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K. Chang: Promoting Cross-Strait Peaceful Development

Speech given by Dr. King-yuh Chang
Cross-Strait Peace Consultative Conference
Hong Kong, November 26, 2016

Righteousness, Benefit, Sentiment:
The Way of Promoting the Cross-Strait Peaceful Development and Co-creating the Future of China


For the first time in the past 170 years, the Chinese nation is enjoying the greatest national security, international security and the overall peace situation, and playing a pivotal role in economic and trade development across the world and international relations. Although every country cannot ignore the external threats to security and needs proper preparation, in a globalized world it is more important to deepen current achievements and to transform them into the positive power improving global peace, security and development, in response to the common aspirations and real needs of mankind in pursuit of peace and development. In this context, cross-strait peace, cross-strait reconciliation, cross-strait harmony, the way of seeking cross-strait peaceful sustainable development and cooperation in the future, and the construction and establishment of cross-strait common homeland should be the common responsibility of both sides' authorities and civil societies.

Over the past 70 years, the cross-strait relations have had twists and turns, with war, confrontation, hatred and vilification; there have also been exchanges, cooperation and revelations of true sentiments, as well as competition and silent understanding in foreign affairs. From 2008 to 2015, the two sides signed a number of agreements to expand the exchange, including the organizations of a number of official forums, the official exchange of visits between two sides' government officials, and a formal meetings between leaders of the two sides at the third place. This stage can be said to be the most smooth period of development of cross-strait relations, but it is pity that the ultimate achievement of upgrading the cross-strait relations from the improved basis to a solid foundation of rule and politics law has failed, and the psychological sense of the unity of the people on both sides has not been really established. The results of local elections in Taiwan in 2014 and the presidential election and parliament elections in the Republic of China in 2016 showed that the Kuomintang's achievements in cross-strait affairs did not translate into the support of the Taiwan people for the ruling party. The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) won all the elections mentioned above and gained an advantage in the local governments, the central government and legislative department, threatening the foundation of cross-strait relations once again. The cross-strait relations are at a turbulent stage where the future is unpredictable.

What is worrying about this new stage is that there is now a stalemate due to the differences between the basic stances of the leaders of two sides of the Taiwan Strait, and the influence of international factors may increase. On the other hand, the Chinese people on the two sides of the Taiwan Strait are rooted in Chinese culture and belonged to Chinese nation in the past. Therefore, regardless of the political relationship between the two sides, the spiritual ties between the two sides remain the same. However, a series of events in [the past] two to three years has increased the sense of alienation among some groups on both sides of the Taiwan Strait. The agitated public opinion of the two sides has antagonized each other and destroyed the feelings of the people on both sides. It has also promoted the possibility of cross-strait confrontation, adding obstacles to the attempt to break the stalemate.

However, cross-strait relations are too important for the well-being of the people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait and for the security of the East Asian region. The cross-strait peaceful development is still the common aspiration of the people on both sides. How to rebuild the mutual trust between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait, and how to restore and strengthen the friendship between the people of the two sides remains an important issue for the future.

In this era of democracy, science and the masses, history is no longer written by only a handful of elites who enjoy power, and history must be written by the general public in practice. For the cross-strait relations and the future of the Chinese nation, we hope to write a history of peace; a history of cooperation; a history of integration; a history of upward movement and advancing together towards freedom, prosperity and justice.

The height of the field of vision determines the attitude, and the way of thinking leads the way out. Scholars and experts from mainland China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau are gathering here to discuss the peaceful development of cross-strait issues. [In these] opening remarks, I will put forward some opinions on the aspects of "righteousness," "benefits," "sentiment," "ideas," "value" and "institutions".                     


What is "righteousness"? Righteousness is reason and legitimacy. The development of cross-strait relations should at least meet the following principles of righteousness.

The first one is to protect and promote the freedom, dignity and well-being of the people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait. The direction and objective of cross-strait relations should be [this] on both sides, no matter how they change and what the outcome is. With this common goal, the two sides seeking common ground, while reserving differences, will have a solid foundation.

The second point: standing firm on the foundation of cross-strait constitution. The national shame suffered more than a hundred years ago reduced Taiwan and Penghu to Japanese colonies. The victory of the War of Resistance against Japan restored Taiwan and Penghu, but then the civil war caused the division between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait. The Constitution of the Republic of China that came into effect in 1947 and the different versions of the constitution that were adopted by the People's Republic of China, which was established in 1949, include the "one China" constitution. In other words, for the past 60 years, there have been two constitutional systems in China, each of them claiming to have sovereignty over China but being only able to effectively govern part of China as a whole. Both sides have a legitimate need to participate in international affairs, but the relationship between them is not the general one between "state" and "state" but the original internal relationship of different parts in a unified China.

