Hsiao: Beijing's failed policy towards Taipei

The opposition on the island to the "one country, two systems" principle is transversal. The resumption of dialogue is also difficult on the basis of the "1992 consensus". For Xi Jinping, only the one-China formula applies. Taiwan risks becoming a pawn in the conflict between Beijing and Washington.


Taipei (AsiaNews) – "Beijing's policy towards Taipei is a failure," Russell Hsiao tells AsiaNews. According to the executive director of the Global Taiwan Institute, there is a consensus across the island to maintain the state of semi-independence. In fact, 66% of the inhabitants feel Taiwanese and not Chinese. For the analyst, the US will not end its support for Taiwan even with a change of administration.

Any Chinese attempt to restart dialogue with Taipei on the basis of the "one country, two systems" principle is doomed to failure, Russell Hsiao, executive director of the Global Taiwan Institute tells AsiaNews.

“It’s absolutely clear that opposition to Beijing’s 'one country, two systems' forms the bipartisan consensus on cross-Strait issues in Taiwan,” says Hsiao, commenting on the speech with which Tsai Ing-wen inaugurated her second term yesterday.

The Taiwanese president said she was ready for dialogue with China, while rejecting the formula "one country, two systems" that Chinese leaders are calling for to achieve unification between the mainland and the island.

Tsai, who has never recognized the one-China principle, is viewed as a pro-independence leader by the Beijing government. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) considers self-governing Taiwan a rebel province to be reunited with the mainland, by force if necessary.

Hsiao maintains that the CCP rhetoric and its actions make it highly unlikely that the two sides will come to agreement, not even on the basis of the so-called "1992 consensus" – a tacit agreement between the Kuomintang nationalists and the Chinese regime, in which both agree that Taiwan and China are part of a single nation, but everyone is free to decide what is meant by "China."

In a harsh speech delivered in January 2019, Chinese President Xi Jinping actually went beyond this understanding, stating that the one-China principle and the one country, two systems formula prevail in relations between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait.

According to Hsiao, it is significant that Tsai yesterday omitted all reference to the 1992 agreement, contrary to 2016, at the beginning of her first term.

The question now is whether Beijing will show creativity and flexibility by adjusting its policy towards Taipei.  Hsiao notes that after President Tsai’s election in 2016, Beijing appeared to have flirted with a more conciliatory approach. At the time, PRC Foreign Minister Wang Yi stated, with no reference to the 1992 consensus, that "Taiwan’s 'own constitution' provides that the island and the 'mainland' belong to one China" and expressed the hope that President Tsai would accept that constitutional provision "in her own way."

Tsai aims to increase Taiwan's international status, with the active help of the United States. However, many analysts believe Taipei may become a pawn in the power conflict between Washington and Beijing.

Hsiao does not rule out this scenario, given that there is no mutual defence treaty between the island and the United States (on the model of the US-Japan security pact), and Washington maintains a policy of strategic ambiguity over whether it would come to Taipei's defence. However, he recalls that the strengthening of relations between the United States and Taiwan began before the arrival of the Trump administration, and is likely to continue in the near future. The bipartisan approval of the Taiwan Travel Act and the Taipei Act by Congress demonstrates this.

"While the fundamental trajectory of US-Taiwan relations will likely remain unchanged by the upcoming US presidential elections, the pace of change and specific policy approaches will necessarily be affected in a change of administration," says Hsiao. A victory for the Democrats could however lead to a change in the political approach to individual problems.

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