Amid New Biden Administration, Continued Tensions, President Tsai Calls for Cross-Strait Dialogue in New Year Address

China Times, January 2, 2021


The tensions in the Taiwan Strait continued and the United States is about to see a transfer of power, new changes may emerge in the cross-strait relations. President Tsai Ing-wen offered an olive branch to Beijing in New Year's Day address. She expected that when the pandemic is under control, people on both sides of the strait will resume normal and orderly exchanges to reduce misunderstandings. Yet she threw the ball to the other side. Emphasizing that as long as Beijing authorities sincerely want to resolve differences and under the principles of reciprocity and dignity, "we are willing to facilitate jointly meaningful dialogue." In a rare instance, the opposition Kuomintang (KMT) responded to the speech in positive light.  


Cross-Strait Policy Line Finetuned Amid Changes in U.S.-China Relations


At the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference on December 31 last year, Chinese President Xi Jinping reiterated that on the Taiwan issue: "We adhere to the 'One China' principle and 1992 Consensus and resolutely maintain peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait." President Tsai's New Year address, although still refrained from responding to Beijing's fundamental position, made an overture of "looking forward to renewing normal dialogue."


President Tsai's goodwill was recognized by the KMT. It hoped Tsai Ing-wen would continue in this direction to remove the haze created by negative confrontation in the past year and restart dialogue, giving an opportunity for the improvement of relations in the new year. KMT Legislator Chen Yi-hsin, who once served as the spokesperson for President Ma Ying-jeou, asserted that Tsai has a good grasp of the members of the new U.S. Biden administration. This knowledge will likely lead to a gradual cross-strait policy return to the 2016 stance of "maintaining the status quo" when she first took office as president.


KMT Views Tsai’s Returning to Status Quo in Positive Light   


President Tsai said in her New Year's Day address at the Presidential Office Building that the frequent activities of military aircraft and warships from across the strait around Taiwan over the past year have undermined cross-strait relations and posed a threat to the peaceful and stable status quo in the Indo-Pacific. But she emphasized that "when the pandemic is under control, we look forward to the gradual return of regular, orderly people-to-people exchanges across the strait to improve mutual understanding and reduce misunderstandings."


President Tsai reiterated that the principles for dealing with cross-strait relations have always been joint discussions, finding solutions, and solving problems pragmatically. She affirmed that her administration would uphold the principles and not act rashly, it would facilitate meaningful dialogue under the principles of parity and dignity, as long as the Beijing authorities sincerely want to resolve differences and improve cross-strait relations.


It is worth noting that, compared to the 2019 New Year’s Day address, in which President Tsai highlighted the “Republic of China (Taiwan)” instead of the official name of “Republic of China.” In this year’s address, she addressed herself as the “President of the Republic of China”, an obvious difference from the last year. But President Tsai was very "gingerly" about using the R.O.C. She only mentioned it once throughout the speech.


China Sees "1992 Consensus" As Key to Improving Relations


In response to President Tsai’s remarks on cross-strait relations, Spokeswoman Zhu Fenglian of China’s Taiwan Affairs Office, State Council, said that the root cause of the current tensions and turbulence in cross-strait relations is the Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) refusal to recognize the "1992 Consensus" that embodies the “One China” principle. It has increased collusion with external forces and continued to provoke by seeking "independence," confronting the mainland at every turn, and deliberately creating confrontation across the strait. And now talked about "dialogue" but where does the dialogue come from? At present, cross-strait exchanges are still in an extremely abnormal state. Only by returning to the political foundation of the "1992 Consensus" can cross-strait relations be improved. There is no other way.



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