Democracy Prerequisite for Healthy Cross-strait Relations

    Posted on: 2015-06-27 (台灣) 出版

Democracy Prerequisite for Healthy Cross-strait Relations

Ordinary people are not able to gain anything from the cross-strait dividend, they are even harmed by it. How can we prevent cronies from running cross-strait relations in a non-transparent manner? Taiwan’s new leader will have to respect democracy as the basic principle, no matter what kind of policies he or she promotes. As for how the Taiwanese people will determine the direction of cross-strait development in the future, Taiwan’s political leader must uphold the right of the people to make such decisions. eviating from such a democratic system would destabilize cross-strait relations. No matter who is in power, a blue camp or green camp politician, cross-strait ties will only move backward instead of moving forward if we stray from democratic principles.

By Lin Ting-hui, vice president of Taiwan Brain Trust

Published with permission from the Taiwan Brain Trust.

In a speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington on June 3, 2015, Dr. Tsai Ing-wen, presidential candidate for the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), elaborated on her stance on cross-strait relations, saying she was committed to a consistent, predictable and sustainable relationship with China and reiterating her position of maintaining the status quo.

The outcomes of more than twenty years of negotiations and exchanges between Taiwan and China would serve as the firm basis of her efforts to further the peaceful and stable development of cross-strait ties in accordance with the will of the Taiwanese people and the existing constitutional order of the Republic of China. She also said she would push for legislation of the Cross-Strait Agreement Oversight Bill to reexamine the cross-strait agreements that are currently under negotiation or legislative review. We could say that her statement was basically appropriate for her three audiences – the Taiwanese people, the United States and China.

First, the vast majority of the Taiwanese people support maintaining the status quo. The current status quo is that cross-strait ties are developing in a peaceful and stable manner. What the Taiwanese people care most about is that Taiwan’s subjectivity is preserved amid this status quo and that their self-respect and parity is maintained in cross-strait exchanges. However, since the status quo is dynamic, its maintenance is not solely the responsibility of the Taiwan side but also of the Chinese government in Beijing. Taiwan and China should rationally ponder how to develop their mutual relationship in the future under the condition that both sides benefit from it.

Second, Tsai promised consistent, predictable and sustainable cross-strait relations. As far as the United States is concerned, this is a responsible attitude and statement. Since former President Chen Shui-bian proposed the concept of “one country on each side” all signs indicate that the United States does not really care about what Taiwan’s political leaders advocate or do but rather whether what they advocate or do is predictable. For the United States, a Taiwanese leader who keeps causing unexpected incidents is a nuisance because such behavior can cause serious disturbances for the U.S. on the global stage. The political affiliation of a Taiwanese leader does not matter here. The raising of the Republic of China flag at Taiwan’s representative office in Washington on New Year’s Day 2015 thoroughly undermined trust between the Ma government and the U.S. administration. U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Washington was disappointed with the action
and the spokesman of the Taipei Office of the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT), Mark Zimmer, declared that Washington did not know about the flag raising and was disappointed, while also urging Taiwan to ensure “that these kinds of things do not happen again.”

Third, Tsai’s statement that cross-strait development will be based on the existing Constitution of the Republic of China (ROC) was clearly meant to allay Chinese fears. No matter how China interprets “one China,” Tsai is running for president of the Republic of China. If cross-strait relations are seen in the context of the existing ROC Constitution, the government of Chinese
President Xi Jinping will be able to diffuse the nationalist sentiment that has built up in China.

Yet can the maintenance of the status quo, predictability and the existing ROC Constitution ensure that the two sides of the Taiwan Strait live in peace with each other and develop their relationship in a peaceful and stable manner? In her speech, Tsai underlined the most important aspect, noting, “Last but most importantly, I will also strengthen our democratic institutions
and uphold the right of the people to decide their future free of coercion.

While I advocate for constructive exchanges and dialogues with China, I will ensure the process is democratic and transparent, and that the economic benefits are equitably shared.” With that statement, Tsai explained how destabilizing factors in cross-strait ties should be addressed. Since the Sunflower Movement in March 2014, the students have denounced nothing else but the Ma government’s habit of deciding cross-strait policy in a “black box” of secrecy. Right after assuming power in 2008, President Ma Ying-jeou turned cross-strait relations into a stomping ground for comprador groups, power brokers and business conglomerates.

Ordinary people are not able to gain anything from the cross-strait dividend, they are even harmed by it. How can we prevent cronies from running cross-strait relations in a non-transparent manner? Taiwan’s new leader will have to respect democracy as the basic principle, no matter what kind of policies he or she promotes. As for how the Taiwanese people will determine the direction of cross-strait development in the future, Taiwan’s political leader must uphold the right of the people to make such decisions. The two core international human rights instruments [International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights] adopted by the U.N. General Assembly in December 1966 both state in Article 1: “All peoples have the right of self-determination. By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.”

Deviating from such a democratic system would destabilize cross-strait relations. No matter who is in power, a blue camp or green camp politician, cross-strait ties will only move backward instead of moving forward if we stray from democratic principles.