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Cablegate: Academic Talks Set Milestone in Cross-Strait

VZCZCXRO7821
PP RUEHCN RUEHGH
DE RUEHIN #1398/01 3290407
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 250407Z NOV 09
FM AIT TAIPEI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 2807
INFO RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING PRIORITY 9534
RUEHUL/AMEMBASSY SEOUL PRIORITY 0358
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO PRIORITY 0892
RUEHCN/AMCONSUL CHENGDU PRIORITY 3231
RUEHGZ/AMCONSUL GUANGZHOU PRIORITY 0370
RUEHHK/AMCONSUL HONG KONG PRIORITY 0931
RUEHGH/AMCONSUL SHANGHAI PRIORITY 2680
RUEHSH/AMCONSUL SHENYANG PRIORITY 7174
RHMFISS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHEHAAA/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC PRIORITY
RHHMUNA/USPACOM HONOLULU HI PRIORITY

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 TAIPEI 001398

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/25/2019
TAGS: MARR PGOV PM PREL TW CH
SUBJECT: ACADEMIC TALKS SET MILESTONE IN CROSS-STRAIT
POLITICAL DIALOGUE

REF: A. BEIJING 3111
B. ZARING-BIERS E-MAIL

Classified By: AIT Director Bill Stanton for Reasons 1.4 b/d

1. (C) Summary: A November 13-14 conference in Taipei on
cross-Strait relations marked a milestone in PRC-Taiwan
political discussions. The PRC delegation, which included
distinguished academics and retired senior People's
Liberation Army (PLA) officers, was the highest-profile group
from the Mainland to have visited Taiwan to discuss the
cross-Strait political situation. Although the conference
highlighted fundamental differences in approaches to
political and security talks and portended the long and
difficult process before such talks could formally take
place, it nonetheless represented an important initial step.
End Summary.

Unprecedented Conference
------------------------

2. (C) PolOff attended the November 13-14 "Cross-Strait at 60
Years" conference hosted by the Pacific Cultural Foundation,
which is affiliated with the ruling Kuomintang (KMT) party.
The 28 Chinese academics, former party officials, and retired
military officers were the highest-profile group ever to
visit Taiwan to discuss sensitive cross-Strait issues such as
a peace accord and military confidence building measures.
The PRC delegation was led by Zheng Bijian, Vice President
emeritus of the Central Party School in Beijing, founder of
the China Reform Forum, developer of the "Peaceful Rise"
theory of China's development, and formerly very influential
in foreign policy circles. Taiwan academics and media
analysts noted the unprecedented level of attendance and
speculated that the conference marked the de facto start of
Track Two talks that could lay the foundation, eventually,
for formal political and security discussion between Taipei
and Beijing. According to Taiwan scholars who took part in
the conference, PRC academics were already pushing to
schedule a follow-on session, beginning on December 18 in
Shanghai.

3. (C) In Beijing, Taiwan Affairs Office Spokesman Yang Yi
commented that, while unofficial in nature, the meeting held
"positive significance" for cross Strait relations (Ref A).
Chinese Academy of Social Sciences Senior Fellow Xu Shiquan
remarked to Embassy PolOff on the high level of the PRC
group, but portrayed the delegation as a one-off event and
"not an official track two meeting." PRC media coverage of
the meeting has been light (Ref B).

United Front Effort
-------------------

4. (SBU) The PRC delegates' united front effort to convince
Taiwan of the virtues of unification was in full force at the
conference. The PRC delegates repeatedly highlighted the
ethnic, cultural and linguistic ties between the two sides,
arguing that, but for foreign intervention since the mid-19th
century, the Chinese nation would have been whole long ago.
The PRC delegation also argued that, while Beijing was
against Taiwan independence, it did not oppose a Taiwan
identity that existed within a one-China framework. Taiwan
participants, most of whom supported the KMT and not the
independence-minded opposition Democratic Progressive Party
(DPP), also agreed there was but one China of which Taiwan
was a part, but disagreed that the PRC government represented
all of China. Nevertheless, Taiwan scholars who took part in
the conference told AIT Chairman Ray Burghardt during a
November 24 conversation that the PRC delegates were taken
aback even by the views of the pro-KMT Taiwan participants.
Suchow University professor Lo Zhih-cheng (who was not
invited to attend) told Burghardt that when DPP-leaning
"greens" such as himself entered the conversation, progress
would be even more difficult.

1992 Consensus Not a Consensus

TAIPEI 00001398 002 OF 003


------------------------------

5. (SBU) Following the opening plenary session, conferees
divided into sub-groups to discuss political, economic,
cultural, and security issues. While there was general
agreement on the way forward in the cultural and economic
realm (e.g., increasing cross-Strait cultural exchanges,
signing more economic agreements), discussions on political
and security issues were contentious.

