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Mainland Affairs Council

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President Chen Shui-bian's New Year's Day Message and the Development of Cross-strait Relations

Mainland Affairs Council
Executive Yuan
Republic of China (Taiwan)

 
I. Main Points of President Chen Shui-bian's New Year's Day Message
  In his 2006 New Year's Day Message, President Chen put forward future administrative directions and goals for important national development issues. Regarding cross-strait relations, President Chen emphasized the core values of existing policies, offered an analysis of development in the Taiwan Strait, and proposed a new philosophy for future cross-strait economic and trade policies. In his message, President Chen focused on the following areas:
-- Upholding of the "Taiwan consciousness": 
Both the governing and opposition parties should transcend the unification-independence dichotomy and ethnic issues to jointly foster a consensus on national identity among the people of Taiwan. 
-- Adherence to four principles in developing cross-strait relations: 
The development of cross-strait relations must conform to the principles of sovereignty, democracy, peace, and parity. The ultimate decision on Taiwan's future must and will be made by the 23 million people of Taiwan of their own free will.
-- China's ambition to annex Taiwan: 
China employs a carrot-and-stick strategy with respect to Taiwan. It has continuously deployed guided missiles, used a "three-war" strategy (media, legal, and psychological warfare), and established specific timetables and goals for preparing war against the island nation. These actions indicate that China's ambition to annex Taiwan remains unchanged.
-- Taiwan's sustainable development as the greatest interest in cross-strait economic and trade policies: 
Cross-strait economic and trade policies do not seek to fulfill the financial interests of any individual or corporation. On the contrary, Taiwan's sustainable development remains the greatest interest of our pursuits.
-- "Proactive management and effective liberalization" as the new concept and course of action for our future cross-strait economic and trade policies: 
The government must proactively take managerial responsibility in order to effectively reduce risks from liberalization.
II. Background
 
A. It is not possible to be optimistic regarding the Taiwan Strait situation outlook.
In order to stabilize cross-strait relations, the government has been adopting proactive measures since 2000. With "peace and development" at their core, these policies aim at constructing a peace and stability framework for cross-strait interaction. Nevertheless, China has failed to tweak its fundamental policies and positions regarding Taiwan. On the contrary, it has increased its pressure against Taiwan on the political and military fronts.
In March 2005, China's National People's Congress passed an "anti-separation law" (the so-called anti-secession law) that "mandates" the Chinese government to resolve the controversial cross-strait issue via non-peaceful means. This move caused grave misgivings in the international community, and led the people of Taiwan to express their strong objection through a "Democracy, Peace, and Safeguarding Taiwan" protest march. Without even batting an eye at these external reactions, China has blatantly turned up the heat under Taiwan on the political, diplomatic, and military fronts over the past year. It has continued to reject and boycott cross-strait interaction with the Taiwan government in an attempt to completely hamper formal dialogue and communication between the two sides. Most recently, China openly declined the request by Chairman Chang Chun-hsiung of the Straits Exchange Foundation for permission to pay his last respects to Wang Daohan, former chairman of China's Association for Relations across the Taiwan Strait. Furthermore, Chen Yunlin, current chairman of the Taiwan Affairs Office under China's State Council, and other Chinese high-ranking officials were planning to form a delegation to Taiwan. They hoped to engage in exchanges only with Taiwan's opposition parties and showed no intention of meeting with the head of Taiwan's government agency responsible for cross-strait affairs. These developments further confirm the assessment that China does not intend to engage in direct contact or dialogue with Taiwan's government authorities before 2008. In other words, any initiative by the Taiwan government would fail to receive any positive response from China and would, therefore, be in vain.
In sum, passage of the "anti-separation law" was the turning point at which normalization of cross-strait relations slowed and torpidity set in. We cannot, therefore, have high hopes with regard to the future development of cross-strait relations.
B. Further steps need to be taken to consolidate the Taiwan consciousness.
Following passage of its "anti-separation law," China allied itself with certain figures in Taiwan and launched a series of united front attacks against Taiwan to lesson the negative effects of the law's passage. By offering specific types of exchanges as a carrot, China also attempts to disrupt domestic unity and provoke infighting within Taiwan. Meanwhile, Beijing uses its long-held condition of acceptance by Taiwan of its "one China" policy and "1992 consensus" to block official cross-strait dialogue and consultation. In addition, China has strengthened its interaction with Taiwan's opposition parties and specific civic organizations to deliberately negate the Taiwan government's authority and treat the cross-strait issue as a domestic matter. Such a development not only creates a chasm between Taiwan's governing and opposition parties but also confuses and blurs concepts of Taiwan's national interests and how to preserve the core values of Taiwan consciousness. Facing such a challenge, it is certainly necessary for the government to redirect the trend and further strengthen Taiwan consciousness with the aim of safeguarding Taiwan's basic interests and sustainable development.
C. Countering the negative influences brought by the liberalization of cross-strait trade and economic activities remains crucial to Taiwan's macroeconomic development.
The government began to act on the consensus of "proactive liberalization with effective management" reached by the Economic Development Advisory Conference in August 2001. Since then, excessive attention has been placed on the liberalization aspect without an equivalent emphasis being placed on the more important aspect of effective management. As a result, Taiwan's dependence on Chinese markets in terms of both trade and investment has deepened. For instance, exports to China, including Hong Kong, accounted for 36.7 percent of Taiwan's total exports in 2004. Meanwhile, capital, technology, and human resources have been relocating to China, local industries have been hollowed out, and structural unemployment has been experienced. The absence of an effective economic and trade order across the Taiwan Strait has increased Taiwan's risks in such activities. This is also hampering Taiwan from achieving the ultimate goal of sustainable development within trends towards global integration. On April 5, 2005, President Chen held a Joint Meeting Responding to New Developments of Cross-strait Political and Economic Affairs, which was attended by officials from the Office of the President, Executive Yuan, governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), and DPP caucus in the Legislative Yuan. During this meeting, President Chen gave the following instructions regarding cross-strait economic and trade activities: "We must not proceed hastily with liberalization while neglecting the most fundamental and most important part of our policy-that of 'effective management.' The national security agencies and the Executive branch should make a prompt reassessment of and adjustments to relevant economic and trade policies." 
III. Implications of President Chen Shui-bian's New Year's Day Message for the government's current cross-strait policies
 
