如何实现台湾问题的新稳定,对话、危机还是战争?
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How Can We Achieve New Stability on the Taiwan Issue—Dialogue, Crisis, or War?

如何实现台湾问题的新稳定,对话、危机还是战争?

One of China’s most well-known scholars of American studies, Da Wei, argues that the U.S. and China need to reach a new strategic understanding about Taiwan to avoid a larger crisis. However, he suggests that this has become more difficult “because some of the long-term fundamentals underlying the Taiwan issue have changed,” including the deterioration in U.S.-China relations, the narrowing power gap between the U.S. and China, and the growing power gap across the Taiwan Strait.


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Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan raises a very important question: Will China and the United States seek new stability on the Taiwan issue through dialogue, crisis, or military conflict? At present, China and the United States need to reach a new strategic understanding in a new environment. This idea is reasonable, but it is being put to the test. This situation has left us with little time. If we cannot achieve strategic stability through self-restraint and mutual assurance, we may have to wait for stability to be achieved through a larger crisis, conflict, or even war. However, this path would be extremely costly for China, the United States, and the world.

佩洛西访台事件给我们提出一个非常重大的问题:中美将通过对话、危机还是军事冲突来寻找台湾问题的新稳定?目前中美要在新环境下达成新的战略谅解,这种思想是合理的,但面临考验。而且形势留给我们的时间已经不多了。如果我们不能通过自我克制以及相互保证来实现战略稳定,我们恐怕就只能等待通过更大的一场危机、冲突甚至战争来实现稳定,而这条路径对中国、美国和全世界来说,代价无疑都太大了。

Over the past 50 years, the Taiwan issue has constantly been the most important and sensitive issue in Sino-U.S. relations. Over the past few years, many observers have come to believe that China and the United States have fallen into a vicious circle of action and retaliation on the Taiwan issue, making the Taiwan Strait the only area with the potential to lead to a conscious conflict or war between China and the United States. Although she was aware of the danger of the Taiwan issue, Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, still insisted on visiting Taiwan on August 2, causing the latest round of tensions between China and the United States.

50年来,台湾问题始终是中美关系中最重要、最敏感的问题。过去几年,很多观察家都认为,中美在台湾问题上已陷入行动与报复的恶性循环,这使台海成为唯一可能引起中美有意识冲突或战争的地区。在明知台湾问题危险性的情况下,美国众议院议长南希·佩洛西仍然在8月2日一意孤行访问台湾,并造成中美最新一轮的紧张。

The Chinese government and scholars have harshly criticized and appropriately countered Pelosi’s mistake. Due to the appropriate and restrained countermeasures taken by the Chinese government, the worst-case scenario people had envisioned before Pelosi’s visit did not materialize. However, the waves in the “Strait of Fear” (恐怖海峡) are far from subsiding, and “crisis stabilization” has not yet been achieved. The Taiwan issue is dragging Sino-U.S. relations down the slope to a more serious conflict, and at the moment, we are hard-pressed to find the strength to stop this slide. Relative to the next few weeks, the situation could become even worse in the next few months or years. Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan raises a very important question: Will China and the United States seek new stability on the Taiwan issue through dialogue, crisis, or military conflict?

中国政府和学者已对佩洛西的错误给予了猛烈批判和恰当反制。由于中国政府的反制措施得当且克制,人们在佩洛西访华前设想的最糟糕情境并没有出现。然而,“恐怖海峡”中的巨浪远未平息,“危机稳定”也尚未实现。台湾问题正拖动中美关系向更加严重冲突的方向滑动,我们一时很难找到制止滑动的力量。相比于未来几周,未来几个月和几年的形势可能变得更糟。佩洛西访台事件给我们提出一个非常重大的问题:中美将通过对话、危机还是军事冲突来寻找台湾问题的新稳定?

For a long time, the Chinese and the U.S. governments have criticized each other for “salami slicing” on the Taiwan issue, and both claimed that their actions were reactive actions of last resort. Both sides can make their own arguments, and in this game, it is indeed difficult to distinguish between the “chicken” and the “egg.” Due to a lack of mutual trust, even unintentional actions by one side can be perceived by the other as deliberate provocations, to say nothing of conscious policy adjustments. Neither Chinese nor American policymakers want a military conflict or even a war to break out over the Taiwan issue, but we need to be soberly aware that it is becoming increasingly difficult to maintain the relative stability of the Taiwan issue as in the past because some of the long-term fundamentals underlying the Taiwan issue have changed.

