In a surprise move to some, the United States reactivated a $6.46 billion Taiwan arms sales proposal and sent it to Congress for approval yesterday. (As late as September 28, the proposal was said to be frozen by the White House even as Taiwan lobbied Congress.)
It’s been almost four months since Ma Ying-jeou has been sworn into office in Taiwan. After the first few weeks of euphoria, there hasn’t been that much published about Taiwan in English sources – partly because of the Olympics, and partly because not much concrete has happened. Continue reading Let's Talk some Cross-Strait Politics→
Tourists from mainland China aren’t the only ones taking advantage of direct cross-strait flights. Taiwanese politicians from the DPP, known for its traditional insistence on Taiwanese independence, are also beginning to take trips to the mainland. Yunlin county commissioner Su Zhifen, a member of the DPP, is leading a trade commission to Beijing.
This article from the Southern Metropolis Daily (连接) gives us more. Partial translation is below:
“I’m going to the mainland in my role as a county commissioner. So, my perspective is anything that benefits the interests of the people in my county, then I will do it. If I complicate my thoughts on this issue too much, then many things won’t get done.”
Ma Yingjiu’s defeat of Xie Changting’s was critical in allowing the Mainland Affairs Commission to change policies towards the mainland. On July 3rd, the law was revised relaxing restrictions on Taiwanese county commissioners and mayors visiting the mainland. Su Zhifen will be the first DPP member to take advantage. (Ed: KMT mayor of Taizhong, Jason Hu, has also been to Xiamen following this change in law.)
Today (July 12th), Yunlin county commissioner Su Zhifen will lead a delegation aboard a cross-strait weekend charter flight, headed to Beijing. They are going to “find a route for Yunlin county’s farmers”, pushing quality agricultural products. Su Zhifen will be the first DPP county or city head to visit the mainland since 2000. Although this trip is based on economic needs, everyone has noticed the change in political path implied by the trip.
Ties between the two sides of the Taiwan strait are growing warmer and warmer. This should be no surprise, as its exactly what ROC president Ma Yingjiu promised in his campaign leading to a landslide victory earlier this year. With the arrival of mainland tourists in Taiwan representing another new milestone, we are clearly living through an inflection point in cross-strait relations.
But where will cross-strait relations go from here? That’s where the difference in opinion lies. One expat commentator in Taiwan offers this analysis (courtesy of A-gu’s blog):
Most KMT party members and supporters seem not to believe that China actually means any harm to Taiwan– and especially not now that there will be a unified KMT government. They believe that the anger of China and the rest of the world is directed solely at Chen Shui-bian and the DPP. They think that if Taiwan’s government can just behave, quietly cooperate with Beijing and give up the quest for de jure independence, that China will reciprocate by allowing Taiwan to indefinitely maintain the “status quo” of de facto independence.
So far, so good. I believe that to be an accurate statement on pan-Blue beliefs, and I also believe it’s an accurate statement of what most Chinese (certainly myself) firmly believe. However, he follows up with this:
Today, without too much fuss, regulardirectflights between mainland China and Taiwan began, fulfilling a campaign pledge of Ma Yingjiu. The flights run Friday-to-Monday between Beijing, Shanghai, Nanjing, Xiamen, Guangzhou and Taipei. As you can see from the maps (from Sina & Chinanews) below, all flights still route near Hong Kong airspace so they are “direct” only in the sense of not having to actually stop in Hong Kong or somewhere else. Still it’s the start of something new — the “direct” flights put major mainland cities within a one- to two-hour radius of Taiwan, make it possible for day trips back and forth, for business or leisure. This is a popular move. Why has it taken so long and why is this significant?
Two different Diaoyutai’s are front-page news today.
First, Diaoyutai islands: a Taiwanese fishing ship collided with a Japanese patrol ship off of the disputed Diaoyutai islands. One man was slightly injured as the boat sank; the passengers have been repatriated, but the crew remains held under Japanese custody.
The sovereignty of Diaoyutai is disputed by all sides on the basis of conflicting history; it’s either part of mainland China, Japan, Okinawa, or Taiwan depending on who is doing the talking. Wikipedia has the details in English. It certainly remains a potential flashpoint. Chinese nationalists (from Hong Kong, Taiwan, and mainland) have at different times made attempts to plant Chinese flags onto the island. Japanese nationalists have done the same.
These pictures come from an attempt in 1996, during which a Chinese activist (David Chan) tragically drowned.
Wu Boxiong, chairman of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), has landed in Beijing. The Chinese Nationalist Party currently controls both the presidency and the legislative yuan in Taiwan, giving his visit special weight.
He earlier visited the southern-capital of Nanjing, the original capital of the Republic of China (now in Taiwan). As is tradition for all KMT visitors, he paid his respects to the grave of Sun Zhongshan. Sun Zhongshan remains recognized as the “father of our nation” (国父) in both the mainland and Taiwan, and his presence is a constant reminder of that which unites both straits.
In Beijing, Hu Jintao responded to Ma Yingjiu’s inauguration speech by explicitly re-stating that the issue of Taiwan joining the WHO would be solved as the first priority in upcoming negotiations.
This year has so far been confusing and surprising for many Chinese.
We’ve been faced with a number of challenges none of us expected: January snowstorms, Tibet riots, Olympic torch protests, and then the devastating Sichuan earthquake. But surprisingly, one potential flashpoint that many of us have been worried about for a decade seems to be settling down into an orbit that most of us appreciate and support.
I’m speaking, of course, of Taiwan. On May 20th, Ma Yingjiu (a member of the Chinese Nationalist Party) was inaugurated in Taipei as President of the Republic of China.