President Xi's proposal a pragmatic roadmap for reunification

China Plus Published: 2019-01-04 18:27:12
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Note: The following is an edited translation of an article from the Chinese-language "Commentaries on International Affairs."

At the beginning of the New Year, a commemoration was held in Beijing for the 40th anniversary of the "Message to Compatriots in Taiwan" issued by the National People's Congress. China's President Xi Jinping spoke about cross-Strait relations, stressing that China's reunification is the historical mission of the Communist Party of China, the government of China, and the Chinese people. He called on fellow Chinese people in Taiwan, on the mainland, and elsewhere in the world to explore "one country, two systems" as a way to reunify Taiwan with the mainland. He also urged them to adhere to the one-China principle, and proposed that Chinese people on both sides of the Straits advance the cause of peaceful reunification.

A nighttime view of Taipei, Taiwan. [File photo: VCG]

A nighttime view of Taipei, Taiwan. [File photo: VCG]

President Xi's proposals show that the Chinese mainland is willing to hold consultations on an equal basis with the people in Taiwan using a "one country, two systems" approach. And it is a sign of the mainland's willingness to deepen cross-Straits integration in the fields including economics, culture, medical care, and social security to create a broad space for peaceful reunification. At the same time, President Xi warned that no space will be left for separatist activities. The Taiwan question originated, he said, from national weakness and disorder, but it will definitely end with national rejuvenation.

The commemoration of the "Message to Compatriots in Taiwan" came shortly after China celebrated another 40th anniversary, that of the country's policy of reform and opening up. These four decades have seen tremendous change in China and its place in the world. It has become the home of the world's second largest economy, the holder of the world's largest foreign exchange reserves, and is the largest trading partner for more than 120 countries. And in recent years, it has contributed more than 30 percent of the growth in the global economy. As China returns to its place among the world's traditional major powers, the solution of the Taiwan question is naturally high on its national agenda.

During the eight years when Ma Ying-jeou governed Taiwan, the island's authorities recognized and abided by the 1992 Consensus, which holds that both sides of the Straits belong to the same China. At that time, cross-Straits relations were stable, and there were closely knit economic and trade ties. The city of Kaohsiung in southern Taiwan benefited from this state of affairs: Agricultural and fishery products were sold to the mainland, and mainland tourists flocked to Kaohsiung. Since the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), which has pursued a policy of secession, assumed power two years ago, things began to change. Because the DPP does not accept the "one China" principle, the political trust based on the 1992 Consensus was destroyed, and the city has suffered for it. Trade slowed for businesses in the city, the number of mainland tourists has fallen, and its bustling prosperity has greatly dimmed. And last year's elections for local officials in Taiwan hit the DPP hard, with 15 cities and counties on the island swinging to the Kuomintang. The DPP only held onto six cities and counties, as Kuomintang legislators won 19 elections for the heads of 22 county and city legislatures.

But the reality is, no matter who is in power in Taiwan, in the long run, Taiwan's development is inseparable from the development of the mainland. This is why President Xi said it was necessary to actively promote the institutionalization of cross-Straits economic cooperation and the building of a common market. With this as the goal, the two sides could, for example, build new links between Taiwan's Kinmen and Matsu islands and the mainland's coastal Fujian Province in the form of water, electricity, and gas supply lines, and through the building of bridges. Reunification will, to a certain extent, be a natural consequence from the ties brought about by this infrastructure.

In his five-point proposal, President Xi makes it clear that he believes the "one country, two systems" approach for Taiwan's reunification with the mainland is the best way forward. The political systems on the two sides are different, as are the systems in the mainland and Hong Kong and Macao. A unique "one country, two systems" approach to reunification across the Taiwan Straits would need to ensure that any agreement protects China's national sovereignty and security and at the same time respects the lifestyles, interests, and social systems enjoyed by the people in Taiwan.

Four decades ago, Taiwan's economic development far exceeded that of the Chinese mainland. Today, the mainland, with its growing political, economic, and military strength still has the aspiration, patience, and confidence for peaceful reunification with Taiwan. This is why President Xi mapped out his pragmatic plan for China's peaceful unification, and called for people on both sides of the Straits to grasp the opportunity to create a shared future together.

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LU Xiankun Professor LU Xiankun is Managing Director of LEDECO Geneva and Associate Partner of IDEAS Centre Geneva. He is Emeritus Professor of China Institute for WTO Studies of the University of International Business and Economics (UIBE) and Wuhan University (WHU) of China and visiting professor or senior research fellow of some other universities and think tanks in China and Europe. He also sits in management of some international business associations and companies, including as Senior Vice President of Shenzhen UEB Technology LTD., a leading e-commerce company of China. Previously, Mr. LU was senior official of Chinese Ministry of Commerce and senior diplomat posted in Europe, including in Geneva as Counsellor and Head of Division of the Permanent Mission of China to the WTO and in Brussels as Commercial Secretary of the Permanent Mission of China to the EU. Benjamin Cavender Benjamin Cavender is a Shanghai based consultant with more than 11 years of experience helping companies understand consumer behavior and develop go to market strategies for China. He is a frequent speaker on economic and consumer trends in China and is often featured on CNBC, Bloomberg, and Channel News Asia. Sara Hsu Sara Hsu is an associate professor from the State University of New York at New Paltz. She is a regular commentator on Chinese economy. Xu Qinduo Xu Qinduo is CRI's former chief correspondent to Washington DC, the United States. He works as the producer, host and commentator for TODAY, a flagship talk show on current affairs. Mr. Xu contributes regularly to English-language newspapers including Shenzhen Daily and Global Times as well as Chinese-language radio and TV services. Lin Shaowen A radio person, Mr. Lin Shaowen is strongly interested in international relations and Chinese politics. As China is quite often misunderstood in the rest of the world, he feels the need to better present the true picture of the country, the policies and meanings. So he talks a lot and is often seen debating. Then friends find a critical Lin Shaowen criticizing and criticized. George N. Tzogopoulos Dr George N. Tzogopoulos is an expert in media and politics/international relations as well as Chinese affairs. He is Senior Research Fellow at the Centre International de Européenne (CIFE) and Visiting Lecturer at the European Institute affiliated with it and is teaching international relations at the Department of Law of the Democritus University of Thrace. George is the author of two books: US Foreign Policy in the European Media: Framing the Rise and Fall of Neoconservatism (IB TAURIS) and The Greek Crisis in the Media: Stereotyping in the International Press (Ashgate) as well as the founder of, an institutional partner of CRI Greek. David Morris David Morris is the Pacific Islands Trade and Investment Commissioner in China, a former Australian diplomat and senior political adviser. Harvey Dzodin After a distinguished career in the US government and American media Dr. Harvey Dzodin is now a Beijing-based freelance columnist for several media outlets. While living in Beijing, he has published over 200 columns with an emphasis on arts, culture and the Belt & Road initiative. He is also a sought-after speaker and advisor in China and abroad. He currently serves as Nonresident Research Fellow of the think tank Center for China and Globalization and Senior Advisor of Tsinghua University National Image Research Center specializing in city branding. Dr. Dzodin was a political appointee of President Jimmy Carter and served as lawyer to a presidential commission. Upon the nomination of the White House and the US State Department he served at the United Nations Office in Vienna, Austria. He was Director and Vice President of the ABC Television in New York for more than two decades.