OP-ED: Is Double Ten a Deadline for President Tsai?

Photo Credit : REUTERS/達志影像
Why you need to know

Don’t hold your breath for a breakthrough in President Tsai’s cross-Strait policy on National Day.

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As Oct. 10 approaches, a growing chorus of voices has argued that Taiwan's National Day will be some sort of “deadline” for President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) to deliver something palatable to Beijing.

The notion that Double Ten marks a point in cross-Strait relations, beyond which President Tsai’s refusal to acknowledge the so-called 1992 consensus and “one China” would prompt further punitive measures by China, has been around for a while. Chinese participants at various conferences and other settings have mentioned it, followed, often quietly in small circles, by a number of Western academics with “insider” knowledge.

The problem with all this, however, is that it is highly unlikely that such a deadline ever existed in the first place. Instead, the notion was planted as a “meme” by pseudo-Chinese academics with close ties to Chinese Communist Party (CCP) propaganda organs and intelligence agencies. By dint of repetition and circular corroboration — a key sign of united front at work — the notion took a life of its own and became accepted gospel, regurgitated by academics, the media, and government officials. They have created “facts” out of nothing, and expectations where none should have existed.

The key objective of what ultimately constitutes a classic feat of information warfare is to pressure President Tsai into giving in to Beijing’s demand. Combined with equally misleading assessments by respected academics of the recent drop in Tsai’s support rate among the Taiwanese which draw a correlation between her dwindling numbers and Beijing’s efforts to turn the public against her, this false narrative seeks to portray President Tsai as the irresponsible party: Recognize the “1992 consensus” and “one China,” and cross-Strait relations will improve, as will your public support; fail to do so, and relations will sour, and the Taiwanese public will abandon you.

▶ See also: “For Taiwan, the Sun Doesn’t Rise and Set with China”

By combining those two memes, we now have a fiction that is meant to pressure President Tsai into yielding on Double Ten. President Tsai’s National Day address, however, is unlikely to contain anything beyond what she said in her inaugural speech on May 20 and will likely repeat her appeal to constructive engagement and dialogue. Thus, even if her she remains consistent in her commitment to peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait and to her democratic mandate, Double Ten will be perceived as a missed deadline, and those who subscribed to that fiction will be disappointed. President Tsai will have failed her “test,” and therefore will be regarded as an impediment to peace, which is how Beijing wants her administration to be seen within the international community.

Never mind that it is Beijing which has shown intransigence since May 20 by insisting on a “consensus” and “one China” principle that is not supported by the great majority of people in Taiwan, to whom Tsai is answerable, and that it is Beijing, not Taipei, that has refused to act creatively enough to maintain the dialogue despite the current impasse, even when some more sensible Chinese academics argue that the CCP should drop its insistence on the “1992 consensus” so that the relationship can move forward.

So if you’re outside the Presidential Office in Taipei on the morning of Oct. 10 or watch the ceremony on TV, don’t be disappointed if President Tsai doesn’t deliver the concessions that so many have come to expect, often without knowing where that idea came from in the first place. It’s a fiction, the product of Chinese political warfare, which like the devil thrives when it succeeds in convincing us that it doesn’t exist.

First Editor: Edward White
Second Editor: Olivia Yang

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