Five recommendations, three suggestions regarding Wang-Zhang Meetings

Following the conclusion of the meetings between Wang Yu-chi, minister of Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) and Zhang Zhijun, minister of China’s Taiwan Affairs Office (TAO), held in China last week, the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP)’s executive director for policy research, Dr. Joseph Wu, and Hung Tsai-lung, director of DPP’s China Affairs Department, called a press conference to issue the DPP’s five recommendations and three questions concerning the Wang-Zhang meeting:

First, the DPP supports the normalization of cross-Strait relations and regularized contact between the two governments as a laudable goal, and welcomes exchanges between high-level officials without preconditions.  However, we must also carefully consider what we are willing to give up in pursuit of this end.  A well-known U.S. expert candidly said last month that the question of high-level cross-Strait exchanges is not one of feasibility, but rather, of the price that would be exacted.  Former KMT chairman Wu Po-hsiung alluded to the concept of the “one China framework” when he visited China last June; President Ma’s letter to Xi Jinping in July also referenced their mutual insistence on the 1992 consensus under the “one China principle.”  Is this a price that we are willing to pay?  Such an important matter implicating Taiwan’s basic status is one that should be jointly decided by the people, not by Ma Ying-jeou alone.  Furthermore, Minister Wang again asserted in Shanghai on Thursday that cross-Strait relations are not state-to-state relations.  To make this type of statement, fully aware that it touches on the domestically sensitive independence-unification nerve, and in the absence of any attempt at dialogue on the issue within Taiwan, is certain to lead to further contention back home.  Taiwan should not have to pay the resulting price.

Second, there is great discrepancy in the content of the press statements issued by the two sides after the first Wang-Zhang meeting on February 11.  The summary text published by the Chinese authorities describes a five-point consensus that was reached, but when compared with the MAC press release, it seems that the each side is merely telling their own version of the story.  The only point on which there is clear agreement is in the reference to the 1992 consensus.  The unilateral declaration of a supposed “consensus” or issuance of a “joint” statement is maneuver that the Chinese have commonly employed in cross-Strait exchanges over the past few years, thereby trapping Taiwan into the narrative that it defines; this is what happened just recently after the cross-strait media forum in December.  For it to recur on this occasion, without eliciting any kind of response from MAC, leads one to question: have we completely acquiesced to China’s one-sided “consensus”?

Third, what the Chinese wants at this time is to enter into political negotiations with Taiwan.  Since the SEF-ARATS channel will continue operating as a forum to address issues of a more pragmatic nature, it appears that the MAC-TAO platform has been created with the intention of elevating the political level of exchanges.  With these politically-oriented talks now in the “deep water zone,” every step and every word emitted by each side must be done with great deliberation, to in effort to secure the maximum amount of gain.  Yet it seems that the Ma administration is only concerned with the appearances projected by the Wang-Zhang meeting, leaving all of the substance to be orchestrated by the Chinese.  No normal government of a normal country would conceded this much.  If in the future China insists on holding Taiwan to the commitments made in the “February 11th Cross-Strait Consensus,” the Ma government may be unable to withstand the pressure.

Fourth, before going to China Minister Wang had stated that one of his objectives was to seek participation in the regional economic integration process, and this goal was also written into the MAC press release.  But the first point of “consensus” that appears in the TAO’s statement issued following the Wang-Zhang meeting is “focusing on completion of follow-on agreements under the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA), refining channels of cross-strait economic cooperation, and seriously exploring the feasibility of joint economic development toward appropriate modes of participation in the regional economic integration process.”  If the MAC has not put forth any objection to this consensus, then it appears that Taiwan’s accession to RCEP and TPP has already been subsumed within the ECFA framework.  This is a complete loss for Taiwan not only in substance but also in symbolism.

Fifth, prior to Minister Wang’s departure, the DPP had repeatedly called on the administration to raise the issues in cross-Strait negotiations that remain unresolved, including compensation for Taiwanese businesses from previous lapses in food safety, repatriation of financial criminals, re-negotiation of unequal provisions in the services trade pact, and freedom of the press and human rights questions.  These are the subjects of greatest concern to the people of Taiwan, but MAC did not broach them at all.  We are deeply disappointed that government did not take our cue in this regard.

Dr. Wu went on to pose three questions to minister Wang:

  1. The statement released by MAC immediately after the meeting was vague and ambiguous, while the title of the TAO press release trumpets the “proactive consensus reached.”  Did the two sides reach any kind of consensus or not?  Or has Taiwan been trapped into a “consensus”?
  2. With regard to the potential meeting between President Ma and President Xi Jing-ping, President Ma has reiterated the need to create the right conditions.  What kind of condition is he referring to, and what is the price that the Ma administration is willing to pay?  Has Taiwan not paid a high enough price already?
  3. Exactly what priority has the administration accorded to the issues of greatest importance to the people of Taiwan?
Additionally, China affairs department director Hung Tsai-lung elaborated on the monitoring and oversight mechanisms for cross-Strait negotiations and agreements.  Hung requests that Minister Wang provide a special report to the Legislative Yuan and take questions from legislators after his return to Taiwan.  “All cross-Strait negotiations and agreements should be subject to comprehensive oversight by the legislature.  Further, we should establish a formal process to grant authority to conduct cross-Strait talks to institutionalize the mechanism for legislative oversight of cross-Strait negotiations.”