The constitutional system is not only related to the position of cross-strait relations, but also related to cross-strait internal governance guidelines and the possible future trend of cross-strait relations. In fact, the gap between the philosophical thinking and the specific implementation of the two constitutional systems is very large, and it may take a long time to integrate them. However, there are still a number of similar programmatic norms in the two constitutional systems. For example, the two constitutions both mark the popular sovereignty or sovereignty of the people; both of them stress the respect for and protection of human rights, that all are equal before the law, and that the people shall have the freedom of speech; publication; assembly; association; procession and demonstrations, religious belief; the independence of the judiciary not subject to administrative interference. If we can gain a firm foothold in constitutional government and honestly and conscientiously implement these programs, the compatibility and integration of the constitutional systems of the two sides of the Taiwan Strait will greatly increase, and the cross-strait relations will be more stable.

The third: "Non-attack;" harmony is the best option, [with no] violence: the development of cross-strait relations is crucial to the well-being of the people on both sides of the strait, to the future of the Chinese nation and to the stability and prosperity of the entire East Asian region. The authorities and people on the both sides of the Taiwan Strait should reject considering using violence to solve problems. The two sides should pursue the greatest happiness for the greatest majority of people, and that can only be achieved through rejecting the thinking of using violence against violence, and allowing people on both sides to have a good chance to interact, cooperate and make peace with one another naturally and closely. Only by embodying the ancient Mohist percept of "non-attack" can the desired result of "indiscriminate love" and "mutual benefit," put forward by Mozi, can be achieved.

The fourth: building a consensus on peaceful development. The cross-strait relations should be peaceful and developing. Peace and development should become the consensus between the authorities and the people on both sides of the strait. Peace provides the basis for development and development in turn consolidates peace.

The concept of "和平" (peace) seems simple, but in fact its content is very rich. For the Chinese, "和" means ceasefire, coordination, moderate, harmony, intimacy etc., and may also include warmth, reconciliation, making peace and so on. "平" means easy, fair, equal, plain, balanced, stable and so on. To sum up, "和平" means harmony, coordination, mutual assistance, cooperation, and also signifies moving from a simple coexistence towards common creation and common development. Peace is a progressive version of non-violence, from co-existence through co-creation and from common development to common prosperity, and the foundation and guarantee of China’s dream and the world’s dream pursued by the people on both sides of Taiwan Strait.

Speaking of "benefit," we naturally emphasize the mutual benefit and common benefit from the development of cross-strait relations. This concept has multiple meanings. From the viewpoint of geopolitics and geo-economics, Taiwan is the southeastern protective screen for mainland China and the latter is the hinterland of the former's development. Because of the difference in the economic models and the economic scales, Taiwan and mainland China have strong complementary economies. They can unite to play a more active role in world economic development.

Certainly, mismanagement must be eliminated. This means that while the exchange, cooperation, mutual benefit, and reciprocal relationship between the both sides is deepened, good governance should be achieved. Mutual benefit and common benefit should be realized based on ethics, morality and laws, as well as completely prohibit criminal behavior and misconduct such as the falsification, deception, low standards, drugs, and so on—to allow market freedom and for social justice, to prevent individual benefit from gaining from the group benefit, and to prevent a short-term benefit from becoming a long-term harm. Encourage the people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait to start their own businesses, innovate and strive to get the public to share the fruits of their success. In addition, people's economic activities are not to be carried out at the expense of nature.

A model of good governance that takes into account both individuals and groups, both the short-term and long-term, both growth and distribution, both humanity and nature, and both unilateral and cross-strait relations will produce the highest level of "mutual benefit” and outcome and strongest guarantee of peaceful development of cross-strait relations.

The third point: I will talk about "sentiment." The so-called "sentiment" refers to the true feelings of the heart. For example, do the people on both sides develop feelings of solidarity and common destiny if the two sides of the Taiwan Strait belong to the Chinese nation? Do the two sides still regard each other with jealousy of each other's achievements and gloating over each other's misfortune? "Sentiment" should be aroused naturally, but it can also be increased or decreased artificially. The words and deeds of either side may bring warmth, friendship and understanding to the other side, and may bring anger, hostility and suspicion to the other side. In the long-term, the authorities and civil society on both sides should try to reshape the cross-strait "sentiment" rather than do anything that may harm the "sentiment" of people on the two sides of the Strait.

"Sentiment" cannot be separate from "righteousness" or "benefit." It not only can be the basis of "righteousness" and "benefit," but also can expand "righteousness" and "benefit." On the other hand, "sentiment" with no "righteousness" and "benefit" will disintegrate. The husband and wife will fall out, the family will be broken, and the nation will split. Therefore, "sentiment" can be aroused naturally, and must be established on righteousness, benefit, culture, social intercommunication, common values and common a vision. Then, "the greatest sentiment allows no grudge" can be really achieved. 


