TAIPEI, Taiwan — High-ranked national security officials painted a pessimistic picture of Taiwan’s cross-strait relations should Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) become president next year, local media revealed yesterday.
National security sources named two cross-strait policy areas that could see new challenges — whether existing and productive talks could carry on between Taiwan’s Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF, 海基會) and China’s Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits (ARATS, 海協會), and whether policies regulating Chinese travelers would see a change.
Sources say that the number of Chinese travelers would likely drop significantly with Tsai’s ascent to the presidency — contradicting what Tsai has predicted. She stated months ago that the number of mainland tourists traveling to Taiwan would not plummet if she were to win the presidential election.
Asked whether Taiwan would lose its 22 diplomatic allies with a Tsai victory, national security sources suggested that mainland China is unlikely to act initially, but once China begins converting Taiwan’s allies, it would lead to cross-strait relations crumbling.
Losing its very few allies would prove damaging for Taiwanese morale, sources stated and did not rule out the possibility of broken diplomatic ties should Tsai become president.
Due to the diplomatic truce between both sides of the Taiwan Strait, Taiwan’s foreign affairs budget has saved approximately NT$8 billion on assistance for allies in recent years. Sources stated that during the period in the past when both China and Taiwan attempted to lure potential allies under their banner, Taiwan’s attempt to buy allies to recognize it officially dented its international image.
Foreign affairs officials, according to the national security sources, expressed their relief at being able to maintain their dignity once they could finally say “no” to allies’ “unsuitable demands” after Ma Ying-jeou became president and forbade so-called dollar diplomacy.
However, the high-ranked officials admitted that the situation could change next year — officials stated that mainland China immediately denied its involvement in the Gambia-Taiwan rift in 2013.
What contributed to Taiwan’s swift cross-strait relations and foreign affairs recovery in the post Chen Shui-bian era was Ma’s acknowledgement of the “1992 Consensus,” which is an understanding that there is but one China, but both Taiwan and the mainland have a different interpretation of that understanding. This mended efforts and brought on discussions with former U.S. President George W. Bush and mainland China’s Hu Jintao, according to the national security sources.
At an investment summit panel, Tsai firmly stood by her cross-strait relations stance of “maintaining the status quo.” She has reiterated the much-battered statement and refused to mention the “1992 Consensus” to this day, despite mainland China’s repetitive warnings of unstable relations should Tsai fail to acknowledge the “1992 Consensus.”
Founder of the pan-green think tank Taiwan Brain Trust, Koo Kwang-ming (辜寬敏) backed up Tsai’s stance, and foresaw that her stance would prove positive for Taiwan. Koo stated he expects Taiwan’s foreign relations will see a new change, becoming more proactive in the future.
“Maintaining the status quo is the correct policy,” Tsai reaffirmed, stating that her stance was backed up by popular opinion. “That is a consensus of the Taiwanese people.”