TIAN Feilong: Han’s “Mainland Landing”: A Soft or Hard One?

LAI Pui Man: Promoting and Constructing the Identity of National Citizenship
May 8, 2020
KAM Man Fung: The Catch-all Party: A Good Solution for Hong Kong?
May 8, 2020

 

Mr. Han Kuo-yu, the mayor of Kaohsiung in Taiwan, finally visited in Mainland China. He did not visit the Mainland shortly after his election victory, nor did he follow a Kuomintang (KMT) delegation. He went as the Kaohsiung mayor, focused on promoting economic development of the second largest city of Taiwan, and avoided political discussions altogether. Yet, his landmark visit to meet Mr. Wang Zhimin, Director of the Central Government’s Liaison Office, represented a calculated move with political risks and benefits. He undoubtedly believed that one day he would meet the top officials of Mainland China and this move could be seen as the first of a series of contacts. Although he was criticized by the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) in Taiwan, as long as his actions will better serve the people of Kaohsiung and boost Taiwan’s economy, the over-political criticisms will eventually dissipate and voters will reward him in the next election.

 

Interestingly, during Han’s visit to Hong Kong, politicians from the opposition camp, including Mrs. Anson Chan and representatives of the Civic Party in Hong Kong, made a visit to the US They tried to seek help from the United States Security Council as well as Vice President Mike Pence. Politicians should meet the right people and do the right thing at such critical moments. However, this politically naïve move was in stark contrast with Han’s visit to Hong Kong. People like Joshua Wong and the New Power Party of Taiwan both accused Han of “being co-opted” and “endorsing One Country, Two Systems”; they were still trapped by ideological discourse. In contrast, Han did not respond directly to the discourse of “One Country, Two Systems”. He cannot avoid the debate indefinitely and needs wisdom to defuse the criticisms.

 

 

The purpose of Han’s trip was to facilitate the economy and fulfil his election promises. He viewed his trip to Hong Kong as an “economic journey”, which attempted to bring cross-strait relations back to the locus of “peaceful development”, which prevailed before the DPP seized power in 2016. It also represented a reconstruction of the KMT’s cross-strait economic policies. Han understands the crux of the problem in Taiwan and knows that by boosting its economy he will make breakthroughs for the relationship across the straits. He also generated a new mode of interaction between Taiwan and Mainland China by focusing on Chinese cities and counties. The achievement in his trip to Hong Kong was well beyond expectations, indicating that the basis for economic interaction between Taiwan and Hong Kong is strong. Coupled with supportive policies from Mainland China, Kaohsiung’s economy may soar rapidly and the common interests among Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Mainland China may be achieved more efficiently. As a result, Kaohsiung would set a good example for Taiwan’s economy in getting rid of stagnation.

 

By focusing on the agreement and cooperation at the economic level, Han Kuo-yu fulfilled his election promises, enhanced welfare for the public, and handled the cross-strait relationship with high political integrity and in an objective and rational manner. Taiwan residents highly regard him, which will further raise his level of political support for his future endeavours.

 

The second highlight of his visit was meeting with Wang Zhimin, the director of the Liaison Office of the Central government in Hong Kong. His meeting with both Carrie Lam and Wang Zhimin indicated his accurate understanding of the “One Country, Two Systems” policy. He also had a clear mind on how the Kaohsiung’s economy could fit into the larger picture of Mainland China under the framework of “One Country, Two Systems”. Hong Kong will seize greater development opportunities under the concept of the Great Bay Area (GBA). Consequently, Kaohsiung could hardly refuse to fit into the large picture of GBA with his emphasis on the interactions between Taiwan and Hong Kong. Meeting with Wang Zhimin could help Kaohsiung integrate into the GBA and further boost the city’s economy.

 

Han Kuo-yu is a hot candidate for the 2020 Taiwan Election. His meeting with Wang assisted in building trust with government officers across the strait at an early stage. It also enabled him to accumulate political resources for his own future career and to handle the sensitive cross-strait relationship in the future. Despite widespread criticisms and scepticism in Taiwan, Han demonstrated his political commitment and ethics by communicating with Mainland officials.

 

Han Kuo-yu was perceived to be too courageous in facing the Mainland and of “One Country, Two Systems”; he faced inevitable attacks from the opposition parties in both Taiwan and Hong Kong. Some of typical attacks included Joshua Wong discrediting the “One Country, Two Systems” and Han Kuo-yu’s position statement, and Taiwan’s New Power Party dismissing the “endorsement of One Country, Two Systems”. Joshua Wong is the representative of the youth league of the opposition camp in Hong Kong and regarded as the symbol of the anti-national education movement, umbrella movement, as well as the Hong Kong independence movement. His understanding of “One Country, Two Systems” neither conforms to the Chinese Constitution nor the Basic Law, and it does not serve the basic interests of the people of Hong Kong. Though his voice does not represent the majority of public opinion in Hong Kong, it does reflect the position and intention of some members of the opposite camp. For the New Power Party, which is a legacy of the Sunflower Movement in Taiwan, it shares common ground as well as a background with Joshua Wong on the misinterpretation and resistance to “One Country, Two Systems”.

 

Han’s “economics only” strategy is political and conforms to his political ethics. He is the leader of Kaohsiung, but not of Taiwan, and thus lacks the political mandate to speak directly on the cross-strait relationship. It is difficult for him to make real breakthroughs in politics but this does not mean he does not have a political creed or political stance for the relationship across the straits. Upon careful observation and judgment on his words and deeds, we can see that Han Kuo-yu fully supports the “1992 Consensus”, but holds an open stance on the “One Country, Two Systems”, though he has yet to formulate a specific and systematic policy framework on the latter. His meeting with Wang does not imply his acceptance of the “One Country, Two Systems” strategy for Taiwan, but it demonstrates his intention to actively understand it. He views the official status of Mainland China and its economic achievements in a rational manner.

 

The voices of opposition indicate that the recognition and acceptance of the “One Country, Two Systems” requires sustained promotional efforts. It calls for more systematic and accurate illustrations on the rationale behind “One Country, Two Systems”, as well as its relevant policies. Kaohsiung’s attempt in fitting into the framework of “One Country, Two Systems” through interacting and cooperating with Hong Kong, Macao, Shenzhen, and Xiamen may serve to overcome the over-sensitive mentality among Taiwanese of “being co-opted”. This will help rebuild trust across the straits, with the aim of reaching a peaceful development and ultimate unification. Mr. Ma Ying-jeou, the former leader of Taiwan, once proposed the principle of “peaceful process and democratic means” to reach cross-strait unification. Han Kuo-yu has already put this principle into practice.

 

Han Kuo-yu’s visit to Hong Kong has broken the ice for the relationship across the straits under the rule of the Democratic Progressive Party. With the realization of economic dividends and its social benefits, the “Kaohsiung Model” will affect other regions under the governance of KMT. The “mild green” regions under the DPP may also follow suit. Kaohsiung could leverage a peaceful relationship across the straits and become a turnaround factor for Taiwan’s 2020Election, with Han Kuo-yu serving as a fulcrum. Understanding Han Kuo-yu’s style and his shaping of the political order in Taiwan is critical in order to forecast the prospects of political trends in Taiwan as well as cross-strait relationships. It also serves as a focal point for the formulation of details for Taiwan package of “One Country, Two Systems” and positive interaction across straits.

From Henry Ho & Gordon Lam (ed.) A Debate of Two Systems, p.65

Original from:Forum page, Ming Po.