Remarks by Minister Zhang Zhijun
At the 5th World Peace Forum
Tsinghua University, 17 July 2016
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Good morning. It’s my great pleasure to attend the 5th World Peace Forum and to share with you some of my observations on the Taiwan question and the situation across the Taiwan Straits.
I. Origin of the Taiwan Question
To understand the Taiwan question, one should first of all know about two basic facts. First, Taiwan is an inalienable part of the Chinese territory. Second, the Taiwan question is an aftermath of China’s civil war and an internal affair of China.
The Chinese people were the first to develop Taiwan, and the ancestors of most of Taiwan residents today came from China’s mainland. Though subjected to colonial rule by foreign powers for some brief periods in the history, Taiwan has been under effective administration of the Chinese government for most of the time. Its last colonial rule was from 1895 to 1945. In April 1895, Japan threatened the government of the Qing Dynasty with force and made it sign the Treaty of Shimonoseki, through which Japan forcibly occupied Taiwan and set the stage for an all-out war of aggression against China in the 1930s and 1940s. In the Chinese people’s war against Japanese aggression, the Chinese government proclaimed in December 1941 that all treaties, conventions, agreements and contracts concerning relations between China and Japan were abrogated, and that China would recover “Taiwan, Penghu and the four north-eastern provinces”. China’s solemn demand of recovering its territories occupied by Japan won the respect and support of the world’s anti-fascist forces. The Cairo Declaration issued by the governments of China, the United States and Great Britain in December 1943 stated that all territories Japan had stolen from the Chinese, such as Manchuria, Taiwan and the Penghu Islands, shall be restored to China. This provision was confirmed and reiterated in the Potsdam Proclamation issued in July 1945. Japan’s surrender marked the end of 50 years of Japanese colonial rule over Taiwan and the return of Taiwan to China. Knowledge of this history makes it easy to understand that the legal status of Taiwan as an inalienable part of China cannot be denied or challenged.
Foreign friends who know about the history of the Chinese Communist Party (CPC) and the KMT will understand that the Taiwan question is an aftermath of China’s civil war. Not long after the victory of the war against Japanese aggression, the KMT ruling clique launched an all-out civil war. After it was defeated, the KMT retreated to Taiwan. In 1949, the People’s Republic of China was founded and its government replaced that of the Republic of China as the sole legal government of China and the sole legal representative of the entire China in international affairs. Preparations were made at the time for reunification of Taiwan with the motherland. However, the Korean War broke out in June 1950 and the US invaded the Taiwan Straits with its Seventh Fleet and forcibly obstructed the reunification of China. As a result, the solution of the civil war legacy was put off.
Since 1949, although the mainland and Taiwan are yet to be reunified, the fact that both sides belong to one and the same China does not change, neither does China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. There is only one China in the world, and Taiwan is an inalienable part of China. This proposition has been widely accepted by the overwhelming majority of countries and international organizations such as the United Nations. As China’s internal affair, the Taiwan question shall be settled by the Chinese people, and it brooks no intervention by external forces.
II. History of Cross-Straits Relations and Lessons Learnt
Since 1949, the cross-Straits relations have gone through twists and turns. The two sides were in military and political confrontation for a long period of time. Not until 1987 did compatriots on the two sides of the Straits break the isolation and start exchanges and interactions. In 1992, the two authorized institutions, Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits (ARATS) on the mainland and Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) on Taiwan, through negotiations in Hong Kong and exchange of letters and telegraphs, reached the consensus that “both sides across the Straits stick to the one China principle” and express it in their respective verbal wording. It has been referred to as the “1992 Consensus”, which laid the political foundation for the full development of cross-Straits relations.
As cross-Straits ties developed, the “Taiwan independence” forces constantly created troubles. In the 1990s, the then Taiwan leader Lee Teng-hui abandoned the one China principle, put forward the “state-to-state theory” and led to crises across the Straits. During the term of Chen Shui-bian of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) in Taiwan from 2000 to 2008, Chen constantly upgraded his “Taiwan independence” secessionist activities, and even plotted for “de jure independence” of Taiwan. Consequently, relations across the Straits were highly volatile and even pushed to the brink of war, and Chinese compatriots on the two sides suffered a lot.
In May 2008, the KMT regained power in Taiwan, and the two sides of the Taiwan Straits jointly confirmed their common political foundation of sticking to the “1992 Consensus” and opposing “Taiwan Independence”. The cross-Straits relations embarked on the path of peaceful development with historical changes in the relations.
Firstly, tensions and turbulence were replaced by peace and stability across the Straits.
Secondly, the two sides established political mutual trust, and leaders from both sides had a historic meeting. After establishment of the regular mechanism of contacts and communication between Taiwan Affairs Office and Mainland Affairs Council in 2014, CPC General Secretary and president Xi Jinping had a historic meeting with Taiwan leader Ma Ying-jeou in Singapore on 7 November 2015. The two leaders exchanged views and reached consensus on pushing forward peaceful development of cross-Straits relations and striving for national rejuvenation. The meeting demonstrated to the world that both sides across the Straits can address their own political divergence and maintain peace and stability through peaceful means based on the one China principle and the Chinese people across the Straits have the ability and wisdom to solve their own problems.
Thirdly, consultations between the two sides have made great progress. On the basis of the “1992 Consensus”, ARATS and SEF reopened their institutionalized consultations, which had been suspended for nearly 10 years. They held 11 consultations and signed 23 cooperation agreements, addressing many issues closely related to the interests of compatriots on both sides of the Straits.
Fourthly, abundant achievements have been made in economic cooperation. The two sides have signed and implemented the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA). Trade across the Straits has grown dramatically. In recent years, the trade volume has reached a historical high of US$ 190 billion. The mainland has become Taiwan’s largest trading partner, export market and origin of trade surplus.
