Chinese leader has been delivering a New Year speech to the people in Taiwan ever since 1980. Xi’s 40th Anniversary speech to Taiwan contains a lot of sincere words and rational statements. He emphasized China’s unwavering goal of reunification across the strait and offered concrete suggestions for a peaceful reunification. Xi’s speech, to every Chinese people, is a speech of compassion, moral and justice and full of Chinese national sentiments. He explained the history of Taiwan as an inseparable part of China. He warns sternly against the external interference about the cross-strait affairs. Xi thoughtfully explained the international situation, the significance of the Chinese cultural revitalization and the resolve of reunification in the hearts of Chinese. He recalled the political changes in the past 70 years and pointed out ‘the 1992 Consensus' and ‘seeking common ground and tolerating differences’ is the only right approach. He also pointed out the mutual benefits achieved since the three links of post, commerce and travel opened across the strait. He said from now on the mainland’s Taiwan policy would be more mutual help, mutual win and mutual exploration of development opportunities, offering young people chances to achieve peaceful reunification.
However, as an observer of Taiwan issues, I noticed Taiwan’s political changes towards anti-China and pro- independence and the current Tsai Administration’s rejection of ‘the 1992 Consensus’. The world witnessed China’s rise despite of the suppression attempts from the U.S., especially in her military development and industrial accomplishments. It seems that the ‘Taiwan Card’ which the U.S., Japan and Korea played had become uncoordinated and unsynchronized strategy probably futile but confusing. All of the above make the peaceful reunification very remote and uncertain. So, Xi’s speech although contained sincere words and compassion but also delivered an ultimatum. If Taiwan would not stop the independence push, reunification by military force would become the necessary alternative to peaceful reunification.
In Xi’s speech, there were five concrete points. We condense them below to facilitate our discussion on Taiwan’s response to them:
Pt. 1, work together for national revitalization and to realize peaceful reunification.
Pt. 2, research ‘a second political system’ for Taiwan (different from that of the Mainland) and enrich the possibility of peaceful reunification.
Pt. 3, insist on One China Principle and protect the future of peaceful reunification.
Pt. 4, deepen cooperation and integration across the strait and build the foundation of peaceful reunification.
Pt. 5, realize heart to heart and soul to soul reunion between people and increase acceptance of peaceful reunification.
Xi called for open-arm interaction with any party, any business and any person for peaceful reunification but did not rule out using force if pro-independence activities would persist. The above points obviously aimed at achieving a peaceful reunification. However, whether the people in Taiwan will understand and accept these points or not really depends on I. how the Taiwanese feel as they are a part of China, II. how strongly they believe that their ‘West’ value system and liberal democracy will be forever superior, III. how deeply they believe that the U.S., Japan and South Korea will protect Taiwan in case of a military force reunification occurring, and IV. whether the Taiwanese have a Chinese national sentiment and a growing trust in Chinese communist party’s grand plan of revitalization and joint development. Unfortunately, The Taiwanese so far are fuzzy and unclear on these issues.
The official response from Taiwan to Xi’s speech was rapid as if they had prepared for it. Tsai Ying Wen for the first time delivered a New Year speech and she also made immediate response to Xi’s speech. In 2016 during her campaign and after she won the presidential election, she made fuzzy statements regarding cross-strait issue but her actions were clear, avoiding discussion of ‘the 1992 Consensus’ but gearing up more anti-China and divorcing Chinese activities, following her party’s (DPP) strategy of buying time and deepening ‘Taiwan Independence’ policy. The 2018 local elections turned out a big defeat to DPP. Tsai regrettably resigned her party chairmanship but seemingly leaning more towards the deep-green pro-independence faction. Her response to Xi’s speech had revealed her political intention. For the first time, she openly denied ‘the 1992 Consensus’. Although her words (four yes and four no conditions) were soft but she elected to take harder approach. Being afraid that Taiwan’s political parties, businesses and individuals would respond to Mainland China’s call for dialogue and cooperation, she declared that the cross strait issue and interaction is within national government jurisdiction, any dialogue must be between governments, ‘endorsed by the Taiwan people’.
In reality, the last local election in GaoXiong and other municipalities had already shown people wanting increased economic activities with Mainland and endorsing ‘the 1992 Consensus’; candidates accepted that got elected. But the national government may try to stop the interaction. Tsai and DPP still believe that more Taiwanese are pro-independence; they can be relied on though a risky call. Recently, some DPP members had voiced to replace Tsai for the 2020 election, that may be DPP’s plan of buying time to get another term under another Deep-Green pro-independence candidate. I think when Tsai used the words, ‘endorsement by the people of Taiwan’, she wasn’t very sure, but nevertheless, whether or not the people in Taiwan will have the will and guts to over-throw the DPP hold is still doubtful and deserve careful studies.
The former President Ma Ying Jie of Taiwan had also responded to ‘the 1992 Consensus’ and Xi’s speech, that is one China with two different views, to him it means the Republic of China (ROC). This has been Ma’s claims all along but without the ‘promoting reunification’ which Hong Xiu Zhu advocated. Ma as a law student and practitioner like to interpret issues on legal grounds. The U.S. and China relation of course was with ROC, tracing back before WW II (Potsdam Declaration and San Francisco Peace Treaty, although ROC was not a signatory). But KMT party (Ma’s party) can no longer represent ROC especially as an opposition party, thus in its contest with DPP, it had become a fuzzy party with no clear ‘reunification’ policy. In reality, the Constitution of ROC had lost its significance. Taiwan’s education and textbook revision had destroyed Taiwan’s history for young people. Legislature Yuan can only represent Taiwan, Penghu and King and Ma tiny islands, in no way supporting the Constitution’s claim of the entire China. Under the circumstance that most Taiwanese have no strong attachment to their country name, ROC, nor its jurisdiction issue, and most of the international community do not recognize ROC, Taiwan’s current political system clinching to ROC for fuzzy interpretation is a fool’s game. That is why, Taiwan had been played by others, so called allies and friends, as a chess piece or an ATM card for quick cash. In Xi’s speech, he said correctly, today belongs to young people, the young people across the strait must carry the burden to work for national revitalization and for reunification. But do the young people in Taiwan have that inspiration? Can the people in Taiwan correctly assess the chances and consequences of peaceful reunification versus reunification by force?
Xi’s 2019 New Year speech deserves all Taiwanese and Chinese people to read and ponder carefully!