Peace Agreement? Peace Treaty?
KMT Chairman and Taipei mayor Ma Ying-jeou caused a commotion about a fortnight ago in a Bloomberg interview when he claims that as president, he would reach an agreement with China that Taiwan would not to seek independence in exchange for a Chinese guarantee that it won’t attack Taiwan. The closest I came to finding the precise language he used were a Bloomberg news report and a video clip, both of which were found at www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=newsarchive&sid=aKmMwJfeOJZk The caption of the video used the term “Peace Treaty” while the article says “peace agreement”. Unfortunately, I was unable to find the transcript of the interview so I don’t know what Chairman Ma actually said.
Why care about the term he used? It is significant in international law. Only nation states can enter into treaties so if Chairman Ma used that word, the agreement he proposed with China is one between nations. On the other hand, an entity making an ‘agreement’ need not be a state. Since Chairman Ma has earned a doctorate in law from Harvard Law School, I was curious to know the term he actually used.
My guess is that the caption “Peace Treaty” was made by Bloomberg, whose technician would not know about such niceties in international law.
Just to whip a dead horse a bit more, had he proposed a peace treaty, China would never agree since their government considers Taiwan as a mere province not capable of entering into treaties. For this reason, China opposes Taiwan membership in international organizations where statehood is required.
What about a peace agreement? In the Bloomberg article, Chairman Ma was quoted as saying: “We have not really terminated the state of hostilities between the mainland and Taiwan.” He is half right. True, the state of hostilities has not been officially terminated. But, hostilities were not between Taiwan and the mainland. It was between the KMT and the CCP for control of the Chinese government. Taiwan had nothing to do with the hostilities. Taiwan became involved because the unofficially defeated KMT troops chose to retreat there to escape the unofficially victorious CCP troops.
Logically, a peace agreement to end the state of hostilities officially must be one of surrender by the KMT, acknowledging that it lost the Chinese civil war. Such an agreement makes the so-called 1992 consensus absurd.
The KMT’s assertion is that in 1992, both sides agree to a ‘one China’ principle that the mainland and Taiwan are part of the same country but each side has a different interpretation of that term. For the KMT, the ROC government is China. If a peace agreement is reached, its terms must be an acknowledgement that the KMT lost so upon entering into such an agreement, President Ma must immediately yield to the authority of the Beijing government and become a provincial leader.
Another problem with a peace agreement involves the positions of the parties. Is it one between equal governments or between superior and subordinate governments.
Under China’s version of one China, Taiwan is but a region under the Beijing government. A peace agreement must be between Beijing as central government and Taiwan as a subordinate regional government under its authority. Does Chairman Ma intend to admit to a subordinate position for the sake of concluding a peace agreement? After all, under the KMT’s one China, the ROC is China, not the PRC.
Realistically, neither side can accept the other side as superior for to do so is to acknowledge its own illegitimacy as a government. It is also unlikely that either side would agree to consider the other government as an equal regional government. But to treat the other side as such may imply that it is not a sovereign independent state. It is naïve to think that either side is willing to take this step.
Likewise, treating the other as an equal central government would mean that accepting the legitimacy of the other government officially and accepting the other as a sovereign independent state. If such is the case, the agreement should be a peace treaty instead of a peace agreement. Even Chairman Ma is not that naive.
Thus, practically, achieving a Ma peace agreement reflects a superficial understanding of the cross strait situation and the laws and customs governing relations among governments. Hey, isn’t that what Ma says about Premier Su Tseng-chang?