China senses failure to win over Taiwanese: ex-U.S. official

Washington, June 25 (CNA) China has sensed it has failed to win over the hearts and minds of people in Taiwan despite Beijing's economic clout and efforts to woo young Taiwanese talent, a former United States government official said Monday.

"You would think given trends in the region, that mainland China would have reasons to be supremely confident," said Thomas J. Christensen, former deputy assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs from 2007 to 2008.

But "they realize they have failed miserably in one persistent fashion, and it is that they have failed miserably to win over the hearts and minds of the Taiwan public, despite all the economic interaction, despite all the attraction of places like Shanghai," he said.

Christensen, who now teaches at Princeton University, was speaking at a seminar held by the Stimson Center in Washington to commemorate the late Alan D. Romberg, an expert in cross-strait relations, who died in March 2018.

At the seminar, Christensen said China has applied military, economic and diplomatic pressure against Taiwan, citing Beijing's poaching of some of Taiwan's remaining diplomatic allies in recent years.

Four of Taiwan's former allies -- Sao Tome and Principe, Panama, the Dominican Republic and Burkina Faso -- have switched recognition from Taipei to Beijing since President Tsai Ing-wen (???) took office in May 2016.

The former U.S. official said China has stubbornly refused to deal with Tsai's government in a high-level fashion because Tsai of the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) refuses to recognize the "1992 consensus."

The 1992 consensus refers to a tacit agreement reached between Taiwan and China in 1992 that there is only "one China" and each side is free to interpret what it means.

The DPP does not agree that such an agreement ever existed and rejects the formula on the grounds that it implies Taiwan is a part of China.

The ties across the Taiwan Strait have become "chilly" during Tsai's term after improving greatly under her predecessor Ma Ying-jeou (???) of the China-friendly Kuomintang (KMT), Christensen said.

But "unlike President Chen (Shui-bian, ???), President Tsai has been a very moderate advocate of her party's position and on cross-strait relations she has avoided provocations," he said.

"I personally think she has been a very fine leader. She has taken a very careful road, a very prudent road in forwarding Taiwan's interests," Christensen added.

The former U.S. official predicted 2020 could be a difficult year for Taiwan because whether Tsai wins reelection or the KMT adjusts its current China policy to try to win the election and the DPP goes more extreme, either scenario would dismay China.

In the wake of threats from China, Christensen raised concerns that Taiwan may not be fully prepared militarily to deter Beijing's potential use of force against Taiwan.

At the same seminar, Steve Goldstein, an associate of Harvard University's Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies and Director of the Taiwan Workshop, said Taiwan and China remain in a deadlock with few signs that either side will make a concession any time soon.

Under such circumstances, Goldstein said Taiwan should remain cautious and China should have patience to maintain the status quo.

Romberg had been the Distinguished Fellow and Director of the Stimson Center's East Asia Program, and he made significant contributions toward understanding U.S.-Taiwan, U.S.-China, and cross-Taiwan Strait relations in the U.S., according to the center.

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel