Has the main­land taken a tac­ti­cal step back?

The China Post - - COMMENTARY -

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.

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