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June 23, 2017

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Tsai should reconsider diplomatic strategy

To differentiate herself from President Ma Ying-jeou, President Tsai Ing-wen is trying to pursue her "four-noes" policy vis-a-vis the People's Republic of China. She wants no change in her decision to maintain the status quo across the Taiwan Strait, in extending Taiwan's "goodwill" to China, in Taipei's determination not to buckle under Chinese pressure and in her determination not to follow the already trodden old way of cross-strait confrontation. She wishes peace across the strait, cooperation between Taiwan and China and a joint effort to solve all the touchy problems in bilateral relations.

All this sounds fine. But she isn't an astute diplomat. If she were, she would have accepted the "1992 Consensus" in the first place. It's not at all hard to accept this unsigned tacit modus vivendi, under which both Taipei and Beijing agree that there is but one China, whose connotations can be orally and separately enunciated. The "one China" principle is Beijing's sine qua non for cross-strait relations. President Lee Teng-hui, who remains the don of Taiwan independence, managed to acknowledge it and his successor Chen Shui-bian once accepted it to improve relations across the trait. But to tell the truth, it's just lip service.

Can Taiwan resist Chinese economic pressure? Taiwan has been relying ever more heavily on China for economic growth. The pressure from across the strait is getting all the harder to resist, as China's economy grows.

Tsai promised to offer goodwill to China. But her right hand doesn't know what her left hand is doing. One shining example is her concessions to go along with Japan's Okinotorishima exclusive economic zone in exchange for Taiwan's fishing rights in the yet-to-be-internationally-recognized EEZ, which is larger in area than the whole of Japan, to anger China which insists that Okinotorishima is simply an atoll or a bunch of outcrops that deserve an EEZ.

Not to follow the old way President Chen Shui-bian took during his second term is the only promise from Tsai as a token of goodwill to Beijing, of course. In fact, however, she has begun to follow the old way.

On the other hand, Tsai seems to believe there is "some misuderstanding between the two sides and promises she will be patient but hopes the other side will unfold more wisdom." That means "I will wait until you become wise enough to understand my position."

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