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Jan 13, 2009

Peace agreement watch

A couple of interesting articles appearing in media over the last couple of days regarding Taiwanese-Chinese plans to eventually sign a peace treaty.

A quick summary of my viewpoint. There are few ideas for what the cross-strait peace agreement would look like, and that is due to a very simple truth: the conditions that would be acceptable to the CCP are not at all in line with the conditions that Taiwanese would demand. It is impossible to imagine Taiwan and China signing a peace deal that formalizes the political split that constitutes my definition of the status quo; it is equally impossible to imagine any compromise by Taiwan on that front.

Nobody dares imagine the political content of a meaningful peace agreement because it's obvious that nothing works.

Moving on to the articles:


On Jan 13th, the very CCP-friendly Hong Kong publication Wen Wei Po published this article by Chu Jingtao (褚靜濤), an assistant fellow at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences' Taiwan History Research Center.

Chu points out that in 2004, the Pan-blue alliance proposed the following outline for cross strait normalization and peace: one, China would remove missiles pointed at Taiwan; two, begin dialogue and create an "air safety corridor," a reference to cross-strait flights; three, put aside the sovereignty question and have Taiwan and China "together" participating in international organizations and activities; fourth, encourage economic cooperation, creating a common market and a free trade agreement; fifth, sign a peace agreement.

Chu argues that political issues will soon be negotiated, given the speed of progress on economic discussions. Chu points to Hu's recent six points and insists on the necessity for a formal written peace agreement, because only a signed agreement can create long term peace and prosperity.

At the same time, Chu argues it will not be easy to sign a peace agreement, and that Taiwanese objections to the missiles aimed at Taiwan are understandable; he says the most practical step is to formally end the state of hostility, create a demilitarized zone, create air and sea corridors for travel, and that this can help the two sides reach the point of a true peace agreement and 'end the Chinese civil war.'

My view: Chu brings very little to the table in terms of either original ideas or analysis, though I have to admit I hadn't heard anybody propose a DMZ for Taiwan and China in a while.


Meanwhile, Su Jiahong (蘇嘉宏), a professor at Fooyin University in Taiwan, published an article Jan 10. in the China Review News about pre-unification political relations between Taiwan and China.

His article opens with a wrap of Hu's six points, and goes on to argue that Hu Jintao is exhibiting a great deal of intellectual openness, imagination and practicality that will surely result in improved cross-strait relations.

Su informs the reader that the "pre-unification" terminology Hu used is lifted from Wang Lao's (汪老) "eighty-six characters" (八十六字), a document written in 1998 that was discussed by Taiwan-related bodies in the CCP and which read as follows:


"There is only one China in the world. Taiwan is a part of China. The country is currently not yet unified. Both sides ought to work hard together, under the one China principal, for discussions on an equal level and to come to a mutually agreeable unification. A country's sovereignty and territory cannot be divided, and Taiwans' political position ought to be discussed under the one China principal."
Su argues Hu's use of "pre-unification" terminology "promoted" Wang Lao's document to official policy.

Su then moves his focus to Taiwan: he notes that the Taiwanese do not want cross-strait relations viewed through a prism of Chinese civil war and that they don't want a "party-to-party cease fire" between the KMT and CCP leadership.

He points out that Taiwan must arrive at a cross-partisan consensus on the issue, and that this is an unavoidable historic mission of Ma Ying-jeou. Otherwise, what happens if the DPP wins election again and just throws away the "party-to-party" agreements with the mainland, resulting in a sudden cross-strait crisis that may even mean war? If the political relationship between the mainland and Taiwan is not clear, it will not be possible to sign a 'peace agreement,' because it would be politically impossible for a Taiwanese leader to bring an ambiguous proposal to the people, says Su.

Su argues that the political relations between the two sides cannot be based on "country-to country" basis, nor can it be an unconditional surrender of Taiwan. Disrespectful actions and distortions must be discarded. Su encourages both sides to consider the amendments in the ROC constitution: when announced, each revision was prefaced with, "In order to respond to the requirements preceding national unification..." How similar this wording is to Wang Lao's position, Su says! This is worthy of consideration on both sides, as it could provide framework for discussion. [I think Su is making a very big leap there.]

Su goes on to praise the idea of military-to-military contact and cooperation. He says that while removing missiles from the coast pointed at Taiwan may not really do much to change the real status quo, it would help build the political trust necessary to take further steps and so that Ma is reasonable for having making missle removal a precondition for peace negotiations. He also points out that the international political reality is that any increased military cooperation between Taiwan and China would affect relations with America, without spelling out what that means.

My view: Su is more or less parroting Hu's speech and brings very little interesting analysis to the table, except when he notes that Taiwanese do not want a party-to-party agreement and that cross-partisan agreement within Taiwan is absolutely key to any agreement's long term success. Few advocates of a peace agreement raise those points.


Finally, we look to the official KMT mouthpiece, the Central Daily News, which used its editorial space on Jan. 11th to argue that the Zhonghua Minzu can act as the framework for peaceful cross-strait relations (see my post on Zhonghua Minzu here).

