Following Kuomintang Chairman Lien Chan’s mainland trip, James Soong, chairman of the People First Party (PFP), successfully concluded his own visit to the mainland, creating a new wave of enthusiasm for cross-Straits exchanges and perhaps ushering in the spring of cross-Straits relations.
Soong’s trip has further boosted the mutual understanding of people on both sides of the Taiwan Straits. The PFP delegation not only had high-profile treatment from mainland officials, but also received a spontaneous welcome from the general public wherever they went. Soong was moved to tears several times. “The descendants of Yan and Huang emperors should not forget their roots; blood brothers across the Straits belong to one family; we are all Chinese; we should work together for a revival of the Chinese nation” were some of his expressions.
The delegates’ experiences were covered comprehensively by the Taiwanese media, which reported a prosperous and vigorous mainland and conveyed the sentiments mainlanders have for their Taiwan compatriots, thus bringing closer the link between the two sides. As General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Hu Jintao said, Soong’s trip has built a bridge for the mutual trust of the two parties and for communication between the two sides.
On May 12, Hu and Soong held a formal meeting, exchanging views on inter-party exchanges as well as key issues affecting the improvement and development of cross-Straits relations. The meeting was fruitful.
The ensuing communique between the two parties was a solid step in the direction of the healthy development of cross-Straits relations. The six-point consensus they reached epitomized the sincere and determined way the two parties pursued the development of cross-Straits relations and peace in the region.
This document has richness and originality in that, while emphasizing the political groundwork of the “1992 consensus,” it shows the two parties getting back to historical roots and the gist of the discussion. That is, both sides agree on the one-China principle and have the common goal of reunification. But, at the same time, they have bypassed the debate on the official name and for the first time have adopted the term “two sides, one China.”
This is not only in line with the mainland emphasis that the mainland and Taiwan belong to one and the same China, but has also taken into account different attitudes in Taiwan.
It crystallizes the sincerity and pragmatism of the two parties in their efforts to break the political stalemate.
In areas of opposing “Taiwan independence” and any form of “the rectification of Taiwan’s name” or “constitutional changes through referendum,” the two parties reached a high degree of accord. With this common objective, the two sides also proposed that, as long as Taiwan has no possibility of going in the direction of “independence,” military conflict can be avoided. The innate logic is clear: peace and stability can be maintained if there is no prospect of “Taiwan independence.”
This is an expression never made before by the mainland and it has, to a great degree, responded to Taiwanese expectations of a deceleration of cross-Straits tension.
The document highlights the importance of building a regular economic and trade framework, but goes beyond descriptions of generalities and covers concrete issues. It includes nine areas such as two-way direct flights, free-trade zones, direct trade and currency exchanges, liberalization of trade, preferential treatment of Taiwan’s agricultural products and avoidance of double taxation. It shines a light on the direction of cross-Straits trade and cultural exchanges and paints a vista of mutual benefit.
The two parties also pledged to build a mechanism for the service of Taiwan businessmen on the mainland and a forum for “influential people from non-government sectors.”
On the day Soong left Beijing for Taiwan, the mainland offered “three big gifts:” more convenience for Taiwanese entry into the mainland, equal tuition for Taiwanese students who enrol in mainland schools of higher learning and the gradual opening of the employment market for Taiwan residents. This all represents the mainland’s goodwill towards the Taiwanese people.
Cross-Straits relations are at a juncture. With the visits of Lien and Soong, the confrontation and chaos of the past are being replaced by reconciliation, stability and mutual benefits, which constitute a historic change. The mainstream in Taiwan, which has been gathering momentum, expects an improvement in relations, leading to an early realization of the “three direct links” in trade, transport and postal services.
With this background of new happenings and public responses, how will Taiwan’s administration react? People are watching what choices the Taiwan authorities will make. The CPC-PFP communique has left leeway for Taiwan’s leadership, which should seize the opportunities. It should make a historic choice and join hands with the mainland in promoting peace and stability across the Straits.