President's remarks on China ties draw mixed response from scholars

10/10/2020 08:19 PM
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President Tsai Ing-wen (right) and Legislative Speaker Yu Shyi-kun (center). CNA photo Oct. 10, 2020
President Tsai Ing-wen (right) and Legislative Speaker Yu Shyi-kun (center). CNA photo Oct. 10, 2020

Taipei, Oct. 10 (CNA) Scholars from Taiwan and China had differing opinions Saturday on President Tsai Ing-wen's (蔡英文) National Day address, with some praising her effort to maintain stability in cross-strait relations, while others remained skeptical on whether it was enough to convince Beijing to restart dialogue.

Tsai, who expressed willingness to hold "meaningful dialogue" with the leadership of Beijing, sent a message indicating her wish to help maintain peaceful Taiwan-China relations through high-level talks, so long as parity and dignity are assured, said Chao Chun-shan (趙春山), a professor emeritus from the Institute of China Studies at Tamkang University in Taipei.

Tsai also exercised restraint by not highlighting recent growing Taiwan-U.S. relations in her speech, to avoid angering Beijing, Chao said.

Tsai's remarks that "we will not act rashly and will uphold our principles" on Taiwan-China ties makes clear her determination to maintain stability in cross-strait relations, he said.

Tamkang University Graduate Institute of China Studies associate professor Chang Wu-ueh (張五岳) also said that Tsai's speech showed her consistency in cross-strait policies, despite uncertainties in U.S.-China and India-China relations.

In addition, Tsai might want to create opportunities for peaceful dialogue with Beijing, evident in her echoing of China's video message to the United Nations General Assembly that Beijing will never seek hegemony, expansion or a sphere of influence, Chang said.

Tsai said in her speech that she is aware of China's remarks and that "as countries in the region and around the world are now concerned about China's expanding hegemony, we hope this is the beginning of genuine change."

However, one Chinese scholar held an opposite view toward the comment, arguing that Tsai had missed the point.

Liu Guosheng (劉國深), a cross-strait relations expert at Xiamen University, said Tsai's using of the words "hegemony" and "concerned" in her address looked to him like indirect rebukes to China.

Her Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) administration must recognize that "both sides of the Taiwan Strait belong to the same country" with sincerity and courage so that it may understand Beijing's position, he said.

Alexander Huang (黃介正), a strategic studies professor at Tamkang University, said Tsai did not show weakness or attempt to cozy up to China in her speech, but expressed her intention to hold healthy conversation with Beijing and maintain peaceful ties.

It could be "relatively difficult" for Beijing to accept this, though, considering the current situation, Huang said.

The two sides must accumulate goodwill and restore mutual trust, and one of the priorities at the current stage is refraining from making meaningless and provocative comments toward each other, he said.

In response to Tsai's address, Zhu Fenglian (朱鳳蓮), spokesperson of China's Taiwan Affairs Office, said in a statement later Saturday that it showed Taiwan's continuation of hostility.

Zhu urged the DPP to abandon its Taiwan independence agenda, describing it as a "dead-end" and that only by returning to the "1992 consensus" could there be mutual dialogue and improvement in ties.

The "1992 consensus" is a tacit agreement that was reached in 1992 by officials of the then-ruling Kuomintang government and the Communist Party of China at a meeting in Hong Kong. It agrees that there is only "one China," with each side free to interpret what that means, an idea that is firmly rejected by the DPP.

(By Lai Yen-hsi, Chiu Kuo-chiang and Lee Hsin-Yin)

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