Tsai must stop play­ing dan­ger­ous game

China Daily (Canada) - - VIEWS -

By re­sort­ing to the old, tricky game of “pri­vate and un­of­fi­cial” tran­sit throughUnited States ter­ri­tory, Tai­wan leader Tsai Ing­wen has made her pre­vi­ous “stance” to seek bet­ter ties with the Chi­nese main­land quite doubt­ful.

For­eign­Min­istry spokesman Geng Shuang had urged theUS not to al­low Tsai to tran­sit throughHawaii and Guam on Satur­day on her way to some Pa­cific coun­tries, be­cause it would vi­o­late the one-China prin­ci­ple, which not on­lyWash­ing­ton but also the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity has ac­ceded to.

Tsai’s tran­sit through theUS on Satur­day is her sec­ond this year. In Jan­uary, she stopped over in Hous­ton and San Fran­cisco on her way to and from Latin Amer­ica.

Al­though theUS in­sists there is no change in its one-China pol­icy, Tsai would do good to avoid such se­vere provo­ca­tions if she re­ally wants to im­prove cross-Straits ties, which have de­te­ri­o­rated since she as­sumed the role of Tai­wan leader in­May last year.

On Oct 26, be­fore Tsai em­barked on the provoca­tive trip, Ma Xiaoguang, spokesman for the main­land’s Tai­wan Af­fairs Of­fice of the State Coun­cil, re­it­er­ated that the 1992 Con­sen­sus holds the key to the peace­ful de­vel­op­ment of re­la­tions be­tween the two sides of the Straits. His re­marks came in re­sponse to a speech given that day by Tsai, who re­it­er­ated her “stance” to im­prove cross-Straits ties while try­ing to beau­tify the role her rul­ing Demo­cratic Pro­gres­sive Party has played in past cross-Straits ex­changes. She de­liv­ered the speech at a fo­rum cel­e­brat­ing the 30th an­niver­sary of the re­sump­tion of ex­changes be­tween the main­land and Tai­wan.

Such ac­tions and re­marks have brought her ap­proval rat­ing down. In fact, polls do not bode well for Tsai, as a re­cent sur­vey shows more than 50 per­cent of Tai­wan res­i­dents are not sat­is­fied with her per­for­mance and pol­i­cy­mak­ing, par­tic­u­larly her fail­ure to fully rec­og­nize the 1992 Con­sen­sus.

With too much at stake, she had kept a close eye on the 19th National Con­gress of the Com­mu­nist Party of China and the re­port de­liv­ered byGen­eral Sec­re­tary Xi Jin­ping at the open­ing ses­sion on Oct 18, which stressed that the one-China prin­ci­ple is the po­lit­i­cal foun­da­tion of cross-Straits ties. “We will never al­low any­one, any or­ga­ni­za­tion, or any po­lit­i­cal party, at any time or in any form, to sep­a­rate any part of Chi­nese ter­ri­tory from China,” Xi said.

The cen­tral lead­er­ship’s re­solve to fight sep­a­ratist forces on the is­land is in con­trast to Tsai’s am­bigu­ous stance on crossS­traits ties, which led to the sus­pen­sion of of­fi­cial com­mu­ni­ca­tion chan­nels be­tween the po­lit­i­cal par­ties on the two sides last year.

Equiv­o­ca­tion on the one-China prin­ci­ple will also put ex­tra pres­sure on Tsai’s cross-Straits ap­proach as the main­land steps up its ef­forts to fight the se­ces­sion­ist forces.

The re­sump­tion of con­tacts be­tween the po­lit­i­cal par­ties on both sides, as Tsai said in her lat­est ad­dress, is in­deed key to bet­ter cross-Straits ties. But that would be pos­si­ble only when Tsai and the DPP stop the play of words and of­fer a clear an­swer to whether or not they ac­cept the one-China prin­ci­ple. Tsai’s “ul­ti­mate good­will”, if there is any, ap­pears to have sab­o­taged the po­lit­i­cal foun­da­tion of the eightyear peace­ful in­ter­ac­tion when her pre­de­ces­sorMa Ying-jeou was in of­fice.

Tsai knows full well that the at­tempt to seek “con­sti­tu­tional in­de­pen­dence” of the is­land, as for­mer Tai­wan leader Chen Shuib­ian did be­tween 2000 and 2008, is doomed to fail again. And her plan to grad­u­ally con­sol­i­date the se­ces­sion­ist forces on the is­land while putting on a show of “main­tain­ing the sta­tus quo” is not a smart move.

Tsai’s am­bigu­ous stance on the 1992 Con­sen­sus faces a mo­ment of truth. With the op­po­si­tion Kuom­intang on the ropes, Wash­ing­ton’s tacit ap­proval of the so-called de-sini­ciza­tion cam­paigns on the is­land may em­bolden Tsai and the DPP to go against the wishes of most Tai­wan com­pa­tri­ots and, in­stead, take mea­sures that could fur­ther de­te­ri­o­rate cross-Straits re­la­tions.

How­ever, the strong tone in Xi’s re­port made it clear that the main­land will re­sort to even stronger coun­ter­mea­sures if Tsai takes risky moves.

Equiv­o­ca­tion on the one-China prin­ci­ple will also put ex­tra pres­sure on Tsai’s crossS­traits ap­proach as the main­land steps up its ef­forts to fight the se­ces­sion­ist forces.

The au­thor is an as­so­ciate re­searcher at the In­sti­tute of Tai­wan Stud­ies, Chi­nese Acad­emy of So­cial Sciences.

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