We can hope that the leadership in Beijing is well attuned enough to attitudes in Taiwan to realize that a lot more patience and understanding will be needed before the two incompatible societies can agree to some sort of merger. For one thing, the “easy” part in Taiwanese-Chinese relations is over; whatever comes next will involve much more friction and governments in Taiwan (DPP or KMT) that are a lot less amenable to giving Beijing what it wants. In other words, after 2016, whoever occupies the Presidential Office in Taipei will likely be more centrist and, therefore, much more frustrating to Beijing.
There is reason to be pessimistic: many foreign diplomats who have worked in Beijing have shared with this author their view that the CCP fares rather poorly when it comes to understanding, let alone brooking, different views and ways of life. This perception was reinforced by Beijing’s clumsy White Paper on “one country, two systems” for Hong Kong and even clumsier handling of its repercussions, not to mention the escalating crackdown in Xinjiang.
Given this, while every effort should be made to encourage the “peaceful” development of relations in the Taiwan Strait (without curtailing the rights of Taiwanese to maintain their way of life and determine their destiny), it wouldn’t hurt if Chinese hubris were met with clarity. However frustrating things might get in the future, Beijing must be made to understand that the military option simply isn’t an option.
J. Michael Cole is editor in chief of Thinking Taiwan, a senior non-resident fellow at the China Policy Institute, University of Nottingham, and an Associate researcher at the French Center for Research on Contemporary China (CEFC) in Taipei.
Image: Flickr/Official U.S. Navy/CC by 2.0