Taiwan's pan-blue bastion of English journalism, the China Post, editorialized thus on the 10th of March:
President Ma Ying-jeou has upheld his campaign pledge of “no unification, no independence and no war” and ruled out any prospect of peace talks with China, saying relations are too tenuous to consider discussing political or military issues.
Taiwan's protector the U.S., its own people and even its rival in Beijing endorsed Ma's “three-no” pledge, which helped him to win the presidency last March, defeating the ruling DPP's candidates of pro-independence platforms. The island's people, allies and even enemy all supported Ma's policy for status quo: a territory of the Republic of China.
All right. You will note a few things about this: first, the claim that Ma has "ruled out" the prospect of peace talks. This theme continues later in the editorial. And it is a very useful claim but there are some problems with it. Namely, it can't be true, and Ma hasn't said so much as he has stalled the topic of political negotiations. Why do I say that?
First, the ECFA economic deal is nearing completion, though the details have been withheld from the public, and there is good reason to believe it will be presented soon indeed. The legislature may or may not be given the right to review the legislation (Ma is trying to avoid that), but there would certainly not be time for a bottom-up referendum on the issue. Once that framework is signed, you can expect the Chinese banks to come here first and other direct Chinese investment to follow up. Since Taiwan already has so much invested in China, what will happen is that full economic integration will happen faster than anybody realizes, with only a few smaller issues like labor and agricultural imports remaining unresolved (those can always be smuggled anyway).
And while I can't find the link right now for the life of me, there was an article last week or so in a Western paper in which a Chinese professor is quoted as saying political and military talks will have to come soon, by summer at latest, because all of the economic and cultural issues will be done with by then. And that is certainly true. Contacts will probably start with some retired military officials.
The military question and political question cannot be separated, but you can expect some military resolutions first; I imagine that besides the missile build up freeze, you will have a tactical freeze on Taiwan's weapons purchases and the establishment of some contact lines and, when everything is going very well, perhaps a joint exercise or two -- aimed at the Senkaku islands/Diaoyutai? -- though that's certainly the most difficult thing to negotiate, even ignoring that it would make Japan and the US very squeamish indeed.
The question is, as I've blogged on before, when it comes to political negotiations, just what can be realistically expected? What sort of "intermediate settlement," as Hu hinted at in his speech marking the 30th anniversary of Chinese calls for reconciliation and peaceful unification, can truly be reached that would satisfy both sides? I still find it impossible to wrap my head around any serious progress on this front, and both sides have been tactically very quiet on this issue.