Cross-strait ties depend on ‘Four Musts’ from China: president

President Tsai Ing-wen is seen before her New Year’s Day speech during which she stated that the vital bases for the positive development of cross-strait relations are the so-called “Four Musts” on Jan. 1, 2019. (NOWnews)

TAIPEI (CNA) — President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) on Jan. 1 proposed for the first time the “Four Musts” as the basis for moving relations between Taiwan and China in a positive direction, and she vowed to establish mechanisms to safeguard Taiwan’s national security.

China must recognize the existence of the Republic of China (Taiwan), respect the values of democracy and freedom Taiwan’s 23 million people hold dear, resolve cross-Taiwan Strait differences in a peaceful and equitable manner, and sit down with the government of Taiwan or an institution with a mandate from the government, Tsai said.

“These ‘Four Musts’ are the vital bases for the positive development of cross-strait relations,” Tsai said in a New Year’s Day speech Tuesday.

New Year’s Day speeches have been a tradition for presidents in Taiwan, but this was Tsai’s first speech given at the beginning of a new year since taking office in May 2016.

The new formula appeared to be an attempt by Tsai to create a new starting point for relations with China, which have been at a standstill during Tsai’s administration because of Beijing’s decision to cut off all official communication with her administration.

It came a day before Chinese President Jinping (習近平) is to give a speech on the 40th anniversary of a statement China first issued in 1979 that called for ending the military confrontation with Taiwan and the opening of talks with Taiwan on expanding cross-strait exchanges.

Tsai dismissed the view that the elections for local government offices on Nov. 24, 2018, in which her Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) suffered a heavy defeat, were a rejection of her administration’s cross-strait policy centered on Taiwan’s sovereignty.

The DPP administration was put to a severe test during the elections, but “I have to emphasize that the election results definitely did not mean that Taiwan’s people intend to give up our sovereignty or to make concessions on our national autonomy,” Tsai said.

The drastic shift in the local political landscape after the elections has led the opposition Kuomintang (KMT) to push for cross-strait exchanges at the local government level based on the “1992 consensus,” a format endorsing the “one China” principle that the Tsai administration has firmly rejected.

Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲), who narrowly won his bid for re-election, also reiterated his advocacy that “the two sides of the Taiwan Strait are one family” at a Taipei-Shanghai forum held in December.

Apparently referring to those positions, Tsai said her administration was not opposed to normal interactions or city-to-city exchanges between Taiwan and China.

Such exchanges, however, will require the two sides to have a more realistic understanding of each other, including of the fundamental differences in their values, ways of life, and political systems, so they can interact with each other in a healthy and normal manner, Tsai said.

“Healthy and normal cross-strait relations cannot be achieved by relying on ambiguously phrased political preconditions or passwords that Taiwan is forced to accept,” she said.

Before durable relations with China can be established, Taiwan must face up to the increasing risks and threats China poses to its national security and tackle those challenges, Tsai said.

China has been taking advantage of the openness and freedom of Taiwan’s democratic system to intervene in its politics and society’s development, but her administration will establish mechanisms on three fronts to ward off the threats, the president said.

The first is to protect the livelihoods of Taiwan’s people, Tsai said, reiterating the repeated her administration’s insistence on China providing Taiwan with up-to-date information on the spread of African swine fever in its country.

If China is not even willing to cooperate with Taiwan on preventing the outbreak of the disease, “how can one say that the two sides of the Taiwan Strait are one family?” Tsai said.

Second, in addition to enhancing Taiwan’s national defense capability, the government will devise strategies to guard Taiwan against China’s information warfare aimed at manipulating its democracy through various means, including spreading disinformation, she said.

The third is to strengthen oversight and regulatory mechanisms for cross-strait interactions on issues that could compromise Taiwan’s sovereignty so as to consolidate its democracy, Tsai said.

“We are a democratic nation. Any issues of a political nature should not be forced upon us unilaterally,” Tsai said. “Political dialogue between the two sides should involve the participation of Taiwan’s people and should be conducted under their supervision.”

By Shih Hsiu-chuan