Fifthly, personnel exchanges and cooperation in various fields have been enhanced. The number of travelers across the Straits surged to 9.86 million person-times in 2015, including 3.5 million mainland tourists to Taiwan. Exchanges in culture, education and religion and among youth and women have also developed vigorously.
Sixthly, through practical communications between the two sides, issues related to Taiwan’s participation in some international organizations have been addressed properly, thus reducing internal frictions between the two sides in international affairs.
Comparing the different scenarios in cross-Straits relations before and after 2008, we can learn a lot of useful lessons. The most important one is that the one China principle is the stability anchor of the cross-Straits relations. As long as we stick to this principle, steady development of cross-Straits relations can be achieved and peace and stability can be maintained across the Taiwan Straits. Deviation from this principle will bring tensions and even major turbulence to the cross-Straits relations. We have emphasized again and again the importance of the “1992 Consensus”. It is important because it embodies the one China principle, explicitly defines the fundamental nature of cross-Straits relations, which are not state-to-state relations. It answers the question of who are the two parties in cross-Straits relations and lays foundation for promoting exchanges and cooperation and solving the hard issues between the two sides of the Straits. It is the key to the abundant achievements in peaceful development of cross-Straits relations and peace and stability across the Taiwan Straits over the past eight years.
III. Current Situation of Cross-Straits Relations
The political situation of Taiwan has undergone major changes since the beginning of this year, which exerted important impact on the relations and situation across the Taiwan Straits. As a result, people are worried about the prospects of the relations.
The worries are not unfounded. DPP, a political party which sticks to its “Taiwan independence” stance, has come back to power in Taiwan. People remember clearly what had happened during its last administration, when it promoted the “Taiwan independence” policy and caused turbulence in the situation across the Straits, as well as its role after 2008, as an opposition party, in obstructing the cross-Straits relations.
Though the DPP leader stated the desire to promote peaceful and stable development of cross-Straits relations, she has remained ambiguous about the nature of cross-Straits relations, the fundamental issue that is of utmost concern to compatriots on both sides, and refused to clearly recognize the “1992 Consensus” and its core connotation that both sides of the Straits belong to one China. The political foundation for peaceful development of cross-Straits relations since 2008 is thus ruined.
From the policy statements and actions of the new Taiwan authorities, people also see the strategic orientation of weakening and severing the historical connections between Taiwan and the mainland in political, economic and cultural terms.
It is the acts of the new Taiwan authorities that have caused suspension of the institutionalized communication and consultation mechanism between the two sides, worsened the cross-Straits relations, negatively affected the progress of exchanges and cooperation in many fields, and added uncertainties and risks to the cross-Straits relations.
IV. Our General Policy toward Taiwan
As the cross-Straits relations get more complex and grim, many foreign friends pay closer attention to our attitude and general policy toward Taiwan. This year, CPC and state leaders of China have made important remarks on many occasions, stressing that our general policy toward Taiwan is clear and consistent, and it will not change with political changes in Taiwan. These remarks have demonstrated the strong resolution of the CPC, the Chinese government and the entire Chinese people to oppose “Taiwan independence” and safeguard the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. They have also demonstrated the sincere wish of the mainland to continue to maintain peaceful development of cross-Straits relations and safeguard peace and stability across the Taiwan Straits on the basis of the “1992 Consensus”. Hereby, I wish to emphasize the following three points.
First of all, we will continue to adhere to the political foundation which embodies the one China principle, so as to maintain and push forward peaceful development of cross-Straits relations and seek peaceful reunification of the motherland. Facts have proven that the peaceful development of cross-Straits relations based on the “1992 Consensus” is a correct path leading to peace and stability across the Straits, greater benefits for the compatriots on both sides and peaceful reunification of the motherland. We are ready to have exchanges and jointly promote peaceful development of cross-Straits relations with whichever political party or organization in Taiwan with whatever propositions in the past, as long as it admits to the historical fact of the “1992 Consensus” and agrees to the core connotation.
Second, we will resolutely safeguard state sovereignty and territorial integrity, oppose “Taiwan independence” secessionist acts of any form and thwart any attempt to split Taiwan from the motherland. With a vivid memory of the history of aggression and humiliation by foreign powers, the Chinese people are firmly determined and consistent in safeguarding national unity and opposing secessionism. In his speech at the ceremony marking the 95th anniversary of the founding of the CPC, General Secretary Xi Jinping reiterated the stance of opposing “Taiwan independence”, clearly setting out our bottom line. There was a long warm applause after his remarks, showing the common aspiration and determination of the entire Chinese nation. History will continue to prove that “Taiwan independence” is doomed to failure.
Third, we will continue to push forward exchanges and cooperation across the Straits in all fields to bring benefits to the people on both sides. Compatriots on the two sides are of one family and share the same roots and blood. We will continue to share development opportunities of the mainland with our Taiwan compatriots and promote economic and social integration of the two sides. We will try our best to do whatever things that can help enhance our ties and benefit the people, promote peaceful development of cross-Straits relations, and safeguard overall interests of the Chinese nation.
The direction of cross-Straits relations bears on the vital interests of people across the Straits and the future of the Chinese nation. No one in the world has stronger aspiration than we do for maintaining peace and stability across the Straits and peaceful development of cross-Straits relations. We will work unremittingly to this end. We hope that the international community and relevant countries will continue to stick to the one China policy and give their understanding and support to the just cause of the Chinese government and people of maintaining peace and stability, advancing peaceful development of cross-Straits relations and realizing reunification of China.
Thank you all!