Does ‘One country, two systems’ have any market in Taiwan?

Taiwanese ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) presidential candidate Cho Jung-tai speaks during a news conference in Taipei on Jan. 5, 2019. Cho will replace Tsai, who resinged the party head of t he ruling party due to the landslide defeat in the general election last year. (The Yomiuri Shimbun via AP Images)

WASHINGTON (CNA) — Former American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) Chairman Richard Bush said on Jan. 7 the “one country, two systems” (1C2S) formula proposed by China has no market on Taiwan as a basis for resolving differences between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait.

“Most Taiwan people understand that Taiwan’s economy is tied to China’s (40 percent of Taiwan exports go there). They don’t like instability, whatever the cause. They don’t want a military conflict,” Bush wrote in one of two articles posted on the Brookings Institution website.

“They do want a genuine say over their destiny, and for now 1C2S has no market on Taiwan as a basis for resolving differences with China.

“What has happened in Hong Kong over the last five years only reinforces Taiwan skepticism,” Bush wrote in the article commenting on Chinese President Xi Jinping’s (習近平) Jan. 2 address on Beijing’s policy of unification with Taiwan to mark the 40th anniversary of a statement China made to Taiwan in 1979.

Xi’s speech ignored the impact of popular feelings in democratic Taiwan on the quest for unification, Bush argued.

Xi’s statement that “there is national identification between the people on the two sides of the [Taiwan] Strait” ignores what polls show about the weakness of Chinese identity on the island, Bush said in the article.

“He does not seem aware that Taiwan citizens don’t want to risk their democratic system, which they value despite its flaws, for a 1C2S structure that is partially democratic at best,” he wrote.

“China’s recent meddling in Taiwan’s political process should alert Taiwan leaders and the public of the need to better insulate their democracy from outside interference. The United States should develop ways to help them do that,” Bush indicated in the post.

In the other post, Bush highlighted Xi’s incorporation of unification into his signature theme — the “great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.” He said Xi reiterated the 1979 statement in which Beijing called for unification and an end to military confrontation, but he did not set an explicit deadline for unification.

Xi did propose the creation of a body to conduct “extensive and in-depth democratic consultations on cross-Strait relations and the future of the nation and make institutional arrangements for promoting peaceful development of cross-Strait relations,” Bush acknowledged.

But the precondition for participation was that it would be “on the common political basis of adhering to the ‘1992 consensus’ and opposing ‘Taiwan independence,’” Bush wrote.

Under current circumstances, that would guarantee the exclusion of representatives of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), which Beijing believes is separatist in character, and any social groups with similar political outlooks, he said.

Though Xi reiterated a line from former President Jiang Zemin’s (江澤民) January 1995 speech on Taiwan that “Chinese will not fight Chinese,” Bush noted that Xi did not commit Beijing to abandon the use of force and said it would “reserve the option to take any necessary measure.” Bush also chastised Xi in his Jan. 2 speech for giving no hint that China was prepared to adjust the substance of “one country, two systems” to accommodate Taiwan concerns and even retreated from previous promises.

While Xi promised that Beijing would take Taiwan viewpoints into account, he ignored Taiwan’s democratic system and the obstacle it has created to China’s achievement of its goals, Bush wrote.

By Chiang Chin-yeh and Evelyn Kao