China hurries to put pressure on Taiwan
Historic negotiations started between the PRC and Taiwan in Nanjing, and this is symbolic. Nanjing used to be the capital of China when it was ruled by the Nationalist Kuomintang party. The party leads the current government of Taiwan. China's leadership offers different schemes of unification, pushed by the forthcoming presidential election in Taiwan in 2016 that may be won by a party striving for Independence.
On Tuesday, Zhang Zhijun, head of the State Council's Taiwan Affairs Office met with Wang Yu-chi, the Minister of the Mainland Affairs Council. This is the first negotiation between the officials of the PRC government and the Taiwan authorities in 65 years. Xinhua quoted Zhang Zhijun saying that both sides have set the goal to open a channel of regular communication between their authorities dealing with the relations across the Taiwan Strait.
The official relations between the central government of China and the island part were stopped in 1949 after Kuomintang forces led by Chiang Kai-shek and defeated in a civil war with the Communist Party of China fled to Taiwan. Both sides insist that they are the legitimate rulers of all of China, and Beijing has not renounced the use of force to compel Taiwan to return to the sovereignty of China. Business and informal contacts between Taiwan and mainland China resumed in late 1980s. In early 1990s, the parties began to contact through non-governmental organizations, Beijing Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits and Taipei Straits Exchange Foundation
Andrei Ostrovsky, deputy director of the Institute of Far Eastern Studies, confirmed for Pravda.Ru that the informal meetings have been conducted for a long time and regularly. "The agenda was always the same. At the first stage it was a reconstruction of postal and transport links, and later it was the development of trade and economic ties. Now everything is already there. In 2010 an economic and trade framework agreement on the inclusion of Taiwan in the customs area of China, Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan was signed. Economically, after the signing of the framework agreement, the dependence of Taiwan on China has increased dramatically," said the expert. According to Ostrovsky, it means gradual concessions from Taiwan to accede to China. "But the issue cannot be solved quickly, it has to be done in stages, and will take another five or six years at least," said Andrei Ostrovsky.
Chinese media reported that Beijing suggested the concept of "one country - two systems," a model used by China in its relations with the former British colony of Hong Kong. Andrei Ostrovsky confirmed that this concept was under discussion. "Chinese negotiators say: "We are offering you the Hong Kong scenario, see how Hong Kong lives." Why not? In the future, they may choose this option, particularly given that China is starting to catch up with Taiwan economically. Today the gap between living standards in the PRC and Taiwan is gradually reduced, and they may agree at some point," said the expert.
Much will depend on the alignment of political forces in Taiwan. The ruling power now is the KMT party, whose representative Ma Ying-jeou won presidential elections in 2012 for the second time. Speaking about the relations between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait, he expressed his intention to pursue a policy of "three no's": no to unification, no to independence, no to the use of force. In particular, he called for the preservation of the status quo in the framework of the Constitution of the Republic of China and for the resumption of consultations with the mainland on the basis of the "1992 consensus" (that implies recognition by the two parties of the unity and uniqueness of China: "China and Taiwan are not individual states").
"Kuomintang party verbally advocates for the unified China, but does not seek to unite and join with the People's Republic of China," Andrey Karneyev, Vice-Chancellor of the Institute of Asian and African Studies of Moscow State University (MSU IAAS) and head of the Department of History of China told Pravda.Ru. "That is, speaking about the principle of one China, one cannot, from the perspective of Taiwan, equate China and the People's Republic of China. China is a historical concept, or, so to speak, historical and civilizational one, while the People's Republic of China is a specific legal form, and mainland China has been a part of it since 1949. So, first, they do not believe that China is the People's Republic of China," said the expert.
"Second, the Kuomintang party members say they would be willing in principle to move towards the creation of a unified China if the mainland was a democracy, respected human rights, if it was a pluralistic society similar to Taiwan or developed countries. This is another factor that is very important in determining the future of the union or separation.
Third, no Taiwanese government can ignore the will and views of its own population, unlike mainland China, where the ruling party has much more opportunities to be autonomous from the voters. It is also an important factor. The majority of the population, as evidenced by the polls, at least so far, is in favor of maintaining the status quo rather than in support of independence or separatism. Therefore, rather lengthy negotiations can be expected," said Andrey Karneyev. He said that at the expert level dozens of options are negotiated, including confederal arrangement and creation of an association between China and Taiwan. "But the Chinese, Beijing leadership, in principle, in the last 20 years had approximately the same position - to accelerate this process of unification as soon as possible," concluded the expert.
It seems that 2016, the year of Taiwan's presidential elections, will be the key one. So far the Kuomintang party has been winning the elections on a regular basis. If the opposition Democratic Progressive Party comes to power, it will be heading towards Taiwan independence. Taiwan also has the so-called "New Party" that advocates for unification with China, but so far it has not been able to secure more than seven or eight percent of the vote. "It all depends on how the Kuomintang party will change its position with respect to reunification with China, it will largely determine the fate of Taiwan in relation to China," Andrei Ostrovsky told Pravda.Ru.