Since President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) took office in May 2016, she has been calling for new thinking and new ways of handling bilateral exchanges across the Taiwan Strait, but no fresh directions have been devised to deal with the genuine challenges that are about to emerge in the wake of the recent 19th Congress of the Communist Party of China.
One of our recent surveys on cross-strait relations shows increasing public dissatisfaction with Tsai’s cross-strait policies (56 percent), and growing goodwill toward mainland China (49 percent). About 40 percent of people in Taiwan are willing to work in China, while only 24 percent favor quick independence or quick unification, the poll found.
These findings are an indication that the climate between the two sides has been changing dramatically. How then can Tsai remain indifferent to the new trends? Although Tsai has resolved to maintain the cross-strait status quo, her New Southbound Policy, which seeks to increase exchanges with targeted countries, allows anti-China and desinicization actions.
This is counter to her rhetoric and an impediment to the sound development of cross-strait ties. Meanwhile, the rising goodwill among Taiwan’s people toward China signals success of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s (習近平) approach toward Taiwan and poses a serious challenge for Tsai.
Despite the shrinking support in Taiwan for immediate or gradual independence, Xi’s pro-unification strategy will gain traction among Taiwan’s people if Tsai cannot lead the country out of the current economic stagnation and political mire. As the measures put forth by China to deal with Taiwan’s people become increasingly tangible, the “China threat theory” posited by Tsai’s Democratic Progressive Party will weaken and fade away.
Tsai’s calls for Xi to seek a “new mode” of cross-strait interaction, therefore, will amount to nothing more than wishful thinking. In a cover story on Nov. 3, Time magazine said “China won,” while on Nov. 12 the German weekly Der Spiegel urged Tsai to “wake up,” two stories that indicate China has become the center of the world. In view of the situation at home and abroad, how can Tsai continue to play the fool with her response to a changing world that has gone far beyond her calculation? (Editorial abstract from Nov. 20, 2017)
By Flor Wang