Business leader Robert Tsao put out advertizements in three newspapers the other day, calling for a peace agreement with China. The China Post reports:

“If Taiwan adopts a cross-strait peaceful co-existence law, relations between the two sides of the Strait can begin to develop in the right direction,” said Tsao, who calls himself a “small ordinary citizen” in the front-page advertisement.

The new law alone will provide opportunities for both sides of the Taian Strait to trust and help each other, Tsao said. It will end the dispute over “one China” versus “one country on each side of the Strait,” he added.

There will be no more disputes over what is known as the “1992 Consensus” or the National Unification Guidelines, Tsao went on. “I believe,” he pointed out, “all the unnecessary disputes will end and the problem confronting the two sides of the Strait will be truly solved.”

How to go about it? he asks. First and foremost, the DPP has to give up any plan to conduct a referendum on independence for Taiwan, Tsao said.

“Then it should be declared that the Republic of China does not rule out the possibility of unification with the mainland (of China) with the proviso that a unification referendum has to be passed,” he stressed.

China should request that Taiwan hold the unification referendum.

Before the unification referendum is voted on, Tsao proposed, China has to clearly specify all conditions under which unification would take place, the purpose being to let the people of Taiwan know exactly how autonomous they will be, and make the right decision.

The silliness of this proposal is obvious — Taiwan can pass any laws it likes and take any action it pleases, but in the end only Beijing can choose to end its threats toward Taiwan. President Chen pointed this out in his usual forceful manner:

President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) criticized United Microelectronics Corp chairman Robert Tsao’s (曹興誠) “peaceful coexistence legislation” proposal yesterday, calling it a “Taiwan surrender act” and another version of China’s “Anti-Secession” Law.

“Everything he suggested is hypocritical if Tsao does not ask China to abandon its military intimidation of Taiwan, dismantle its missiles targeting Taiwan and relinquish the `one China’ principle,” Chen said.

The President rightly points out that far too many people who ask Taiwan to change its behavior, fail to ask China to right its course as well. KMT Presidential hopeful Ma Ying-jeou also dismissed Tsao:

Ma Ying-jeou said he appreciated Tsao’s proposal. “But,” he said, the Kuomintang has already set up a platform for dialogue.

“If I were elected,” Ma said, “I would have a peace agreement signed on one condition that China removes all the missiles targeting Taiwan. I’ll follow up with negotiations to usher in peace across the Strait.”

Frank Hsieh said he might act on the Tsao initiative, but ruled out the possibility of jointly proposing a peaceful co-existence law with his Kuomintang adversary.

Hsieh always acts to sound reasonable in contrast to President Chen’s more forceful rhetorical position. As I’ve continually pointed out, it is best to see the mechanism that Chen and Hsieh have constructed:


…as entirely a bit of political theatre which the DPP is using to make Hsieh look moderate. The Taipei Times ran an interesting editorial on cross-strait investment that fingered an interesting fact about Hsieh’s cross-strait policy: its vagueness. The whole editorial is worth reading, but I found this comment especially provoking. The author is discussing Hsieh’s concept of managing China investments on a case by case basis:

A closer look shows that its cleverness lies in the dynamic management of investment projects on a case-by-case basis, by which a committee or a small team will be formed to examine and decide on individual investment projects in China.

In other words, this mechanism would achieve both the goals of “active management” and “effective opening.”

Still, some parts of Hsieh’s proposal require clarifications.

How does his proposed committee, or small team, differ from the Ministry of Economic Affairs’ Investment Commission and how should their functions be separated?

When you think back to other Taiwan management mechanisms, such as the environmental impact assessment, which has no coercive mechanism and which has never blocked an investment, to the ease with which Taiwanese businesses circumvent other legal roadblocks, how effective can “case by case” management be? The answer is obvious, and Hsieh is likely aware of it, as are his listeners. What Hsieh is proposing is a fig leaf, and that is the way business will understand it.

UPDATE: Speaking of peace, the US announces a proposal for a large missile tech sale to Taiwan…

UPDATE II: Speaking of China’s effect on the local political economy, it recently announced that it will talk to Taiwan about resuming exports of sand to Taiwan, one of the materials that helps fuel Taiwan’s construction-based political economy and keep local factions healthy, wealthy, and wise-guy filled.