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International Conference on China: Six Decades and After--The Current Stage of Cross-Strait Relations and the ROC Government’s Mainland China Policy

Lai Shin-yuan

Chairperson of the Mainland Affairs Council

Vice Chancellor Professor Lin, Distinguished
Participants and Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen:

I am very honored to attend today’s international conference on China during the
past six decades and onward, organized by National Chengchi University’s Center
for China Studies in collaboration with the Mainland Affairs Council.

Cross-strait relations have undergone unprecedented change since President Ma
took office last year. This change has profound and far-reaching implications
for Taiwan and mainland China, as well as for the Asia-Pacific region. The
particular purpose of my talk today is to address a subject of substantial
concern to all of you, by giving an account of the current state of cross-strait
relations and the ROC government’s cross-strait policy.

Let us first look at New Thinking on Cross-Strait Relations under New

It goes without saying that cross-strait relations are the lifeline of Taiwan’s
survival and development. They also have a vital bearing on prosperity and
stability in the Asia-Pacific region. The outcome of the presidential election
in March last year, was a vote by Taiwan’s people for a second transfer of
political power, and also fundamentally changed the cross-strait situation. In
his inaugural address, President Ma expressed the hope that the two sides of the
Taiwan Strait would be able to grasp the historic opportunity to open a new
chapter of peace and co-prosperity in cross-strait relations. He also called for
both sides to "face reality, pioneer a new future, shelve controversies, and
pursue a win-win solution” in seeking a point of balance in both sides’ common

On this basis, over the past 16 months, Taiwan has taken up a brand-new
approach, vigorously pursuing improvement and breakthroughs in cross-strait
relations under a globalizational framework:

First, in the international community, particularly in the protection of
regional collective security, Taiwan has taken up a constructive role as
“peacemaker” and “responsible stakeholder,” and is no longer a “troublemaker.”

Second, in cross-strait relations, Taiwan adheres to advocacy of “no
unification, no independence, and no use of force,” to maintaining the
cross-strait status quo, and thereby to preserving peace in the Taiwan Strait
and stabilizing cross-strait relations.

Third, in the foreign relations sphere, the new administration has unveiled a
strategy of “flexible diplomacy” and adopted a “diplomatic truce,” as means to
substantially alleviate malignant competition and senseless internal friction
between the two sides of the Strait in the diplomatic arena. Instead, the new
approach allows Taiwan to concentrate on strengthening ties with friendly
countries and expanding participation in international organizations, so that
Taiwan can play a greater role in the international community.

The coming section I would like to discuss Strategy and Steps toward Building
a Win-Win Cross-Strait Relationship

Pursuing cross-strait peace and development is Taiwan’s forward-looking and
pragmatic strategy for facing up to mainland China’s rise and for creating a
win-win situation for both sides. A peaceful and stable external environment
will enable Taiwan to secure its free and democratic political system, and may
optimize its beacon effect to catalyze the mainland’s potential democratic
development. At the same time, Taiwan can also take advantage of the mainland’s
economic rise, to create an environment favorable to the global deployment of
business enterprise, to raise Taiwan’s international competitiveness and achieve
its goal of national sustainable development.

We believe that the consolidation of cross-strait consultation and dialogue is
key to our objectives. The past impasse in cross-strait relations was mainly due
to each side’s preoccupation with the sovereignty dispute. Because of this, we
maintain insistence on the ROC’s status and Taiwan’s dignity in domestic and
international contexts, and seek to make this the basis for pursuing
cross-strait reconciliation. In our handling of cross-strait relations, we are
strongly advocating that both sides put aside political controversies, and
pursue cross-strait negotiations on the basis of “mutual non-denial.” This will
enable us to step up exchanges in the economic, cultural and social spheres, to
pragmatically handle and solve the various problems emanating from cross-strait
contacts, and to gradually build up mutual trust. In our estimation, this is the
right and best approach for promoting benign cross-strait interaction and
advancing the normalization of cross-strait relations.

“Putting Taiwan First for the Benefit of the People” in Cross-Strait Talks

I must emphasize that from start to finish, the ROC government’s engagement in
cross-strait talks adheres to the highest principle of “putting Taiwan first for
the benefit of the people.” We have never made any concession in our insistence
that all talks be conducted on a basis of equality and with due respect for our
national dignity.