There is neither a specific medicine nor a panacea for the cross-strait problems and  cross-strait relations to be restored. The cross-strait problems have been caused by "persons" and only "persons" can solve them. Establishing a cross-strait relationship connected by "righteousness," "benefit" and "sentiment" is a fairly long-term political, economic and cultural project that the governments and civil societies on the two sides of the Taiwan Strait need to try hard to carry out together. The two sides should reconstruct the relevant ideas, values and systems to complete the project. I would like to give a brief description of this project.

From a conceptual standpoint, the key point in dealing with cross-strait relations is seeking truth from facts; that is, pragmatism with honesty. Regardless of the political stance of the authorities on both sides, for more than 60 years, a complete China has been divided by the Taiwan Strait. The handling of cross-strait affairs and the future of China as a whole must be carried out through congenial interaction between the authorities on both sides of the Taiwan Strait. The most basic principle of congenial interaction is equality and respect. This occurred frequently between 2008 and 2015. The two sides signed more than 20 agreements and the officials leading cross-strait affairs met on many occasions in mainland China and Taiwan, as well as officially at a third place. All this was a very good start. The two sides should strive to restore this congenial interaction based on equality and mutual respect, despite the difficulties [that exist] today.

In terms of philosophy, the second point in dealing with cross-strait relations is to recognize the complexity and historical depth of cross-strait relations. Fundamental problems should be solved through a gradualist approach, so that both sides can test each other's credibility and accumulate mutual trust. Certainly, personal issues between people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait should be solved with immediate and resolute action to enhance the confidence of people on both sides.

From a conceptual point of view, the third point in dealing with cross-strait relations is to try to be good with people, to seek the greatest common ground. There are contradictions and misunderstandings in the cross-strait relations, so mutual trust and common trust need to be established. If we can give up the struggle and confrontational thinking, and move toward the pursuit of the greatest consensus, with common historical origins, and for the common benefits of culture and reality, I believe that we will be able to significantly improve cross-strait relations over time.

Ideally, the fourth point in dealing with cross-strait relations is: when cross-strait authorities consider each other's relations, they should insist less on unnecessary political symbols, and do more things centered on people's value and well-being. People want cross-strait stability and prosperity, hoping this will strengthen exchanges and enhance mutual benefits and understanding. The policies made by cross-strait governments should not be contrary to people's desire.

From the viewpoint of values, benefits and values are highly relevant. After nearly 30 years of intensive exchanges between the two sides involving material interests, the two sides should also strengthen the exchange of "heart" such as exchange of culture, information and thinking. The values of the two sides determine the efficiency of the exchange of "heart," and the real exchange of "heart" must be achieved through the establishment of the same or common values. Taiwan emphasizes the values of traditional Chinese culture and the values of Western modern civilization, such as human rights, freedom, equality, democracy, the rule of law, and equal sharing of wealth. It is can be said that these core values are not at all contrary to mainland China's socialist core values, which include prosperity, democracy, civilization, harmony, freedom, equality, justice, the rule of law, patriotism, professional dedication, good faith, and friendliness. But the convergence of the values of the two sides does not mean that the two sides need to defend and practice these values in the same way and extent. Therefore, from now on, the cross-strait authorities and civil societies should make unremitting efforts to protect and realize these values as a standard for judging whether the cross-strait authorities are committed to democratic constitutionalism. When common values are safeguarded by both sides, the two sides can not only live in harmony, but also produce a solid sentiment of sharing fortune and misfortune, which lays the foundation for the natural integration.

It is necessary to establish institutions that can fully embody the peace, development, benefits and values of the two sides, as well as deal with the problems that will inevitably arise in the course of development. It is imperative that the authorities of the two sides work to restore the functions of the existing institutions, because a set of institutions is a predictable pattern of behavior. Otherwise, cross-strait relations will drift and compatriots on both sides of the Taiwan Strait will be at a loss as to what to do.

After strengthening the functions of existing institutions, the two sides can try to passively establish a mechanism of mutual trust in military, and actively set up coordinating committees in the areas of economy, science and technology, agriculture, education, culture, marine affairs and crime prevention. The experience of the integration of Western Europe after World War II can be a mirror.

IV: Conclusion

We are holding the Cross-Strait Peace Consultative Conference in Hong Kong today, and I believe every participant here has a very heavy heart. After years of ups and downs and exchanges over the past 30 years, the two sides have not been able to determine the overall situation of peaceful development, and may still fall into another stage of struggle—and even turn into a state of mutual hostility, which can only be regrettable and worrying. However, we cannot harbor worry and lose will. The future development of the Chinese nation and the future of cross-strait relations are closely related. We hope that the two sides of the Taiwan Strait can grasp the core of the political wisdom of the Chinese nation, the precept that "the people are the most important element in a nation; the spirits of the land and grain are the next; the sovereign is the lightest,” and the principles of "indiscriminate love," "non-attack," and "mutual benefit," to move from the establishment of ideas, value and institutions, to peaceful development and integration.