Cross-strait relations full of uncertainties in 2022, calls for dialogue: scholars

01/01/2022 07:18 PM
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President Tsai Ing-wen attends the New Year
President Tsai Ing-wen attends the New Year's Day flag-raising ceremony in front of the Presidential Office. CNA photo Jan. 1, 2022

Taipei, Jan. 1 (CNA) Two domestic China experts on Saturday called on Taipei and Beijing to search for opportunities for dialogue and cooperation in an attempt to ease yearslong cross-strait tensions.

Their remarks came after President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) reiterated in her New Year address that both sides of the Taiwan Strait shared the responsibility when it came to maintaining peace and stability in the region and calling on China to refrain from military coercion and to ease regional tensions via peaceful means.

In response, China's Taiwan Affairs Office spokeswoman Zhu Fenglian (朱鳳蓮) accused Tsai's Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) of pursuing Taiwan independence and "continuing to manufacture lies, heightening hostility and trafficking in hatred in order to reap political benefits."

Asked to comment, Chao Chun-shan (趙春山), an honorary professor of China studies at New Taipei-based Tamkang University, told CNA that Taipei and Beijing are facing major political power reshuffles in 2022, which will create further uncertainty with regards to cross-strait relations.

The new year will see Taiwan host local elections - known as the "nine-in-one" elections - to choose the leaders of municipalities, cities, and counties, Chao said. 

In China, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) will hold its 20th National Party Congress, shaking up the upper echelons of Chinese politics, he noted. 

Though these political uncertainties might make it even more difficult to conduct official dialogue and exchanges, Chao said both sides should actively consider doing so.

He suggested centering any such exchanges on nonpolitical issues, such as on combating COVID-19 and cooperating in economic and trade issues, as a means of smoothing the path to talks.

Sharing a similar view with Chao, Chang Wu-ueh (張五岳), a fellow professor of China studies at Tamkang University, said Tsai's Saturday address and Xi Jinping's Friday speech had both contained the same rhetoric expressed over the last few years of cross-strait tensions.

This showed that cross-strait relations have been affected by the ongoing China-United States rivalry, Chang added.

Like Chao, Chang said 2022 would bring several important anniversaries regarding cross-strait relations, Sino-U.S. ties, and Sino-Japan ties.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the holding of a November 1992 meeting in Hong Kong between the China-based Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait (ARATS) and the Taiwan-based Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF).

The two semi-official organizations handle cross-strait relations on behalf of their respective governments.

The 1992 meeting gave birth to the so-called "1992 Consensus," a tacit understanding reached by the then-Kuomintang (KMT) government and the Chinese government, which says both sides of the Taiwan Strait acknowledged there is only "one China" with each country free to interpret what "China" means.

The quasi-official consensus served as a cornerstone for cross-strait exchanges during the KMT administration.

According to Chang, this year also marks the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Shanghai Communique between Beijing and Washington, which paved way for the establishment of diplomatic relations, and also the 50th anniversary of the normalization of diplomatic relations between China and Japan.

Taiwan, the U.S, and U.S.'s important allies in the region, namely, South Korea and the Philippines, will also hold major elections this year, Chang said.

All these important anniversaries and elections will create uncertainties with regards to cross-strait relations, he added.

Chang said that given the pandemic was expected to subside later this year, long-stalled cross-strait people-to-people exchanges could soon resume.

Should this arise, Chang said Taiwan's government needed to prepare contingency measures accordingly.

Beijing has adopted a hardline stance on cross-strait relations and cut off dialogue with Taiwan in 2016 when President Tsai Ing-wen first took office.

At the core of the issue is Tsai's refusal to recognize the "1992 consensus, which the DPP contends is a "mere illusion," as Beijing does not recognize the idea that each side is free to interpret what "one China" means.

(By Scarlett Chai and Joseph Yeh)


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