policy it proposes is the best choice for the people.

The 2019 Cross-Strait Marathon concludes in Kunshan, East China's Jiangsu Province, on March 24, 2019. Photo: IC

GT: The US once again mentioned a sale of arms to Taiwan. Based on your knowledge what is the combat power of Taiwan military? Could Taiwan solve its defense issue by buying US arms?

Hung: US sales of arms to Taiwan continues. The US lifting the strategic position and tactical capabilities of Taiwan island shows its strategy toward China has been increasingly clear and tough.

The US plays the "Taiwan card" and sells arms to the island. The US does not need to go into battle. US' strategic benefits are maximized and the cost is minimized. But for the island of Taiwan, it could be an unbearable burden.

Modern war is all-round. There is nowhere for people to escape. When the situation in the Taiwan Straits is approaching the danger of an arms race and war, there will be no winners on either side of the Straits. This also shows the importance for both sides of the Straits to manage the crisis and value peace.

GT: Some people say that "the first battle is the last" between the mainland and the island of Taiwan. What do you think? In your opinion, once a fight begins, how will it develop? Once the conflict happens, what choice will you call on people of insight in Taiwan to make? How strong is US military's verbal promise to truly assist in the defense of Taiwan?

Hung: Ma Ying-jeou's "The first battle is the last," quoted from the report of the "Institute for National Defense and Security Research" funded by the Taiwan authorities, was mainly to remind and explain the mainland's current strategy "the first battle is a decisive battle, so that it could be finished before the US army arrives." 

As a result, the "pro-US and anti-China" green camp and "independence" groups were dissatisfied and criticized Ma for "surrendering sovereignty." It is the rhetoric of the DPP and not worth refuting.

But I want to emphasize that instead of caring about "When to fight? How to fight? How long can it last? And will the US come to help?" I would first ask that Taiwan was originally a "peace dove," why should it become a "hedgehog?" Why start a war? Who is going to start the war? Who will benefit? Who will be the victim?

We have seen that the atmosphere for fierce warfare between the two sides of the Straits is indeed rising. However, further analysis shows that there are only four types of people who want conflicts and war in the Taiwan Straits. The first type is those who never seriously faced the terrible effects of war. The second are those with wishful thinking that the US can be relied on. The third are those who think they have a way out and can stay out of it. The fourth and most abominable ones are those who want to make a war fortune.

It must be very serious, once a war starts, no one can stand aside. Except for the above four types of people, most people are unwilling to go to war. They can't bear the island of Taiwan becoming a scorched earth. Once the war starts, no one can stay out of it.

"The art of war is of vital importance to the state. It is a matter of life and death, a road either to safety or to ruin. Hence it is a subject of inquiry which can on no account be neglected," as illustrated in The Art of War, an ancient Chinese military treatise. Once a war breaks out in the Taiwan Straits, it is no longer a question of victory or defeat, but whether we the Chinese people should continue to kill each other? This is a historical responsibility that both sides of the Straits must seriously face together.

Newspaper headline: Bridge the gap

Posted in: IN-DEPTH

blog comments powered by Disqus