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Editorial : Taiwan Strait overshadowed by spectre of war

【明報專訊】THE day after Xi Jinping, general secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC), issued in Beijing the declaration that "the country must be unified and without doubt will be unified" on the 40th anniversary of the issuance of the "Message to Compatriots in Taiwan", four heavyweights in Taiwan's pro-independence camp published an open letter, calling on president Tsai Ing-wen to "give up her reelection bid" and "hand over the administrative power and take a back seat".

No sooner had the year 2019 begun than Tsai put forward the "four-must" argument that "China must pay proper regard to the fact that the Republic of China — Taiwan exists, must respect 23 million people's persistence in freedom and democracy, must handle the differences between both sides by putting both sides on an equal footing, and must (agree that) talks can only be held between governments and organisations with public power authorised by governments" in her New Year speech. She also proposed the creation of three lines of defence (security of people's livelihood, security of information and democracy) for exchanges across the strait. The speech marked her toughest stance on the issue since she took office. On the day Xi made his speech, Tsai responded resolutely by saying that Taiwan would not accept "One country, two systems" and that the Taiwanese public was overwhelmingly against "One country, two systems". As for Xi's suggestion that all parties and sectors across the strait recommend representatives to engage in democratic consultations, Tsai warned that no person or organisation had the power to represent Taiwan to take part in political consultations without the authorisation of the government.

Tsai's new stance stands in contrast with what she adopted early in her presidency, when she emphasised maintaining the status quo and adhering to the constitution of the Republic of China. This, of course, has to do with the international situation, particularly the changes in Sino-US relations. Over the past year, the US, in an attempt to contain China, has adopted one after another the National Defense Authorisation Act, the Taiwan Travel Act and other bills. Prior to the turn of the year, Donald Trump signed the Asia Reassurance Initiative Act, which drastically lifted restrictions on arms sales to Taiwan, official interactions between the US and Taiwan and military interactions. Mainland warplanes' and warships' circumnavigation of Taiwan, the setbacks suffered by the Democratic Progressive Party in its governance and its crushing defeat in the "nine-in-one" elections over the past year have also contributed to the toughening of Tsai's cross-strait policies.

But to the eyes of deep-green proponents of independence, Tsai's postures are still not aggressive enough. That was why Wu Li-pei, Peng Ming-min (former Senior Adviser to the Taiwanese President), Reverend Dr Chun-Ming Kao (a minister of the Presbyterian Church in Taiwan) and Yuan Tseh Lee (former President of the Academia Sinica), four veteran pro-independence politicians, published the open letter trying to force Tsai to renounce power.

Sandwiched between the unveiling of mainland China's timetable for unification and the pro-independence camp's anxiety-driven push to seek hasty independence, Tsai, facing the crisis of a showdown between the pro-unification and pro-independence camps, has little room for manoeuvre with one year or so remaining in her presidency. Meanwhile the US has seen vastly expanded room to take advantage of the cross-strait situation. As the Taiwan Strait is once again one of the few tinderboxes in the world, cross-strait relations are under the gravest threat since the Taiwan Strait crisis in the mid-1990s.

明報社評2019.01.07:京促統台獨派逼宮 台海上空戰雲密佈

就在中共總書記習近平在北京紀念《告台灣同胞書》發表40周年大會上發出「祖國必須統一,也必然統一」的喊話翌日,4名重量級台獨元老聯署發表公開信,呼籲蔡英文總統「放棄連任」、「交出行政權,退居二線」。

2019年新年伊始,蔡英文在元旦講話中就提出了「中國必須正視中華民國台灣存在的事實、必須尊重2300萬人民對自由民主的堅持、必須以和平對等的方式處理雙方歧異、必須是政府跟政府所授權的公權力機構坐下來談」的「四個必須」表述,並提出為兩岸交流建立「民生安全」、「資訊安全」及「民主」三道防護網,其表態已是上任以來最為強硬的。在習近平發表講話當天,蔡英文即作出決絕回應,稱台灣絕對不會接受一國兩制,絕大多數台灣民意也堅決反對一國兩制,對於習提出兩岸各政黨、各界別推舉代表性人士開展民主協商一事,蔡也警告稱,未經政府授權,沒有任何人、任何團體有權力代表台灣政治協商。

與上任之初強調的維持現狀、堅守中華民國憲法的表述相比,蔡英文態度的這種變化,固然與國際情勢、特別是中美關係的變化有關,過去一年來,美國為牽制中國,先後通過《2018國防授權法》、《台灣旅行法》等多項法例,就在元旦前夕,特朗普還簽署了《亞洲再保障倡議法》,在對台軍售、美台官方交往、軍事交流等多個方面大幅鬆綁。加上過去一年大陸軍機戰艦繞台、民進黨施政不利及在「九合一選舉」中大敗,這些都是令蔡英文的兩岸政策由軟變硬的原因。

但看在深綠的獨派眼中,蔡英文的舉措仍不夠硬,於是吳澧培和前總統府資政彭明敏、長老教會牧師高俊明、中研院前院長李遠哲4名獨派元老就發出了上述向蔡英文「逼宮」的公開信。

一邊是大陸促統時間表的出爐,一邊是獨派推動急獨的焦慮,統獨攤牌危機重重,蔡英文在餘下一年多任期內的政策選擇空間十分有限,而美國從台海兩岸中漁利的空間則又大增,台海已再度成為全球少數火藥桶之一,兩岸關係正面臨1990年代中期台海危機以來最凶險的時刻。

■Glossary

take a back seat : to allow sb else to play a more active and important role in a particular situation than you do

the turn of the year : the time when a new year starts

circumnavigation : the act of sailing, flying, or travelling completely around the Earth, an island etc

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