"Hold your fist tight, you grasp nothing inside. Open your hand, you will have the sky on you palm." (把手握紧，里面什么也没有，把手放开，你将拥有一切)
I think this line bears strong connection to the Taoist view of philosophy (Li Mubai is a Taoist), and probably the Buddhist view as well. One of the concepts in Taoism is to "use tenderness to defeat the hard and strong" (以柔克刚), which has later become the core concept for a branch of Kung Fu called Tai Chi Chuan (太极拳), as you might have seen in the exercise between Beatrice Kiddo and Pai-mei in Kill Bill 2. An analogy is "to wear away rock with water", though I think a better metaphor will be "to dissolve a crystal with water".
- "What is in the end to be shrunk must first be stretched. Whatever is to be weakened must begin by being made strong. What is to be overthrown must begin by being set up. He who would be a taker must begin as a giver. This is called “dimming” one's light. It is thus that the soft overcomes the hard. And the weak, the strong.“It is best to leave the fish down in his pool; Best to leave the State's sharpest weapons where none can see them.” - Dao De Jing, Lao Zi, Chapter 36
- "将欲歙之，必固张之;将欲弱之，必固强之;将俗废之，必固兴之;将欲夺之，必固与之。是谓徵明。柔弱胜刚强。鱼不可脱于渊，国之利器不可以示人." - 《老子》第三十六章
- "Nothing under heaven is softer or more yielding than water; but when it attacks things hard and resistant there is not one of them that can prevail. For they can find no way of altering it.That the yielding conquers the resistant and the soft conquers the hard is a fact known by all men, yet utilized by none."- Dao De Jing, Lao Zi, Chapter 78
- "天下莫柔弱于水，而攻坚强者莫之能胜，以其无以易之。弱之胜强，柔之胜刚，天下莫不知，莫能行" - 《老子》第七十八章
Taoism emphasizes comparative strength (and unconvention thinking), as demonstrated in the circular superiority of the Five Elements (Hang), where water quels fire, fire melts metal, metal chops plant, plant holds mud, mud stops water (水克火，火克金，金克木，木克土，土克水). This is consistent with Sun Zi's general view of tactics and strategy.
Curzon provided a great analogy for the Taiwan situation, using the concept of a pinned chess piece. While I do not fully agree with how he applied it, our difference is not fundamental.
In my view, in order to be "pinned" you have to have the choice to act and not to act, and the default ('pinned' situation) is the situation you are currently at (not to act). Because US' unconditional defense for Taiwan is not the position it has put itself at, from 1979 to today, it cannot consider itself to be pinned.
Instead, Taiwan has the choice of moving to either direction. But there are many ways to pin Taiwan into the status quo. The Anti-secession Law (ASL), as discussed in the prequel of this post, is a perfect example for the bishop in the chessboard, pinning Taiwan's knight form moving toward independence. Any side-stepping of the knight automatically trigger the destruction of its king.
For the US, it can insert a piece in the path between the bishop and king. But it has to ready itself for considerable sacrifice, as Thomas Barnett correctly pointed out. However, US has another option. It can send out a "pawn" as in the illustration, so that it is more difficult for the bishop to take the knight (Taiwan will also have to move the king to d7 to guard its knight). This is, in fact, today's situation, except that it is left with some ambiguity.
The only problem/risk today, is the ambiguity of the ASL and TRA, which were created to give China and US more flexibility. Such ambiguity contributes to destabilizing the pinned situation, by allowing for free interpretation of the 'knight', as I discussed before.
Great move from CCP. But is this the best move? Not neccessarily, because in reality the chessboard is not static. China, Taiwan and US are all undergoing tremendous change. In particular, in Taiwan, DPP's support has increased from below 20% 15 years to over 40% today. Time is not on the side of pan-blue (or CCP), as those who are emotionally tied to the mainland are quickly replaced by younger generation who are not. The only favorable development to CCP is the Taiwanese businessmen who had spent time in the mainland, but these experiences may not neccessarily lead to the support of re-unification.
Many observers outside Taiwan, including those in the mainland, failed to understand the fundamental reasons for the separatism trend(see note **). Strategist and politicians in Beijing have been equally ignorant, after failing to think through the rationale and ramification for unification vs division(***), they further adopted a hard-line approach to alienate their "compatriots". Such misunderstanding leads to a childish game of diplomatic bribery to micro-states and became a vicious circle, among other fiascos.
Therefore, ASL is only a ad hoc solution, provided pinning Taiwan is the objective and that this situation is sustainable. Then what should be the objective?
Let's first examine the often discussed rationales or myths for unification
- Unification good, division bad (myth: see note*** below)
- Division and hostility among different parts of China will provide opportunity to foreign (hostile) powers to divide and conquer China, and even leverage one faction to fight against another, or for Taiwan to harm the interest of China
- A divided China is weak, because each part can be defeated and conquered separately
- "Taiwanese compatriots are our brothers and sisters sharing our blood" (see poster to the right and caption), there should be cooperation, communication, and intimate friendship.
- Taiwan has been part of China historically (at least according to what PRC inherits from the two preceding governments: ROC between 1945-1949, and most years of Qing Dynasty prior to 1895), losing Taiwan means humiliation (like the Qing) and damage to the legitimacy and reputation of the current PRC government
In summary, the ultimate goal is to prevent sustained war, align the interests together (also hug our compatriot - see poster on the right), hence acting as a bigger entity with larger scale (in terms of market and also soft and hard power), while saving face and defending honor during the process.
