Tuesday, May 5, 2009

One China, Two Parties 中共与国民党蚕食自由搞密谋统一

One China, Two Parties 中共与国民党蚕食自由搞密谋统一

Where Beijing and Taipei see eye to eye.

by Michael Goldfarb
05/11/2009, Volume 014, Issue 32


In October 1958, Communist China was firing thousands of shells each day at Chinese Nationalist forces entrenched on the tiny island of Quemoy, just two miles from the mainland. The island had become a Cold War flash point, and the Eisenhower administration feared that the shelling would soon be followed by a Communist attempt to capture Quemoy and with it the tens of thousands of Nationalist troops garrisoned there. Secretary of State John Foster Dulles rushed to Taipei to meet with Chiang Kai-shek and discuss the complete withdrawal of Nationalist forces from the island.

According to an account in Jay Taylor's new book The Generalissimo, Chiang then sent a message to his enemies in Beijing warning that unless the shelling stopped he would be forced "to do what the Americans wanted." The day after Dulles left Taipei, the Chicoms announced they would limit their shelling to even-numbered days, leaving the Nationalists free to resupply their forces on odd-numbered days and bringing an end to the crisis. Zhou Enlai, the first premier of Red China, would later tell Henry Kissinger that Mao's Chinese Communist party (CCP) and Chiang's Kuomintang (KMT) had "cooperated to thwart the efforts of Dulles," who was pushing the withdrawal as part of a larger American strategy to permanently split Taiwan from the mainland.

More than 50 years later, American officials rigidly adhere to a One China policy lest they give any offense to Beijing, but the KMT and the CCP are still cooperating to thwart the efforts of those who would separate Taiwan from mainland China. That part is now played by Taiwan's Democratic Progressive party (DPP).

The 2000 election of DPP leader Chen Shui-bian as president of Taiwan marked the first democratic transfer of power in Taiwanese history, but after two terms in office Chen is in prison and his party in shambles. Chen had pursued a policy of "creeping independence" from mainland China, raising tensions in the strait and earning him a reputation as a troublemaker in Beijing and Washington. Chen's efforts to create a sense of Taiwanese, rather than Chinese, identity on the island were more successful, but with the KMT-controlled parliament obstructing his agenda and corruption scandals plaguing his administration, the DPP had little to show for his eight years in office.

In Taiwan's 2008 presidential election, KMT candidate Ma Ying-jeou, the Harvard-educated former mayor of Taipei, easily defeated a DPP candidate who couldn't distance himself from an unpopular incumbent. Ma pledged that there would be no negotiations over reunification during his term, but his call for greater engagement with China and his steadfast support for the One China policy led opponents to question his commitment to Taiwanese sovereignty. During the campaign Ma was compelled to declare that he was not Chinese but "Taiwanese" (one DPP member of parliament alleged he was actually born on the mainland) and that he would be buried in Taiwan. After eight years of DPP rule, even KMT officials must pander to Taiwanese nationalist sentiment in order to get elected.

Since being sworn in last May, Ma has pursued a policy that his critics describe as "creeping reunification." Over the last year, the KMT has worked to deepen cross-strait ties by eliminating caps on Taiwanese investment in China, establishing direct air links between the island and the mainland for the first time (100 charter flights a week now run between Taiwan's domestic airport and Shanghai), and opening negotiations with Beijing on an "economic cooperation framework agreement."

On the surface, the KMT's policy of engagement has had some success. The air links have been a boon to Taiwanese businessmen, who previously had to spend a full day traveling via Hong Kong or some third country to get to their operations on the mainland. The flights-and a ferry service to the once closed military zone of Quemoy-also bring thousands of Chinese tourists to Taiwan every day, creating business for hotels, restaurants, and other sectors of the service industry.

The KMT argues that a less confrontational approach to cross-strait relations will lead to greater "international space" for Taiwan. Ever since the United States switched diplomatic recognition, Taiwan has seen a steady erosion in its international position, losing its membership at the United Nations and other world bodies and losing its embassies in all but 23 countries, most of them tiny island nations in the Pacific and banana republics in Latin America. (Beijing only allows governments to maintain full diplomatic relations with one China.)

President Ma and other KMT officials insist that Beijing will act out of a new, enlightened sense of self-interest; that the Communists now understand increased trade and a softer touch are the only way to win hearts and minds on the island and prevent any further drift toward independence. But many officials concede that a fear the DPP will return to power is the driving force behind Beijing's sudden flexibility.

The first major test of the KMT's new strategy came last week, when Beijing announced that it would accept observer status for Taiwan at the World Health Assembly. A failure to secure Beijing's support for this membership would have been a significant setback for the KMT, but President Ma made no effort to lower expectations and it seemed clear that some kind of accommodation had been reached with Beijing long before the official announcement. Indeed, one KMT official I spoke with three weeks ago discussed the decision in the past tense.

Later this summer talks will begin on the economic cooperation agreement. Next year a free trade deal between the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and China will take effect. Another deal including Japan and South Korea will follow soon after. Naturally, the Taiwanese fear being left out of a region-wide free trade scheme. KMT officials argue that a bilateral agreement with China would pave the way for bilateral deals with other Asian countries, all of which have so far declined to negotiate with Taipei for fear of antagonizing Beijing.

The opposition fears the KMT will trade away Taiwanese sovereignty in exchange for an agreement. To build opposition to the agreement, the DPP is also exploiting protectionist sentiment among the country's farmers and an overall lack of transparency in the negotiations. But the DPP has just a quarter of the seats in parliament and little leverage to pressure President Ma, who is so far refusing to submit the agreement for debate and ratification.

The backdrop for all this cross-strait diplomacy is China's massive military modernization program. According to Taiwanese intelligence estimates, the decades-long shift in the balance of power in the Taiwan Strait will reach a tipping point by the end of the year. The Chinese now have more than 1,300 surface to surface missiles pointed at Taiwan and a sophisticated air defense system capable of targeting and striking at aircraft as soon as they take off from their bases in Taiwan.

Officially, both the DPP and the KMT agree on the need to maintain the status quo, but the massive arsenal arrayed against Taiwan has changed facts on the ground and helped create a sense of inevitability to reunification. Closer economic ties may only increase China's ability to influence the political debate in Taiwan, as cross-strait trade and investment leave Taiwanese industries vulnerable to any rise in tensions. And as tourism from the mainland increases, another sector of the Taiwanese economy may well become dependent on Beijing's good will.

Fifty years ago the Chinese could only fire artillery shells and make threats in response to any provocation by -Taiwan. In a few more years mainland China will be able to stop tourists, cut air links, and seize Taiwanese investments if Taiwan defies the Communist party. China will be able to devastate the Taiwanese economy. And if that fails to bring Taipei in line, Beijing can credibly threaten to take the island by force. But as long as the KMT is in charge, none of that will be necessary. After all, the KMT and the Communists share the same goal: One China free of the DPP.

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