Friday 23 October 2015

Xi should keep Taiwan Straits peaceful (Pakistan Observer)

Geopolitical notes from India
Friday, October 23, 2015 - The ‘1992 Consensus’ is a term thought up by Su Chian expert in the relationship between the two sides of the Taiwan straits, and holds that there is one China, but both sides differ in their interpretation of what this means. The word ‘consensus’ implies agreement on both sides, so it is curious that thus far, all the attention has been on the extent to which political parties in Taiwan believe in the formulation. Were Beijing to give the Republic of China the respect implied in the “1992 Consensus”, it would not stand in the way of Taipei becoming a part of several international organisations by whatever name, the usual formulation being ‘Chinese Taipei’. 

Hopefully, President Xi Jinping will respond to the likely DPP victory in the 2016 polls not by an increase in belligerence but by a surprise gesture of magnanimity that respects the fact that Beijing needs to ensure linkages with not just the KMT but also the DPP in its interaction with Taiwan. In the island, faced with a steep decline in its popularity and the prospect of losing not only the Presidency but the Legislature to the DPP, the aim of the KMT candidate, the personable Eric Chu, is to scare voters in Taiwan by implying that a DPP government headed by Tsai Ing-wen would lead to heightened tensions with Beijing, and possibly even armed conflict. Such tactics are not new. The Republican Party warned US voters that a victory for the Democratic Party led by Barack Obama would lead to a rash of terrorist incidents which would make 9/11 look small. Certainly several hundreds of thousands, if not millions, would have voted for the Republican Party rather than the Democrats out of fear of the prospect of a rise in terror attacks following victory of latter. As it turns out, Macho Men Dick Cheney and George W Bush were helpless against revival of the Taliban, while it took Barack Obama to locate and kill Osama bin Laden.

This columnist attended a conference organised by the Investigation Bureau of the Justice Ministry in the Republic of China (Taiwan) on ‘Regional Security and Transnational Crime’, attended mostly by police officers from several countries. Over October 19 and 20, several papers were presented on the threats to security in the region, although it must be added that in a globalised world, segmentation into regions such as East Asia or West Asia have less meaning than in the past. What happens across the oceans affects people in a particular country, while in the case of East Asia (Japan, China, North and South Korea and Taiwan), the region’s global trade has made it vulnerable to threats originating from as far away as Colombia or Nigeria. 

Thus far, terrorism has been absent in Taiwan, but during the past months, there have been threats of terror incidents, and it is likely that this side of the straits will witness the same danger as is taking place on the other side, with terror incidents multiplying in China, especially in Xinjiang. Global terror has become as much a part of the age as climate change and global platforms need to get created in order to ensure that terrorism remain a low-grade infection rather than a life-threatening disease. Given the fact that the internet has become an effective means of recruitment of the impressionable into terror groups, and also in their training, the software and hardware skills of the Republic of China would be of immense help in ensuring that security agencies remain ahead of terror groups across the globe.

As an admirer of traditional Chinese culture and a well-wisher of the Chinese people, this columnist has long supported the Deng Xiaoping- Hu Jintao formulation of Peaceful Rise of China. Had Rajiv Gandhi won a second term in 1989, it is very likely that he would have signed a border agreement with the Peoples Republic of China on the lines of the offer made by Zhou Enlai in the 1950s, offers repeatedly dismissed by Jawaharlal Nehru,who had a somewhat dismissive view of Chinese military capabilities and immense confidence in his own wisdom. Hopefully, such a border agreement will get signed during the term in office of President Xi Jinping, who has understood the importance of India in the strategic calculus of China,and has developed a close relationship with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has reciprocated by giving the e-visa facility to PR tourists and by opening gates which had long been shut to investment from China. 

Prime Minister Modi is aware that it is only if he creates tens of millions more jobs in India that his party (BJP) will get re-elected in 2019,and is also aware that China is a promising source of investment, given the cash-rich nature of that country’s coffers. Although the Chinese political system is different from that in India,President Xi Jinping also needs a huge increase in jobs in order to ensure a high degree of public support for the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). The problem is that this objective needs a peaceful atmosphere to get realised, and hence there is a need to tone down the rhetoric and the activities of those who seek military outcomes to political differences. Already, not only has fresh Japanese investment into China become a trickle from the earlier flood, but even existing investment is quietly moving away to Vietnam, Thailand and even Sri Lanka because of the anti-Japan sentiments heard across the PRC. The Japanese and the Taiwanese are the biggest investors in China, and in the case of the latter, businesspersons are anxious that they will be made to pay the price of the defeat of the KMT in 2016.

In 1995, Jiang Zemin used the military card to set off missile launches near Taiwan, creating a reaction that brought the DPP to power on a wave of anger in Taiwan at such intimidation. It is unlikely that Xi Jinping will make the same mistake.The fact is that because of the “sunshine” policy of Hu Jintao, the former President of China,links between the Republic of China (ROC) and the Peoples Republic of China (PRC) have expanded hugely. Should Xi surprise the world by adopting a friendly and conciliatory approach towards a new regime in Taipei headed by the able and moderate Tsai Ing-wen, relations between the two sides of the Taiwan straits will further bloom rather than wither. The ‘1992 Consensus’ implies mutual respect for both sides of the strait and it will be up to Beijing to show that it respects the consensus by ensuring the entry of the ROC (Taiwan) into international agencies, and by adopting an accommodative and cooperative approach towards the future President Tsai Ing-wen. 

—The writer is Vice-Chair, Manipal Advanced Research Group, UNESCO Peace Chair & Professor of Geopolitics, Manipal University, Haryana State, India. 

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