Has the mainland taken a tactical step back?
The Chinese Communists are long-time practitioners of a strategy of one step back, two steps forward. So, Fan Liqing, spokeswoman of the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council, is believed to have expressed appreciation last week to Mayor Ko Wen-je of Taipei for his comments on relations between Taiwan and China.
Mayor Ko in an interview with three Chinese news media, including Xinhua, published on March 31 said that, in our world today, no one considers that there are two Chinas. Hence, there is no problem with one China. He added that cross-strait interaction should first respect the history between the two nations and all of the agreements that were previously signed and agreed upon. Both nations should also build upon the current political foundation, and mutually understand, learn from and respect each other. The two nations should also remain on good terms, so that future cooperation for a better future would be possible. Fan commented that the mayor’s remarks are expected to promote exchanges between Taipei and the mainland, and revealed that Shanghai is now planning to hold an annual two-city forum with Taipei.
Ko is eager to attend the next round of what is called the Taipei-Shanghai Forum in the summer. He expressed his desire as soon as he had been sworn in, but hit the wall, because he does not accept the “1992 Consensus,” a modus vivendi, known also as the “one China with different interpretations principle,” for the peaceful development of the two sides of the Taiwan Strait.
The “1992 Consensus” is an unsigned arrangement reached in that year under which both Taipei and Beijing are agreed there is but one China whose connotations can be separately and orally enunciated. It provides a legal basis for the peaceful development of cross-strait relations over the past six years and more.
China took a backward step by equating Ko’s remarks with his acceptance of the “1992 Consensus” to continue cross-strait cooperation. Fan was told to say that the next Shanghai-Taipei Forum meeting will take place, suggesting Mayor Ko is now allowed to attend.
Opposition politicians welcomed the development, convinced that Beijing is taking one back step to make two steps forward to open dialogue with the Democratic Progressive Party, which doesn’t accept the “1992 Consensus” and is likely to claw back into power next year.
The Chinese Communist Party refuses to open official relations with the DPP, whose chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen has found in Ko’s first diplomatic sally an end run against the “1992 Consensus.” Tsai, who is likely to become Taiwan’s first woman president in 2016, has been trying for years to break out of the DPP cul-de-sac of cross-strait exchanges and interaction. As a matter of fact, Ko offered his “2015 Consensus” in place of the “1992 Consensus.” Tsai believes she has found a new magic formula.
Has she? Not necessarily.
Examine Fan’s wording closely. She said “Taipei and the mainland” rather than “Taiwan and the mainland.” That means Beijing welcomes dialogue, the continuing one at that, at the municipal level. Dialogue at the national level after the opposition party is back in power is a different story. Such dialogue was suspended while President Chen Shuibian, who refused to accept the “1992 Consensus,” was in office, and resumed after the Kuomintang was returned to power in 2008.
Deng Xiaoping once quipped, “it doesn’t matter whether a cat is black or white, so long as it catches mice.” His Chinese Communist Party is very pragmatic. Xi Jinping, its current party general secretary, allows Mayor Ko, who still is very popular, to come to Shanghai because it’s a city-to-city exchange. He won’t allow dialogue between the CCP and DPP, the one at the national level.
Xi doesn’t think he is adopting the one step back, two steps forward strategy by hinting that Tsai may follow suit now or after her possible election to succeed President Ma Ying-jeou.