Forum reflects stark U.S.-China differences on cross-strait ties

2018/06/22 20:19:45 fontsize-small fontsize-default fontsize-big
Image taken from Pixabay

Image taken from Pixabay

New York, June 21 (CNA) A semi-official meeting between American and Chinese representatives earlier this month has shown how wide the gap is in how they gauge recent developments in cross-Taiwan Strait relations, according to the conference report released Thursday.

During the annual conference of the Forum on Asia-Pacific Security held by the National Committee on American Foreign Policy, experts from the two sides had different takes on who is responsible for the gridlock in cross-strait ties over the past two years.

Several Chinese speakers reiterated at the meeting in New York on June 4-5 that the fundamental cause of rising cross-strait tensions was because Taiwan's president, Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文), has "damaged the political basis" of the relationship that had existed under the previous administration of Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九).

They said that China believes that the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) is still determined to achieve independence, and warned that independence forces in Taiwan have become even "more brazen" recently.

American experts recommended that Beijing find a way to resume dialogue to prevent further deterioration in cross-strait relations.

But Chinese participants argued that because Taiwan's acceptance of a "constitutional one China" formula is not enough to satisfy Beijing, Tsai will need to start by at least indicating in some way that cross-strait relations are "not state-to-state" relations.

With respect to new formulas or "off ramps" to reopen talks, they added that such negotiations would have to be conducted by unofficial but authoritative persons through secret channels; however, no one knows if these exist.

Chinese participants also said Tsai seems unable and unwilling to re-establish cross-strait dialogue and said she has in fact been promoting independence through her actions, not through her words, citing her appointment of self-described "pro-independence worker" Lai Ching-te (賴清德) as premier last September.

The Chinese side also voiced concerns about the United States' growing ties with Taiwan, including proposing measures to strengthen military cooperation and promoting high-level visits with Taiwan.

They warned that the U.S. is sending the wrong signal to Taiwan and emboldening its independence forces, and that these actions will harm not only U.S.-China relations but also eventually the interests of Taiwan.

American experts argued, however, that the recent U.S. measures are actually relatively restrained and "not as significant as China sees them."

In fact, it has been China's recent aggressive military and diplomatic actions that have strengthened the DPP position in Taiwan, they said.

Those moves include more frequent military air and naval patrols in closer proximity to Taiwan, and pushing five governments to switch recognition from Taiwan to Beijing over the past two years.

These actions have affected not only Taiwan but, perhaps more importantly, the U.S. as well, since they are viewed in the U.S. as "unreasonable" and "bullying," the American participants said.

The U.S. sees Tsai as pragmatic and committed to maintaining the status quo, even though Beijing may see her as a "committed separatist," they said.

The meeting was attended by senior officials such as James Heller, director of the U.S. Department of State's Office of Taiwan Coordination, and Chen Yuanfeng (陳元豐), vice minister of China's Taiwan Affairs Office.

On the non-government side, participants included Pacific Century Institute President Raymond Burghardt and Jia Qingguo (賈慶國), dean of Peking University's School of International Studies.

(By Ozzy Yin and Lee Hsin-Yin)

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