A. No changes to the government's cross-strait policies
The central meaning of President Chen's New Year's Day Message is consistent with the principles and directions of the cross-strait policies pursued over recent years. These were made in response to changes in the political and economic situation between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait. This demonstrates that the government's fundamental stance on its cross-strait policies remains unchanged. Peace and development are still the main axis, and maintaining the stability of cross-strait situations is still the paramount goal. The government will uphold its principles of reinforcing Taiwan's identity, defending overall national interests, stabilizing cross-strait relations, and dutifully bearing the shared responsibility to maintain regional prosperity and security. At the same time it will steadily promote cross-strait exchanges and continue to help realize formal dialogue and consultation between the two sides in order to improve cross-strait relations.
B. Implementation of the cross-strait economic and trade policy of "proactive management and effective liberalization"
The core concept within the "proactive management and effective liberalization" policy presented in President Chen's New Year's Day Message is that the government should "proactively" undertake the responsibility for "management," while "effectively" reducing risks associated with "liberalization." This does not mean tightening restrictions on cross-strait exchanges, and certainly does not imply "closing Taiwan off from the world." Rather, it seeks to transcend the dichotomy between "opening up" and "tightening up." Under the prerequisites of safeguarding Taiwan's identity and overall national interests while implementing management, the government will promote in an orderly way the policy of liberalizing cross-strait economy and trade. By so doing, Taiwan will fulfill its strategic goal of globalization, thereby reducing the reliance on China's economy. 
C. Responding to Taiwan's popular will
Numerous public opinion polls conducted over recent years have shown that a majority of Taiwan's people advocate making the safeguarding of overall national interests a priority, and agree only to conditional exchange and liberalization measures. Results of the most recent public opinion poll on current cross-strait relations, which was conducted by the Taiwan Thinktank between January 3 and 5 following President Chen's New Year's Day Message, showed that 74 percent of respondents are worried that Taiwan's economy is over-reliant on China, 66 percent of the public agree that the government must step up its proactive management, while as high as almost 70 percent believe that the government must increase management and decrease liberalization measures, or open up only those measures that can be managed. This demonstrates that the people of Taiwan are very concerned about cross-strait relations and whether Taiwan's interests can be safeguarded during such exchanges. The directions of cross-strait economic and trade policies as announced by the president are in line, therefore, with Taiwan's popular will.
IV. Implementation of follow-up measures for the "proactive management and effective liberalization" policy
  In accordance with President Chen's New Year's Day Message, concrete measures to be adopted by the government include the strengthening of the macroeconomic development strategy of "deeply cultivating Taiwan while reaching out to the world." Moreover, based on broader global integration, it will seek to implement economic liberalization policies that can effectively reduce overall risks. The government will coordinate with relevant agencies to strengthen management mechanisms and the agencies' powers in relation to such economic aspects as China-bound investment; cross-strait trade, agriculture, and finance; the "mini-three-links"; shipping; and visits to Taiwan by citizens of China. It is expected that such proactive management will lead to further liberalization and create room for increased opportunities. In addition, the government will continue to promote the orderly implementation of liberalization policies through negotiation on cross-strait economy and trade.
V. Conclusion
  Since the transfer of ruling power between political parties in 2000, the underlying principle and goal of this government's cross-strait policy has always been "reconciliation with goodwill, active cooperation, and enduring peace." Looked at in terms of progress in cross-strait relations over the past five years, however, Taiwan's efforts are yet to meet with positive response from China. Moreover, realization of the goal of normalizing cross-strait relations does not seem likely in the foreseeable future. President Chen's 2006 New Year's Day Message drew, in fact, on the accumulated experience from the five-year evolution of cross-strait relations. It proposed new ideas and methods for the next stage in developing relations based on a philosophy of consolidating the core value of Taiwan identity, thereby establishing new targets for the sustainable development of Taiwan's economy and effective defense of national interests.
 

