Cross-Strait Observations: Beijing Not in Hurry to Have Dialogue with Taiwan

United Daily News, March 7, 2021


Right after the administration of President Joe Biden assumed office in the United States, American officials called upon the two sides of the Taiwan Strait to resume dialogue. Mainly to respond to the United States, the administration of President Tsai Ing-wen recently reorganized its national security team and appointed the dovish Chiu Tai-san as minister of the Mainland Affairs Council. However, judging from remarks on Taiwan by Chairman Wang Yang of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) earlier this year and by Premier Li Keqiang during the current Two Sessions political meetings, Beijing apparently is not in a hurry to engage in dialogue with Taiwan.


No positive signal for resuming communications. Premier Li reiterated on March 5 the adherence to the “One China principle”, the “1992 Consensus” (i.e. One China, with respective interpretations), and the promotion of peaceful unification in his report on government work; he also stated that the mainland will be highly vigilant and resolutely curb the Taiwan independence separatist actions. At the same time, Li stated that China will fully implement the policy of protecting the welfare of the Taiwanese compatriots and their enjoyment of equal treatment on the mainland, thereby promoting cross-strait interactions, cooperation, and fusion and development. This basic line is consistent with his report on government work last year.


At the juncture of the transition of power of the two political parties in the United States and the structural change of relations between the United States, mainland China, and Taiwan, the mainland’s policy towards Taiwan remains unchanged and there is no positive signal of the resumption of Cross-Strait communications. We may find some clues of how Beijing views the current and subsequent Taiwan Strait situations by what Chairman Wang had said during the meeting about Taiwan in mid-January.


Wang said that frankly the cross-strait situation is severe and complicated, but he stressed that the time and potential are on the mainland’s side. He stated that China must correctly discern the changes, react to the changes scientifically, solidify the bottom-line thinking, and transform China’s increasing comprehensive capabilities and apparent systematic advantages into the effective power on the work towards Taiwan.


Mainland China will wait for a better time to make a move on Taiwan. According to Wang, since the time and potential are always on the mainland’s side, the transformation of the mainland’s increasing capabilities into effective power on the work towards Taiwan is a long-term goal. That is to say, as long as the United States and Taiwan do not touch the Taiwan independence redline, Beijing is not in a hurry to talk to the Tsai administration; they can wait for a better time to make a move on Taiwan.


This may explain why shortly after Minister Tai-shan Chiu assumed office and before there was “warm spring and blooming flowers,” mainland China announced the ban on the imports of Taiwanese pineapples. The mainland’s action cancelled out the glimmering moderation by Minister Chiu to break the cross-strait stalemate in less than 48 hours.


For Beijing, Minister Chiu’s new appointment is Tsai administration’s response to the call on cross-strait dialogue by the United States; it lacks genuine sincerity to break the ice and offers no substitute for the “1992 Consensus”, so Beijing rejected the superficial goodwill. The ban on the imports of Taiwanese pineapples may hurt Taiwanese farmers, but the damage is controllable and Beijing may resume the imports in the future. Beijing is sending a clear signal that there is no possibility of dialogue at the present time. Beijing is also showing this to the United States. Although the Biden administration had expressed the wish of seeing cross-strait dialogue through statements by governmental officials and think tank scholars, the American position on pressuring mainland China and supporting Taiwan remains the same, only the tactics are different from those of the Trump administration. The mainland is still watching what following steps Biden administration will adopt, so they are not making big moves towards Taiwan temporarily.


On the eve of the recent political meetings, Professors Jia Qingguo of Peking University and concurrently member of CPPCC spoke through the Hong Kong media that the Biden administration will constrain Taiwan independence and at the same time ask mainland China not to use radical measures on Taiwan, so that cross-strait tension may ease.   


Distance of mind and soul across the strait is increasing. Professor Jia analyzed that if the United States and Taiwan do not cross the line of Taiwan independence, Beijing will not resort to the use of force to unify Taiwan. Although the situation across the Taiwan Strait is tense, yet the tension is controllable, even may be lowered. By linking Jia’s opinion to what Wang had said about the “time and potential”, one can understand more why Beijing is not in a hurry to start dialogue with Taiwan, for time is more advantageous to the mainland. As time advances, the gap of strength between the United States and China will be narrowed and the gap of comprehensive capabilities across the Taiwan Strait will be enlarged. We need to think deeply whether this development is good or bad for Taiwan to negotiate in the future.


But Beijing should also review why the distance of mind and soul between Taiwan and the Mainland is increasing when Beijing has been promoting a long-term policy of so-called benefiting Taiwan. Beijing advocates that the two sides of the Taiwan Strait are a community and calls Taiwanese people “compatriots” but at the same time pressures Taiwan diplomatically and militarily. Beijing’s actions may be aimed at the Taiwanese government, but the people of Taiwan feel intimidated. Chairman Johnny Chiang of the opposition Kuomintang told foreign media that mainland China is the major threat Taiwan faces and the “One Country, Two Systems” formula has no market appeal in Taiwan. Chairman Chiang’s opinion may embarrass the mainland, but it is Taiwan’s long-term opinion. Mainland China has to face it practically.



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