As to the sequencing of the cross-strait negotiation agenda, we are adopting the
three-prioritizations strategy of addressing the easy ahead of the difficult,
the urgent ahead of the non-urgent, and the economic ahead of the political,
with the normalization of cross-strait economic and trade relations and the
maintenance of law and order in cross-strait contacts as our primary
considerations in prioritizing issues.

In the 16 months since the new administration took office, the SEF-ARATS channel
for institutionalized cross-strait talks has been restored and secured, and
three rounds of “Chiang-Chen talks” successfully conducted. The three rounds of
talks involved all-out endeavor aimed mainly at advancing the normalization of
cross-strait economic and trade relations. These three talks produced the
signing of nine agreements with the mainland. They are mainland tourists
visiting Taiwan, weekend charter flights, cross-strait air and sea transport,
postal services, food safety, scheduling of regular flights, financial services,
and joint crime-fighting and judicial mutual assistance. In addition, both sides
reached an important consensus on mainland investment in Taiwan. These
significant achievements have laid firm foundations for advancing the
normalization of cross-strait economic and trade relations and establishing a
sound state of law and order in cross-strait contacts.

Following last month’s Cabinet reshuffle, Premier Wu has emphasized that the new
governing team will stick firmly to the basic position of “putting Taiwan first
for the benefit of the people,” and will act strictly in accordance with the
principles of national needs, public opinion support, and legislative oversight
in pursuing the stable and healthy development of cross-strait relations.

Subsequent Negotiations will be Targeted Continuously at Normalizing
Cross-Strait Economic and Trade Relations across the Board

Economic and trade relations are the most important facet of cross-strait
relations. They also encompass the issues of cross-strait interaction that have
the greatest bearing on our people’s interests and the smallest element of
controversy. Therefore, for the foreseeable future, cross-strait talks will
continue to center on economic and trade issues, with sights set on bringing
about the comprehensive normalization of cross-strait economic and trade

For the next round of Chiang-Chen talks, the two sides reached consensus on the
agenda issues at the top of the list including cooperation in fishery labor
affairs, inspection and quarantine of agricultural products, cooperation on
industry standards testing and certification, and avoidance of double taxation.

Furthermore, in preparation for a step that has drawn a lot of attention in
Taiwan and internationally – the negotiation and signing of an Cross-Strait
Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement, or so-called ECFA – the two sides have
also reached concurrence that each will first undertake pertinent studies and
preparatory work, to facilitate communication on the technical side, so that
once the two sides have established a certain consensus on the content of the
agreement, it can be formally incorporated into the cross-strait negotiating

Taiwan’s intent to negotiate and sign an ECFA with the mainland is due to the
current trend of fast-moving East Asian economic integration, and is based on
the need to ensure a fair footing to compete in export markets and avoid being
economically marginalized. An ECFA is not at all like an ordinary FTA, and will
not solve every problem at one stroke; but it will furnish the means for
gradually building a set of rules for normalizing cross-strait economic and
trade relations, so the ECFA can be spoken of as a roadmap for the normalization
of cross-strait economy and trade.

Here, also, I would like to especially emphasize that the ECFA is purely
concerned with matters of cross-strait economic and trade activity. It does not
touch on sovereignty or political issues. Nor will it make Taiwan’s economy more
dependent on markets in mainland China. On the contrary, Taiwan’s signing of an
ECFA with the mainland should prompt the governments of many of our trade
partners, to actively consider negotiating and signing FTAs with Taiwan. It will
enable Taiwan to participate in regional economic integration, and strengthen
our alignment with global markets.

I personally believe that the ECFA is a key step for Taiwan’s return to the
world economic stage, and will be supported by the majority of Taiwan’s people
and the countries that are friendly to us. If everything goes smoothly, we are
hopeful that the two sides of the Strait can sign the ECFA next year.

