Taiwan-China relations aver the past couple of weeks have been the subject of two different news stories. The first is ROC President Chen Shuibian’s announcement that the National Unification Council and National Unification Guidelines will be scrapped. This has caused some consternation because it is perceived as yet another step towards declaring formal independence.
The other story involves KMT Party Chairman and Taipei Mayor Ma Yingjiu’s clarification or refinement of their position on relations with the mainland. Basically he has said that he supports eventual reunification, but that he does not believe that now is the right time for either reunification or formal independence. Further, any change in the status quo should have the consent of the Taiwanese people. He and the KMT Party muddled the message a bit though by also saying that independence was an option, but not an option for the KMT Party. The latter part of the message has been the core of some controversy over the remarks.
The issue of the status of Taiwan is complicated. The stance of ‘maintaining the status quo’ is a particularly difficult concept to understand, when essentially status quo means ‘leave the issue unresolved’. From the viewpoint of western culture, it seems quite odd to leave something important like this in an unknown state for more than 50 years. Why can’t things be nicely defined like North and South Korea, or like East and West Germany used to be? Even the split of Greek and Turkish Cyprus is more clearly defined than Taiwan and China, and politicians seem to be willing to talk about Palestine as a country in public at least some of the time.
My opinion has changed over time, but currently is closest to the KMT’s position. Unification is a potential goal, but not until there are major reforms to the PRC government, and not when the supposed autonomy in places such as Hong Kong and Tibet gets short shrift whenever Beijing has other ideas. In the meantime there is no reason not to improve ties with the mainland where it is possible to do so without unreasonable compromises, a position the current government doesn’t support.
On the other hand, neither the status quo nor the One China policy fundamentally require that Taiwan be treated in demeaning ways by disallowing membership in international organizations or being forced to use names such as Chinese Taipei or Taiwan, Province of China. I think that such nastiness only serves to bolster independence seekers. Dignified treatment of both sides does not detract from the One China concept, and in fact would probably improve sentiment in Taiwan towards the mainland.
As for the issue of independence, read today’s Taipei Times editorial article Why fear the independence option?