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Sea spat can draw mainland and Taiwan closer (2)

By Fu Qiang (Global Times)

10:56, July 11, 2012

This process may not be smooth but constant efforts should be made by both Taiwan and the Chinese mainland in order to protect Chinese territory for future generations.

The article was compiled by Global Times reporter Fu Qiang based on an interview with Li Fei, deputy director of Taiwan Research Institute at Xiamen University. [email protected]

Taiwanese public has mixed feelings on sea disputes

Taiwan is at an important point to make strategic shifts.

In the old days, many Taiwanese felt isolated from the international community and a lack of sense of security. As a result, reliance on the US, especially in security, was the sole option political leaders in Taiwan could choose. However, as the relation across the Taiwan Straits has been improved these years, I see another option for Taiwan political leaders in the security field, to cooperate with the Chinese mainland.

This potential policy shift can be reflected by Taiwan's stance on the South China Sea issue. In June, the US noted that Taiwan is being "very, very careful" on the issue after a joint seminar in Washington, according to a spokesperson from the State Department. But actually, Taiwan evaluates this issue from its own perspective and decides its policy on this issue independently from the US.

Taiwan and Chinese mainland's interests overlap on the South China Sea issue. However, there are both supporting factors and obstacles in Taiwan's cooperation with the Chinese mainland.

The most influential supporting factor is Taiwan's control over Taiping Island. Vietnam has seized many islands in the South China Sea in recent years. But Taiwan began to engage in many islands much earlier. Among the islands controlled by Taiwan, Taiping Island holds a significant key position.

Due to the tough natural environment of most islands in the South China Sea, many of them are not fit for human inhabitants. Taiping Island, as the only island with fresh water resource, is a critical location.

Obstacles, on the other hand, include the Taiwanese people and the political leaders' negative attitude on the South China Sea issue and the political relations across the Taiwan Straits.

Taiwan's diplomatic isolation makes many people in Taiwan quite negative on the South China Sea issue.

During the process of Taiwan's democratization, many groups in Taiwan begin to shape a democratic spirit and a more localized social identity. As well as public attitudes varying, different political parties in Taiwan may have various opinions on the South China Sea disputes, based on their own interests.

The ruling party, the Kuomintang, may aim for achievements in the South China Sea issue on the international stage given permissive condition. So there's a possibility for the Communist Party of China (CPC) and the Kuomintang to collaborate on this issue in the future. However, the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) might not be willing to see this change.

Tighter cooperation across the Straits may lead to the DPP's declining popularity. In addition, if the CPC and Kuomintang are able to make rapid progress on the South China Sea issue, the opportunity and space for the DPP to bring in new policies and concepts in the same issue will be reduced.

Chinese mainland should take a leading role to promote cooperation across the Straits on the South China Sea issue. Though political cooperation on the South China Sea issue is temporarily impossible, economic and academic cooperation should be encouraged anyway.

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