The editorial also starts with a cursory look over Hu's six points and notes the repeated invocation of Zhonghua Minzu in his speech. The editorial believes Hu's speech aimed to promote the interests of the Zhonghua Minzu, and that Hu's comment that unification does not mean redrawing sovereignty or political territory is acknowledging the "One China, two interpretations" position of the ROC government, just merely cloaking it with Zhonghua Minzu. It further notes that Hu seemingly recognizes that Taiwan and the mainland are two separate political entities when he mentions "the lack of unification between Taiwan and the mainland is a continuing confrontation and a holdover of the 1940s Chinese civil war."

Central Daily News also argues that Hu did not mention that the ROC has been destroyed since the 1940s, which Chinese hawks are prone to do, and believes this is another sign of a subtly shifting and softening position. It finishes by attacking Taiwanese independence advocates for unilaterally defining China as the PRC when the issue is oh-so-much more complicated. TIers ought to stick close to the ROC when they are mad at Beijing, not try to discard it.

The final paragraph wraps up the argument: the separation of the two sides of the strait is an "unfinished historical problem," and both the ROC and China are historical products of the Zhonghua Minzu. Therefore, under the framework of the Zhonghua Minzu, cross-strait peaceful development should not be hard to achieve.

My view: well, I was never going to agree with a CDN editorial. But this seems almost completely nonsensical to me.


Michael Fahey said...

So it looks like we will end up with the economic and international space concessions that China had to give in order to keep Taiwan in the game--i.e. to try to build some sentiment for closer relations with China by binding their economies together. However, a peace treaty is just not going to happen under these conditions as you rightly point out.

I find the whole notion of a peace treaty dangerous because it subsumes the Taiwan question back under into the context of the Chinese civil war. I would argue that the civil war ended withe the Chiang regime in the late 1980s and Taiwan emerged as a self-determining democracy. The whole discussion of a peace treaty assumes a state of hostilities that has not existed for many, many years. Any new hostilities would be acts of war by China against Taiwan, not a furtherance of the civil war.

Tommy said...

What I find so amusing about the CDN's position is the assumption that most Taiwanese are comfortable being grouped as Zhonghua Minzu. Question that one assumption, and the whole idea falls apart.

Tommy said...

A Gu, you might want to also have a look at this analysis in the China Brief of the Jamestown Foundation if you haven't already. It does a good job of bringing together opinions published in newspapers across the political spectrum.[tt_news]=34333&tx_ttnews[backPid]=25&cHash=11701d2ca6

Moreover, Russel Hsiao, the writer, correctly comes to the conclusion that short-term political solutions are not possible. He also says what many in the KMT are avoiding saying. Hu's speech has put Ma in a bind because it undermines the 1992 Consensus.

Michael Fahey said...

I think Ma has already shifted away from the alleged 1992 consensus--or replace it with new content.

China has never agreed that the 1992 Consensus refers to One China Different Interpretations. Instead, both he and Ma have bee fudging this key point by replace Different Interpretations with the Chinese Race (zhonghua minzu). So the new formulation is One China One Chinese Race with the implication that the minzu includes both of its political manifestations--the PRC and the ROC. The proposed peace treaty is almost like a Hegelian dialectic in that the two competing forces, the KMT and the CCP are will be resolved by the Minzu synthesis.

On a more practical level, Hu is just using typical hard ball negotiating tactics. China was forced by Taiwan's democracy to give in on the three links and other economic incentives in order to remain relevant to Taiwan. Of course China has done everything it can to make these concessions have as little real value as possible.

But now that those concession have been made, Hu is demanding far more in return from Ma and Taiwan. He knows he won't get even close to what he is demanding, but he might get more that Taiwan was initially willing to give if Ma gets desperate for 'breakthroughs' to shore up his failing administration.

skiingkow said...

Is it me or does "Zhonghua minzu" bring back the days of Nazism -- with the "Aryan race". Seriously, this kind of talk scares the shit out of me.

Can we PLEASE start living in the 21rst century?!! Is that too hard to ask?

Stephen said...

Feiren@1 said "I would argue that the civil war ended withe the Chiang regime in the late 1980s and Taiwan emerged as a self-determining democracy"
This is so true. But while all of Taiwan has moved on, the KMT clique still pine for the homeland. I see they are still fighting that civil war only now under the (thin) guise of a democracy.

Tommy said...

Feiren, you are, of course right that the Chinese never agreed on the fictional consensus. The thing for Ma is that he has sold the consensus in Taiwan as the thing that supposedly protects Taiwan's sovereignty. The more comments like this that Hu makes the better. Hu did not say anything different from what the Chinese have said in the past. But the more he talks about unification on Chinese terms, the harder it is for Ma to say that Taiwan's sovereignty is being protected. And when you combine this with stunts like PLA navy supposedly escorting Taiwanese vessels, Ma's rhetoric begins to look more an more thin.

This is important because, as this thread notes, unification on Chinese terms is a non-starter in Taiwan. Ma really really really needs something to glaze the bitter pill. He has been using 1992 consensus. And, you have to admit, Zhonghua Minzu doesn't cut it. Too many Taiwanese just don't see themselves as Chinese.

So the only thing left for Ma is to show that Taiwan is benefiting from all of this crap. This is where the success of the casinos, and the flights, and the direct shipping is crucial for him. But if Taiwanese don't feel that they are getting much out of it, then Ma has nothing left.

He is being sapped on several fronts at once. I don't know if it will be enough to trip up that annoying horse, but I do know that comments such as Hu's don't help his case.