Q&A
Q1. Does President Chen's New Year's Day Message represent an adjustment (i.e. a tightening) of the government's cross-strait policy?
 
A:
While cross-strait exchanges are being promoted, the people of Taiwan must be reminded to pay extra attention to certain key aspects as a response to the more hard-line nature of China's policies toward Taiwan. These aspects include the safeguarding of national interests and security, and consolidation of government authority. Simplification of President Chen's New Year's Day Message into a matter of either liberalizing or tightening cross-strait policies is a serious distortion of facts. The government will not be swayed from its pursuit of peace and development in cross-strait relations, nor from its fundamental policies that seek to safeguard the greater interests of the nation. It will continue to play an active role in bringing stability to the Taiwan Strait and security to the entire region.
Q2. Was President Chen's New Year's Day Message aimed at closing ranks with his supporters and proponents of independence?
 
A:
As the head of state, President Chen of course bases his New Year's Day Message on the overall development and popular opinion trends of the nation and does not target specific persons. His emphasis on Taiwan consciousness, for example, was made out of concern for the consolidation of national identity and defense of national interest. Similarly, his statement that cross-strait relations should adhere to the four principles of sovereignty, democracy, peace, and parity is based on a previous consensus that transcends political parties, factions, and ethnic groups, and his advocacy of introducing a "proactive management and effective liberalization" policy for handling cross-strait economic and trade affairs has the goal of raising Taiwan's competitiveness and accelerating the process of its global integration.
The president's message, in its totality, is a clear announcement of the directions of Taiwan's future development and of his government's administration.
Q3. Will the government be adopting tighter restrictions on future cross-strait economic and trade exchanges? 
 
A:
As long as national interests and national identity are protected, cross-strait economic and trade policies and principles will not be changed. These policies are not a matter of relaxation or tightening, therefore, but serve as guiding principles for various government agencies under the Executive Yuan to formulate and implement concrete and effective management measures. "Opening of Taiwan to tourists from China" and "passenger and cargo charter flights," for example, are already designated as elements of the government's cross-strait economic and trade policies. These will be promoted through bilateral economic and trade negotiations, and with effective management, thereby realizing liberalization in an orderly manner.
Q4. Will President Chen's announcement of further constitutional reform create cross-strait tension?
 
A:
The promotion of constitutional reengineering to reestablish order within the constitutional government not only is in line with the expectation of Taiwan's people but also has attained a consensus from both the ruling and opposition parties. The main elements in the next stage of constitutional reform aim to enhance people's fundamental rights and interests, improve the political system, and raise Taiwan's overall competitiveness. China needs to gain an accurate understanding of Taiwan's democratization, as this will assist in the normalization of cross-strait relations and be a concrete expression of respect for the wishes of the Taiwan people.
Q5. Will a referendum for a new constitution inflame the cross-strait situation?
 
A:
As a process of democratic deliberation that operates "from bottom to top," "from outside to inside," and "from society to political parties," the second stage of Taiwan's constitutional reform only requires that society is mature enough. President Chen therefore looks forward to a referendum on a new constitution being held in 2007. The constitutional reengineering project is both a democratic constitutional procedure and the normal functioning of a democratic system. As China does not understand the spirit and operation of democratic politics, it twists the true significance of Taiwan's constitutional reengineering project. China makes deliberate use of this to escalate tensions in the Taiwan Strait.
Q6. Does Taiwan's promotion of constitutional reform represent a reneging on the Five Noes policy?
 
A:
A precondition of the Five Noes policy is that China has no intention to attack Taiwan. Taiwan's stance on maintaining the status quo of peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait remains unchanged. If the two sides are committed to peace and stability, and China ceases its substantive military threat to Taiwan, there will not be any issue of "reneging on the Five Noes."