Taiwan hopefuls outline plans for reconciliation

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 12 June, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 12 June, 2007, 12:00am

Candidates unveil tactics for managing cross-strait ties

Presidential candidates of Taiwan's two rival parties have drawn a rosy picture of how they would reconcile with the mainland and resolve thorny cross-strait issues.

But one analyst said both would hit snags in dealing with the highly sensitive sovereignty issue as it was unlikely Beijing would make concessions in its stance over the island's political status.

Speaking in English at a news conference for international media in Taipei yesterday, Kuomintang candidate Ma Ying-jeou tried to convince reporters that he would be the better choice to lead the island out of its predicament.

'As long as the mainland refrains from using force against Taiwan, I believe the majority of the people here will not go for de jure independence. So, what we should do in this area is to have negotiations with the mainland,' said Ma, who advocates a liberal mainland policy, including forging direct transport links.

The former KMT chairman, who resigned in February after he was charged with corruption during his stint as Taipei's mayor, said he supported the '1992 consensus' - an understanding that the party insists it reached with the mainland in Hong Kong. It stated that although there was only one China, each side may have its own interpretation of whether it represents the People's Republic of China in Beijing or the Republic of China, the official title of Taiwan.

Ma said he believed such a consensus would provide the much-needed basis of trust between the two sides, and with that he was confident Beijing would be willing to talk with Taiwan, which would help bring about the signing of a peace agreement.

Since the concept of a 'one China' was crucial to the mainland, if Taiwan accepted that concept, it was not impossible for Beijing to give Taiwan some room on the global stage after bilateral negotiations, Ma said. As such, he is confident the mainland would sign the peace treaty and allow the island to engage the international community.

In a news conference later yesterday, Frank Hsieh Chang-ting - Ma's opponent in next March's polls from the pro-independence ruling Democratic Progressive Party - said he also advocated a liberal mainland policy, which he summarised as 'reconciliation and peaceful co-existence'.

Asked whether he could provide any basis of trust like the 1992 consensus to engage the mainland and seek cross-strait reconciliation, Mr Hsieh said: 'I don't think it matters whether the 1992 consensus exists', adding his party and the government hold that it does not exist.

'What is more important is the attitude. If China really wants to talk with Taiwan, it would not care whether there is such a consensus.'

He said if he were elected, he would seek to initiate dialogues with the mainland to achieve 'co-existence' between the two sides.

'An open China policy should not focus only on the liberal part, but also the identity of Taiwan,' Mr Hsieh said. 'Without [Taiwanese] identity, it would only hurt Taiwan in the long run.'

Analysts, however, said such an identity was precisely the sticking point with Beijing, which has never acknowledged that Taiwan had any sovereignty. Therefore, either candidate's belief that Beijing would yield on this issue was merely wishful thinking, they said.

'It is impossible for the mainland to acknowledge Taiwan's sovereignty, regardless of whether the KMT or the DPP is in power,' said political analyst George Tsai of the Institute of International Relations.

But it appears the mainland would prefer Ma, given the KMT's more conciliatory policy, he added.

The pro-independence platform of the DPP could become a burden to Mr Hsieh even though he also aims for better cross-strait ties.