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May 29, 2017

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Unification or integration for Taiwan and China?

Tsai Eng-meng, chairman of Want Want Holdings, broached a new idea to bring peace and prosperity to both sides of the Taiwan Strait earlier this month. At the fifth Peace and Prosperity Forum his Want Daily organized in Taipei, he said Taiwan and China should issue a joint "statement of reconciliation" to pave the way for "cross-strait integration" that will create a win-win situation for both sides.

Mr. Tsai suggested integration (融一) as a term more likely to find acceptance among the people of Taiwan than unification (統一). So is the statement of reconciliation the peace accord Lien Chan, former chairman of the Kuomintang, promised with his Chinese Communist counterpart Hu Jintao, who doubled as Chinese president, broached in Beijing in 2005 to work toward signing at the earliest possible date.

The difference is only nominal. That is why both official Taipei and Beijing threw cold water on the Tsai suggestion. The Mainland Affairs Council described the suggestion as borne out of his long dealings in mainland China and reiterated the government's policy of maintaining the status quo of no unification, no independence and no use of force.

Beijing's stance is crystal clear. China wants nothing but unification, albeit Beijing leaders know it will take a long time to achieve.

Perhaps Mr. Tsai, the Forbes-named richest man in Taiwan who built his rice cracker empire by renaming the "Wan Wan Senbei" (旺旺煎餅) of Japan's Ishitsuka Confectionery Company "Want Want" (旺旺), thought the changing of the terms would work wonders and bring peace and prosperity to the two sides of the strait as rebranding worked wonders for his empire-building. Incidentally, "Wan Wan" is Japanese onomatopoeia for the bowwow of a dog.

What Mr. Tsai actually suggested is that Taipei and Beijing shelve the dispute over political unification to expedite cross-strait economic integration to usher in peace and prosperity. The suggestion is a superbly sound one, if he could come up with a better slogan rather than merely renaming unification and the peace accord.

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