长久以来,中国政府和美国政府都批评对方在台湾问题上“切香肠”,也都宣称己方行动是不得已而为之的反应性行动。双方可能都有自己的道理,在博弈中确实很难区别“鸡”与“蛋”的问题。由于缺乏互信,一方无意间采取的行动也有可能被对方认定为蓄意的挑衅,更不用说那些有意识的政策调整。中美决策者都不希望因台湾问题爆发军事冲突甚至战争,但是我们需要清醒地看到,由于台湾问题背后的一些长期基本因素已经发生改变,过去台湾问题的相对稳定正变得越来越难以维持。

The biggest change is the change in Sino-U.S. relations. Five or six years ago, when Sino-U.S. relations were generally stable, U.S. policymakers were more inclined to restrain their support for the Taiwan authorities to avoid overly aggravating Beijing. After the deterioration of Sino-U.S. relations, the U.S. administration and Congress are unwilling to exercise restraint on the Taiwan issue for the sake of Sino-U.S. relations. Instead, they hope to doubly “compensate” the Taiwan authorities through their actions and even challenge and anger the Chinese government by supporting the Taiwan authorities. This is the psychological root of the “salami slicing” strategy we have seen over the past few years by the United States.

最大的变化在于中美关系的变化。在五、六年前中美关系尚能维持总体稳定的时候,美国决策者更加倾向于克制自己对台湾当局的支持,以避免过度刺激北京。当中美关系恶化之后,美国行政当局和国会不愿意再为中美关系而在台湾问题上保持克制,而是希望通过行动来加倍“补偿”台湾当局,甚至是通过支持台湾当局来挑战和激怒中国政府。这是我们在过去几年所看到的美国方面“切香肠”战略的心理根源。

Similarly, when Sino-U.S. relations were still good, the Chinese government did not want the Taiwan issue to undermine the overall situation in Sino-U.S. relations, and it also tried to maintain a relatively restrained attitude towards some U.S. practices. For example, Newt Gingrich, then the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, also visited Taiwan 25 years ago, an action that the Chinese government opposed at the time. However, at that time, Sino-U.S. relations were moving towards a “constructive partnership,” and Gingrich’s visit was an “interlude” in the process of improving China-U.S. relations, so China did not respond as strongly as today. Now, Sino-U.S. relations have undergone a qualitative change. When China responds to the provocative actions of the United States, the degree of scruples China has concerning the overall stability of Sino-U.S. relations has naturally declined.

同样,在中美关系尚好的时候,中国政府也不希望因台湾问题而破坏中美关系大局,对美国一些做法也努力保持相对克制的态度。例如,25年前时任美国议长金里奇也曾访台,这也是中国政府当时就反对的行动。但当时中美关系正在向“建设性伙伴关系”迈进,金里奇的访问是中美关系向好过程中的一个“插曲”,因此中方的反应力度不如现在。现在,中美关系已经发生质变,中方在回应美方挑衅行为时,对中美关系整体稳定的顾忌程度很自然地也就下降了。

The narrowing power gap between China and the United States and the growing power gap between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait are another long-term fundamental factor that is changing. Due to the lack of mutual trust between China and the United States, when mainland China is increasingly capable of achieving the goal of national unity through military action, the United States will be worried and try to help the Taiwan authorities improve their capabilities to confront the mainland even if China does nothing. At the same time, after China’s ability to act is improved, the patience of the majority of the Chinese people with regard to certain U.S. politicians and the Taiwan independence forces on the island of Taiwan will naturally and gradually decline.

中美之间实力差距的日益缩小以及台海两岸实力差距的日益拉大是另外一个变化中的长期基本因素。由于中美之间互信的缺失,当中国大陆越来越有能力通过军事行动实现国家统一目标的时候,即使中国什么都不做,美国方面也会感到担忧,并且试图帮助台湾当局提升对抗大陆的能力。与此同时,在国家行动能力提升之后,中国国内多数民众对美国某些政客和台湾岛内台独势力的耐心也很自然地在逐渐下降。

These long-term major factors have a decisive influence on the short-term policies of all parties involved in the Taiwan issue. After these factors change, relevant policies will change accordingly.

以上这些长期重大因素对台湾问题有关各方的短期政策有着决定性的影响。当这些因素变化之后,相关政策会跟着变化。

Historically, after the Korean War solidified the Cold War landscape in Northeast Asia, the United States changed from a policy of “waiting for the dust to settle” on the Taiwan issue to supporting Chiang Kai-shek’s clique in its confrontation with the mainland. After the 1970s, Sino-U.S. relations improved, and the United States gradually came to accept China’s three conditions on the Taiwan issue of severing diplomatic relations, abolishing its treaty, and withdrawing troops. Since the 1990s, Sino-U.S. relations became increasingly complex and in-depth, and the United States began to move towards the so-called “two-way containment” (双向遏制) on the Taiwan issue. On the one hand, it put pressure on the mainland so that it could not use force, and on the other hand, it opposed the rash actions of Taiwan independence forces.