It Should Be Reminded that There Is No Timetable for Cross-Strait Political

Despite the recent big improvement in cross-strait relations, mainland China’s
military deployment targeting Taiwan is still the biggest obstacle to the
development of cross-strait relations, and needs to be removed. Although we have
already conducted studies on the issues of establishing a cross-strait military
confidence-building mechanism and cross-strait peace agreement, for the time
being, the conditions are not yet ripe for negotiating these highly political

Here I must emphasize that maintaining sound defensive capabilities is essential
for enabling Taiwan to pursue the peaceful and stable cross-strait relations
free from worry for its own security. As the two sides of the Strait proceed
with reconciliation and closer interaction, Taiwan is willing to express bona
fide intention not to provoke dispute and to act as a guardian of peace in the
Taiwan Strait; but at the same time, Taiwan still needs to maintain its military
modernization and armaments procurement, to demonstrate its commitment to
defending itself, and to lay a more durable basis for cross-strait
reconciliation and co-existence.

Regarding the Recent Events, such as the Dali Lama’s Visit to Taiwan, The
Government Has Every Confidence in Its Subsequent Handling of Cross-Strait

The Dali Lama’s visit to Taiwan a month ago attracted widespread attention. The
Dalai Lama’s visit to Taiwan was purely for the purpose of engaging in religious
activities and tending to disaster victims in southern Taiwan. The government’s
approval of his visit was also based on the standpoint of religious freedom and
humanitarian concern.

In Taiwan, maintenance of the status quo in cross-strait political relations
currently holds the highest consensus of support among the general public in
Taiwan, with as many as 90% of Taiwanese approving of the government. In
mainland China, peaceful development is the main tenet of current-stage
government policy. With the people and governments on both sides of the Strait
having no wish for conflict at this time, the leaders on both sides are
extremely clear and firm in their commitment to steering cross-strait relations
in a peaceful direction. The underlying trend of peaceful, stable and benign
development in cross-strait relations will not change, must not change, and
certainly will not be reversed in consequence of a single event. Such as the
Dali Lama visit, our government all along has had every confidence in its
handling of this matter, and has every confidence in its handling of subsequent
interactions in cross-strait relations.

It Is also Important to Point Out Taiwan’s Mainstream Public Opinion
Regarding Cross-Strait Relations.

All of the public opinion polls conducted or commissioned by the Mainland
Affairs Council this year show that the majority of the public have faith in the
government’s ability to maintain cross-strait peace and stability. On average,
more than 70 percent of the people support the institutionalized cross-strait
negotiation mechanism; and 60-plus to 80 percent feel satisfied with the nine
agreements signed at the Chiang-Chen talks. The overall results of the surveys
show that the people are confident of the government maintaining cross-strait
peace, and are optimistic about the future development of cross-strait
relations. From this it can be seen that the current stage of cross-strait
policy has indubitably received the support and approval of Taiwan’s mainstream
public opinion.

At the same time, our government is well aware that there are diverging views
within Taiwan on cross-strait relations and government’s mainland affair policy,
and hence we will maintain our efforts to strengthen communication with the aim
of reducing differences of opinion. We hope, also, that through the mechanisms
of democracy, we can in tolerance and reconciliation seek out the greatest
consensus on cross-strait policy, and establish identification with shared
values, to serve as a solid buttress for attaining the strategic goal of
peaceful development across the Taiwan Strait.

As for The Future Outlook

Maintaining the status quo in the Taiwan Strait and promoting peace in the
Taiwan Strait are both in accord with the common interests of the two sides of
the Strait, and the international communities. Although the intertwining
problems between Taiwan and mainland China cannot possibly be resolved within
the short term, the government of the Republic of China will take a positive and
steady attitude toward gradually creating conditions for cross-strait peace and
prosperity. Over the past year and four months, the endeavors of the ROC
government to improve cross-strait relations and promote peace and stability in
the Taiwan Strait, have also earned unanimous approval from the United States
and other members of the international community. We will hold firm to this
policy direction, continuing with our endeavors to create win-win conditions for
the long-term peaceful development of cross-strait relations, and with our
sights set on the ultimate goal of assuring permanent peace in the Taiwan

Today’s conference is highly meaningful, attended by an impressive group of
scholars and experts in the field of mainland China affairs. I am sure it will
add very valuably to our understanding of how mainland China has developed over
the past 60 years, and what we can expect of it in the future. I salute all of
you for your participation in these proceedings, and wish the conference every
success. Thank you!

Keep safe in this Typhoon weather!