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Think more of Communication, but less of Mode

15:38, June 29, 2011

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By Li Hongmei

"One China, two governments" is a "Taiwan-made" mode for Cross-Strait ties in 1980s, which was then alien not only to the mainlanders but also to the Taiwanese. But when a mainland scholar, Chu Shulong from Tsinghua University, recently discussed with foreign media the decades-old idea of "one country, two governments," it set up a new wave of heated debates in both blue and green camps on the island.

Almost starting from 1970s, the terms of "the two nations theory," "one China, with different interpretations," or "one country, two systems" have keeping ringing in people's ears. Every once in a while, scholars and politicians will come up with new creative ideas or names to deal with the testy Cross-Strait political reality concerning how the two can accept each other's right to existence.

Calling mutual non--recognition a "dilemma and a pity," Professor Chu therefore proposed both sides accept and recognize each other as separate "central governments" within a "one China" framework - a move that he said would pave the way for more stable political relations.

Chu also added that if re-elected next year, the Taiwan leader Ma Ying-jeou would face "raised expectations" in Beijing for the start of political talks and the establishment of a long-term framework for peace, stability and development.

On the Taiwan side, however, legislators from both ruling party Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislators understandably and immediately rejected the idea of "One China, two governments", as they have long worried that Beijing would define itself as the "central government", and Taiwan would be "dwarfed" to be a "local government", if the "two governments" proposal were taken into account, even when they can fully accept "one China" idea.

Also there is a "middle way" that they might well take as a "reasonable explanation" of the current cross-strait situation: Both sides do not recognize each other's sovereignty but acknowledge each other's right to govern.

Twenty years has elapsed since the "1992 consensus" was accepted by both sides as the axis to position the Cross-Strait relations, whereby both sides agree that there is only one China and each side has its own interpretation of what one China means. The Chinese mainland insists on the "one country, two systems" model in handling its relations with Taiwan, a proposal first put forward by the Chinese late leader Deng Xiaoping, as part of Beijing's peaceful unification efforts in the early 1980s ahead of the scheduled return of Hong Kong and Macau.

It seems that there have been growing signs in recent days that Beijing could offer an updated version in this regard amid warming cross-strait ties and increased exchanges. The mainland is reaching to Taiwan with a more pragmatic approach of "economy goes before politics". But it appears that Taiwan would rather talk business only than touch political sphere.

As early as 1970s, experts and scholars from across the Taiwan Straits have all the way attempted to explore and devise ways to define the Cross-Strait relations, and some also suggested a certain mode should be first established and agreed upon by both.

But all that came about was before the historic "Three Links" and the signing of ECFA---- The Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement, which is a preferential trade agreement between the Chinese mainland and Taiwan that aims to reduce tariffs and commercial barriers between the two sides.

For as long as three or four decades, scholars have been busy creating assorted models or modes to accommodate the bumpy relations across the Straits. Also there are some experts like Shen Chun-shan, a retired academic in Taiwan and who actually coined the term of "one country, two governments" and proposed it to the mainland from 1990 through to 1992, and today, Professor Chu Shulong from Tsinghua University, who have been bent on coming up with a long-term and interactive framework to guide the Cross-Strait relations.

Unfortunately, the de facto political spectrum cannot be modified at will. And with the increasingly enhanced Cross-Strait communication and exchanges, the call for a mode to define the relationship between the two or the like can hardly strike a sympathetic chord among the people across the Straits.

On the contrary, if both sides have always been entangled in the tussles for a mode, the channel for communication could be blocked up, which is the last thing the people from across the Taiwan Straits would like to see.

Hu Shi (Hu Shih), the promoter of vernacular Chinese (baihua) as the modern literary language and well known to scholars of both sides, had a famous saying which resonates even today, that is---- "talk less of doctrines, but more of problems". It can also be echoed and applied to the current Cross-Straits situation, but should go like this----"think more of communication, but less of mode".

The articles in this column represent the author's views only. They do not represent opinions of People's Daily or People's Daily Online.

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About this column

Li Hongmei, editor and columnist of PD Online.


Li HongLi Hong

After 19 years working for China Daily and its website, Li Hong moved to english.people.com.cn in March 2009.

Li has been a reporter and column writer, mainly on China's economy and politics.

He was graduated from Beijing Foreign Studies University, and once studied in University of Hawaii and the Poynter Institute in Florida.

Dai MinJohn
Dai Min

John Milligan-Whyte and Dai Min, the executive producers and co-hosts of the Collaboration of Civilizations television series adapted by the eight books they wrote in the America-China Partnership Book Series published in English and Mandarin in 2009-2010 that created the "New School of America-China Relations." They founded the America-China Partnership Foundation and Forum in 2008 and the Center for American-China Partnership in 2005, which was recognized in 2009 as "the first American think tank to combine and integrate American and Chinese perspectives providing a complete answer for America and China's success in the 21st century."