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Proposal good for debate, not for policy

Let’s just make one thing clear: Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou did not endorse the “One China, two governments” idea revisited by the Chinese scholar Chu Shulong in an Apple Daily interview.

Before we go any further, let’s look at some of the talking points in the Tsinghua University professor’s proposal. Published by the Brookings Institution, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank, Chu’s article argues that having two central-level governments across the strait under “one China” would stabilize relations between the Republic of China (ROC) and the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in the long run.

First, it is important to note that according to Chu’s political scenario, these “central governments” across the Taiwan Strait would coexist legally and be considered equal. They would recognize each other and acknowledge respective government administrators by their official titles ― an important emphasis that appears to be one of the Chinese professor’s biggest hang-ups about the current situation, in which Taiwanese government officials are simply referred to as Mr and Mrs, regardless of their ranks and positions.

Knowing all this, it becomes blatantly clear why Ma simply could not support this idea. As a member of the Kuomintang (KMT), and as he has repeatedly emphasized in previous statements, Ma operates under the “1992 Consensus” and “One China Principle,” wherein there is one, undivided sovereignty of China, and that is the ROC.

First of all, under the “1992 Consensus,” Ma has thus far exercised what he calls “mutual non-recognition of each other’s sovereignty” and “mutual non-denial of each other’s jurisdiction.” This leaves out any possibility of having two central governments which are both legal and equal ― something that the president could not endorse.

In the Apple Daily interview, Ma implied that from an academic standpoint, Chu’s proposal could be “talked about and discussed” ― in the way a democratic society is wont to do. The idea would be an interesting topic of debate, in spite of the fact that both KMT and opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislators alike have quickly rejected its viability.

However, the DPP has taken his comments to mean that Ma believes there is “room for discussion” in the “One China, two governments” idea, with DPP spokesperson Michael Chen charging him as being eager to engage in political negotiations with China without the support of the public.

That is simply not the case; extensive exchange and dialogue must be made in order to see what ideas are even feasible ― which is why Chu’s article warrants academic discussion. Once one feels open enough to engage in political discourse on the matter instead of just dismissing it outright, one will find Chu’s focus on the “abnormal” relationship between the ROC and PRC interesting, if not the most pressing thing.

Chu is especially concerned about China and Taiwan’s inability to officially acknowledge each other and call government officials by their proper titles. First of all, this is hardly the biggest cross-strait issue; Taiwan has had many experiences negotiating its “titles,” especially when it comes to international participation and representation, therefore to have the Chinese not refer to Ma as president is more or less expected. While not everyone agrees, progress has been made in this respect, as evidenced by the number of organizations and sporting events that currently welcome our representatives.

One understands that Chu thinks the lack of recognition is an odd thing to contend with between “two states” but what the scholar doesn’t get is that this “abnormal” relationship is the “status quo.” If anything is to be learned from polls, it is that the general public is more or less consistently in favor of the “status quo.” Politically, Ma is no exception, citing that his current cross-strait policy has allowed Taiwan to enjoy many benefits both economically and culturally.

It is not as if Chu’s idea would be welcomed by Beijing any time soon; if anything, it is ludicrous to presume that the idea of Taiwan possessing an “equal central government” would fly in mainland China, which has been rejecting “one country, two governments” since the idea was first proposed by the U.S. in the 1970s. Not to mention, what the specific definition of “equal” and “legal” would have to be without a massive overhaul of the incumbent governments on both sides. This proposal, while thought-provoking, is hardly fleshed-out.

While “One China, two governments” begs deeper introspection, a viable cross-strait policy it isn’t, and everyone ― especially our president ― knows it.

(Editorial, The China Post (Taiwan))

(Asia News Network)