6. (SBU) For example, the PRC delegation argued for the need
to first pen a peace accord to serve as a framework for
future political negotiations. While the PRC representatives
were conciliatory about the formal names used to refer to the
PRC and Taiwan, they were clear that any accord would have to
conform to Beijing's One China principle and, by implication,
recognize Beijing as the national authority. While Taiwan
participants agreed there was only one China of which Taiwan
was a part, they stressed that the China in question was the
Republic of China (ROC) -- the name used by the government on
Taiwan -- and not the People's Republic of China. They also
argued that a peace accord should be the goal of, not a
precondition for, negotiations. In addition, two Taiwan
academics highlighted the need for public participation by
the people of Taiwan, who, according to opinion polls, are
overwhelmingly wary of reunification, in deciding the future
of cross-Strait political talks. In a November 24 discussion
with AIT Chairman Ray Burghardt, Taiwan-based cross-Strait
scholars Alexander Huang, George Tsai and Wu Ray-kuo, all of
whom took part in the conference, agreed that the two sides
appeared to approach political discussions from diametrically
opposed directions.

Not In My Back Yard
-------------------

7. (SBU) In discussing cross-Strait security issues and
confidence building, the PRC delegation again cited foreign
interference and interventions in Chinese affairs dating back
to the Opium War as the source of cross-Strait tension.
Former People's Liberation Army generals expressed their
belief that the two sides could collaborate on a variety of
confidence-building measures, including search-and-rescue
efforts and joint development projects in the East and South
China Seas. The generals further stated that the two sides
could resolve existing maritime and territorial issues
without interference from the United States or Japan. In
fact, they argued, as both sides became more comfortable with
one another there would be no need for the United States to
be involved in the Western Pacific at all. Asked about PRC
ballistic missiles targeting Taiwan and the PRC's
unwillingness to renounce the use for force, the Mainland
participants stressed there should be no preconditions for
security talks since everything was negotiable. In fact, the
generals described those two items as important tools to use
for leverage against pro-independence advocates on Taiwan.
Tamkang University professor Alexander Huang recounted a PRC
general's comment that Taiwan's ability to rely on the United
States for its security would become impractical as China's
military capabilities increased. In the future, the general
argued, Taiwan's only security guarantee would be
reunification. Throughout the conference, the otherwise
generally amiable PRC participants harshly rejected Taiwan
independence, insisting the movement had no future. This, in
turn, led to considerable negative commentary in the Taiwan
media.

Comment: Long and Difficult Process
-----------------------------------

8. (C) Taiwan had been planning this conference for some time
but seemed to have gotten nervous about how it would be
perceived after it actually opened. During a November 23
meeting with AIT Chairman Burghardt (septel), Mainland
Affairs Council Chair Lai Shin-yuan said groundwork for the
conference was prepared over the last eight months. It took
some time, however, before the PRC finally granted permission

TAIPEI 00001398 003 OF 003


to senior mainland military officials to come. On November
12, NSC Secretary General Su Chi called the Director to
downplay any official role by Taiwan authorities in either
sponsoring or organizing the event and asked U.S. observers
not to read too much into it. In a November 24 meeting with
AIT Chairman Burghardt (septel), however, President Ma
revealed that he had paid attention to the proceedings,
citing comments made by PRC participants at this conference
as evidence that Beijing was impatient to accelerate the pace
of political dialogue.

9. (C) During her November 23 meeting with Burghardt, Lai
volunteered that she had invited the PRC delegates to dinner
following the conference "just to hear what they had to say."
She commented that the dinner participants were more
moderate than they had been in their public statements at the
conference, quoting them as saying they understood they had
to respect different views and would welcome more DPP
participants in future discussions. Lai's comments
reinforced the views of other Taiwan cross-Strait experts
that the conference was a milestone in PRC-Taiwan relations,
bringing an unprecedentedly senior delegation of former PRC
officials from the diplomatic, government and military
spheres to Taiwan to hold talks with their counterparts.
While neither side officially recognized the meetings as the
start of a process the would lead to official political
talks, the conference had all the hallmarks of such an event,
including significant Taiwan media coverage.

10. (C) The conference, however, showed that a long and
difficult process remains before both sides agree to formal
political talks. Fundamental differences between Taiwan and
the Mainland over how such talks should be structured (i.e.
is a peace accord a precursor to talks or their final goal?)
and a lack of consensus among Taiwan's population on whether
and how to proceed with political negotiations are just two
sticking points. They explain why the Presidential Office in
Taipei issued an official statement on November 15
reiterating President Ma Ying-jeou's position that there is
no timetable for negotiations on political issues and that
improving economic ties should come first.

11. (C) With his economic opening attacked by critics who
believe it will increase PRC leverage in pressing for
reunification, Ma can be expected to continue to move
cautiously on the political front. Although Ma has not ruled
out meeting PRC President Hu Jintao, most analysts think such
a summit would come only after Ma is re-elected. While the
cross-Strait conference does not make a meeting more likely
in the near term, it is the first of many necessary steps
that could ultimately pave the way for a PRC-Taiwan summit.
STANTON

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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