What has CCP achieved today? Other than some partial economic integration, CCP has managed to push Taiwan further away and defeated objectives 2 and 3 totally. With the current spat, it is very unlikely that Taiwanese people will side with the mainland in a conflict with Japan. In fact, today we even have certain Taiwanese who support the ultra-right militarist faction in Japan.
There is a better way to "pin" Taiwan
The best way to pin Taiwan is, counter-intuitively, to encourage Taiwan to hold a referendum, and do it when the friendly KMT led by Ma Ying-jeou comes to power in 2008. The package should contain incentive for choosing the 'desirable results'
- A frozen period of  years where no further referendum regarding unification/independence should be held
- Options will be (A) Unification under conferation; vs (B) Independence, and (C) status quo. indecisive result (less than 50% turnout or less than 67% for any option) will be interpreted as (C) -- PLA will remove its missiles and even promise peace in return
- Under the unification option (A),
- Taiwan will be supported for a UN seat, like Ukraine under USSR.
- Taiwan will have full autonomy like Deng Xiaoping has promised, including maintaining its army, currency, and democracy
- Establish a Senate system for the federation, where Taiwan (also HK, Macau) will be represented.
- The Federation will support Taiwan to defend disputed areas in Spratly and Diaoyu.
- The most delicate issue is diplomatic right of Taiwan, which both sides have been persistent. But it is not impossible to work out a compromise, where Taiwan yields partial right to the federation
- Others minor issues already widely discusses in the last 20 years (will be linked to later when I find them)
- Option (C) after the referendum could include mainland's support for Taiwan to in Diaoyu and South China Sea as well
The concept of federation is not new. What is new is the timing of the referendum. From mainland's perspective, further waiting is only going to further severe the tie. While a vote today presents extremly low risk for a support for (B).
The objective of such a referendum is to force both sides to recongize a stalemate (option C: which is the most likely case), and hence to guarantee the status quo for another  years. The difference between a status quo after a referendum and the status quo of today is important
- risk of 'independence declaration" will be greatly reduced (analogy: Quebec referendum)
- the possibility of failing objectives 2&3, as it already is today, will be greatly reduced and most likely reversed
- the hostility between the strait will end and closer economic and cultural ties will flourish. Taiwanese people's vote will drift toward (A) in the next 30 years as a result
- less waste on arms race for both sides
- less squandering of money in luring micro-states in diplomacy
The upside/bonus is, objectives 1-5 will all be achieved if (A) is chosen.
President Hu Jintao, if you hold your fist tight, you grasp nothing inside; open your hand, you will have the sky on you palm. DPP asks for a referendum, give them the referendum. There is nothing to lose. Treat our Taiwanese compatriots like how we treat our brothers and sisters, you will win their hearts.
The downside of obstructing such a referendum is, you will continue to lose votes to (B). If, when China changes to a democracy, or if there are other unexpected event in the world or in China, Taiwan will grab the opportunity to hold its own referendum. The vote then would be much less favorable as a result of the prolonged hostility. You will lose you sister and she will become your enemy. This will make you "One Sinner in A Thousand Years" (千古罪人).
(*) About the movie
- I have never been a fan of martial art movies. I think Jet Li is good, but Jackie Chan is very shallow. Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon is just a better quality Kung Fu flick solely a result of bigger budget and a more serious director. I prefer Zhang Yimou, Wong Kar-wai, and - yes - Stephen Chow is great.
- One evidence to support my view on CTHD is the movie's unprofessional English translation, which is as lame as those you could rent in Chinatown in the 1980s. "there is nothing we can hold on to in this world. Only by letting go can we truly possess what is real." Do you think such translation serves justice to the metaphor in the quote above?
(**) Factors that drive Taiwan toward separatism
- Total disappointment of being ruled by mainland official, based on the performance of KMT and CCP from 1945-1978. Especially deep contrast of Chen Yi/CKS regime in 1945 vs the milder Japanese colonist governor
- Wary of mainland chauvanism and oppression, exploitation
- Further alienation due to diplomatic war, which led to extreme inconvience for Taiwanese travelling and doing business abroad, and hurts pride
- Taiwanese identity, while most spoken about, is a very new concept and not popular 20 years ago
(***) Unification is not the objective. It is only a means to reach peace and proposerity.
- Throughout the history of China there have been numerous periods of division interlacing unification. As Luo Guanzhong's started his classic Romance of the Three Kingdoms, "The trends of the world under heaven, after a long period of division, tends to unite; after a long period of union, tends to divide. This has been so since antiquity. (话说天下大势，分久必合，合久必分)" According Luo, such trends are not to be stopped by human intervention and not neccessarily harmful.
- Historical cycle (Unified [division]): Xia/Shang, [spring-autumn, warring states], Qin/Han [3 Kingdoms, Jin/16 states, North/South], Sui/Tang, [5+10, Song/Liao/Jin], Yuan/Ming/Qing, [Warlord, ROC/PRC]
- The common myth in China is: Division leads to war, that is not good. The most often hailed merit of Qin Shi Huangdi (秦始皇帝) is that his unification of China stopped the thousand year war of the Eastern Zhou Dynasty (Spring-autumn and Warring States). Qin Shi Huangdi launched a 12 year campaign and ended the the 500 year war. The situation today is different, there is no 500 year war, and to launch a war to unify a country is defeating the purpose to eliminate war.