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Sea spat can draw mainland and Taiwan closer

By Fu Qiang (Global Times)

10:50, July 11, 2012

Editor's Note:

China is entangled in territorial disputes in the South China Sea and elsewhere, and some are calling for joint efforts from the Chinese mainland and Taiwan. As a participant in the "five nations, six parties" involved in the South China Sea disputes, what role Taiwan could play? Will Taiwan cooperate with the mainland in the disputes in the South China Sea?

Maritime cooperation protects interests of all Chinese

Taiwan is strategically important in the South China Sea.

Southeast Asian nations are aware of this, and are concerned about the possibility of a team-up between the Chinese mainland and Taiwan on South China Sea disputes.

Actually, cooperation across the Taiwan Straits on the South China Sea disputes would not be an isolated event. It can also become key to the security cooperation across the Straits, a touchstone for the protection of national sovereignty, and a chance for Taiwanese leader Ma Ying-jeou to retrieve his popularity.

The Chinese mainland and Taiwan should work together to guard China's sovereignty in the South China Sea region.

In reality, Taiwan has to refer to US reactions when considering cooperation with the Chinese mainland. This is why Ma is quite passive when dealing with the South China Sea issue.

Some commentators have pointed out that Ma's diplomatic policy is pro-US, due to his education there, but not pro-Japan.

This has been reflected in his different attitudes on the South China Sea disputes and the Sino-Japanese dispute over Diaoyu Islands. He is quite passive on the former issue while holding strong views on the latter one.

Personally, I think Ma should not be timid in cooperating with the Chinese mainland on the South China Sea issues.

Official security cooperation between the mainland and Taiwan is going through difficulties currently. Due to the pressure Taiwan may receive from the US, Ma is not able to show clear support for the Chinese mainland on the South China Sea issue. But of course, he has other methods to back the mainland, and he can still express support.

Ma could initially begin to cooperate with the mainland economically. For instance, he could announce joint exploration programs between Taiwanese energy companies and mainland ones. This will be good for the future structure of cooperation across the Taiwan Straits.

Currently, Taiwan security bureau has not clarified its position on the South China Sea. But other economic and development official institutions, such as Taiwan's Council for Economic Planning and Development, can plan joint projects in collaboration with the Chinese mainland.

Through such methods, the Chinese mainland and Taiwan can begin to jointly exploit the gas and oil resources in the South China Sea.

In Ma's remaining term of office, he is expected to improve economic, educational, and social cooperation across the Straits. I believe he will also improve political and security cooperation after 2014, when the timing is more favorable.

The cooperation in the economic, cultural and social field can first act as a method for Taiwan and the Chinese mainland to sound out each other and contribute to the mutual trust. And political cooperation across the Taiwan Straits and then following cooperation in the security field will then be possible.

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