【明報專訊】ON the 40th anniversary of the issuance of the "Message to Compatriots in Taiwan", Chinese President Xi Jinping put forth a five-point proposal concerning Taiwan (hereafter "the 5-point proposal"). For the first time it has been proposed that to achieve peaceful reunification, "a plan of one country, two systems for Taiwan" will be explored. The 5-point proposal is an important watershed in mainland China's Taiwan policy. It shows that Beijing is already studying and formulating steps towards reunification. Beijing will contact different sectors of Taiwan proactively to pursue reunification, regardless of who is in government in Taipei. Over the last two years, Washington has been hollowing out the meaning of its One China policy to give a fillip to Taiwan's independence movement. Even though Xi Jinping has not proposed a timetable for reunification, he has in fact made it clear that the mainland will no longer defer tackling the Taiwan question. All parties involved may slowly be moving to the critical point of showdown.
In the early 1980s, Beijing proposed reunifying Taiwan by adopting the policy of one country, two systems. Beijing not only promised that Taiwan could maintain its socio-economic system and way of life, it even promised that Taiwan could retain its own army. However, there has been little discussion in more concrete terms. What is important about the 5-point proposal is that the idea of "exploring a plan of one country, two systems for Taiwan" is put forth for the first time and words are now being turned into deeds.
In the reunification plan outlined in the 5-point proposal, the most important political breakthrough is the suggestion that representatives of any political party and any social sector in Taiwan who support the 1992 Consensus and oppose Taiwan's independence may take part in the consultation on the content of the plan of two systems. It will not be decided by Beijing unilaterally. In terms of people's livelihood and the economy, to foster spiritual congeniality between people across the strait and to consolidate the foundation for peaceful reunification, Xi Jinping has proposed deepening the integrated development across the Taiwan Strait, building a cross-strait common market, pursuing connectivity in infrastructure and exchange of energy.
Tsai Ing-wen's administration and the green camp of course see the proposal as a united front strategy of Beijing. However, it is not easy for Tsai to stop county and city administrations from having exchanges with mainland China. It is true that politically many people in Taiwan still strongly resist mainland China. However, it is worth noting that a survey conducted last year by a Taiwanese think tank connected with the green camp found that the percentage of Taiwanese who accepted cross-strait reunification had increased significantly. It was 26% and for the first time, it exceeded the percentage of those who wanted to maintain the status quo, which was 23%. The percentage of those who supported independence had gone down from over 50% in 2016 to 36% last year.
Judging from the development of affairs across the strait, it is hard to expect the status quo of neither reunification nor independence to remain unchanged. The Taiwanese people will have to make up their mind sooner or later. One can imagine that in the end some people will choose reunification and some will put all the eggs in one basket by choosing independence in the hope that the US will give them support. In the final analysis, the future development of the Taiwan question is dependent on Sino-US relations.
With the passage of the Taiwan Travel Act and the National Defense Authorisation Act in the last two years and the signing of the Asia Reassurance Initiative Act by Trump recently, the One-China policy of the US has been hollowed out by Washington. Since the US has stepped up the use of Taiwan to restrain Beijing, it will definitely embolden Taiwan's pro-independence force. To curb Taiwan separatism, Beijing must tackle the influence of external forces on Taiwan's affairs properly. In the face of covert and overt support the US extends to Taiwan's separatism, mere verbal criticisms or "resolute opposition" will hardly produce any deterrent effects.
fillip : a thing or person that causes sth to improve suddenly
showdown : an argument, a fight or a test that will settle a disagreement that has lasted for a long time
embolden : to make sb feel braver or more confident