历史上,在朝鲜战争固化了东北亚的冷战格局后,美国在台湾问题上就从“等待尘埃落定”转变为支持蒋介石集团对抗大陆。1970年代后中美关系改善,美国在台湾问题上也就逐渐接受了中方的断交、废约、撤军三条件。1990年代后中美关系日趋复杂深入,美国在台湾问题上开始走向所谓“双向遏制”,一手压制大陆不能动武,另一手也反对台独势力的冒进行动。

Today, Sino-U.S. relations have undergone their greatest change in the past 50 years, while the change in the balance of power between China and the United States is unprecedented even in the past 100 years. Naturally, we are opposed to adjustments made by the United States to its policy towards Taiwan, but no matter what our subjective desires are, it is obviously unrealistic to expect that the U.S. policy towards Taiwan will remain completely static or that the Taiwan independence forces on the island will remain completely static after changes in the general environment. In fact, while mainland China adheres to its long-term strategy of peaceful reunification, its specific policy formats and priorities are constantly changing.

如今,中美关系已经发生了过去50年来最大的变化,中美力量对比的变化甚至是过去百余年来从未有过的。我们当然反对美国调整其对台政策,但是无论我们的主观愿望如何,在大环境变化之后,期待美国对台政策完全静止不变,或者期待岛内台独势力完全静止不变,这显然是不现实的。实际上,中国大陆在坚持和平统一的长期方略的同时,具体的政策形式与重点也是在不断变化的。

When discussing the Taiwan issue, we often use the concept of “red lines.” “Red lines” are bottom lines that cannot be crossed. In a strategic game, clear “red lines” for all parties in the game are a necessary prerequisite for avoiding major crises. However, at least on the Taiwan issue, the “red lines” have never been clearly defined “lines,” but more like a “region.” Rather than saying that each party has a “red line,” it would be better to say that each party insists on a “red zone” with blurred boundaries and a certain degree of flexibility.

讨论台湾问题时,我们经常使用“红线”的概念。“红线”是一些不能被突破的底线。在战略博弈中,明确博弈各方的“红线”是避免重大危机的必要前提。然而至少在台湾问题上,“红线”从来都不是一根明确的、细细的“线”,而更像是一个“区域”。与其说各方都有一个“红线”,不如说各方坚持的是一个边界模糊、包含一定弹性的“红区”(red zone)。

For example, from the perspective of the Chinese, the United States has been hollowing out its “One China Policy” in recent years, and constantly “slicing salami” through legislation, visits, arms sales, and other means. The United States still claims that it adheres to the “One China Policy” and that actions including Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan do not violate the “One China Policy.” The “One China Policy” is like a temple, which consists of the building itself and the Buddha statues in it. In the past, the United States maintained a series of self-imposed restrictions on its interactions with Taiwan in relation to the “One China Policy” to ensure that such exchanges were in keeping with the nature of “unofficial relations.”

例如,从中方的视角看,美方近年来一直在掏空其“一中政策”,不断通过立法、访问、军售等手段来“切香肠”。美方则到现在为止仍然宣称自己坚持“一中政策”,包括佩洛西访台在内的行动都不违反“一中政策”。“一中政策”像一座庙宇,至少是由建筑本身以及其中的佛像组成的。美国过去围绕“一中政策”,在与台湾交往时保持了一系列自我设定的限制,以保证这种交往符合“非官方关系”的性质。

Now, the restrictions of the U.S. government are being gradually lifted or broken. Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan is the latest example. It is as if the United States removed the Buddha statues from the temple, leaving only an empty structure, and then claimed that the temple was still there. It seems that as long as the United States does not say it “supports Taiwan independence,” nothing else it does will violate its “One China Policy.” In fact, the United States has been continuously trampling on China’s “red zone,” causing anger and anxiety on the part of China, but claiming that it has not crossed China’s bottom line. At the same time, viewed from another perspective, despite the Chinese government’s constant reaffirmation of its basic policies of “peaceful reunification and one country, two systems,” as long as the capabilities of the Chinese military are growing, and the scope of its activities is expanding, the United States will believe that China is gradually abandoning its policy of “peaceful reunification.”

现在美国政府的限制正在被逐渐取消或者突破,佩洛西访台就是最新的一个例子。美国方面搬走了庙里面的一座座佛像,只剩下一座空空如也的房子,然后宣称庙还在那里。似乎只要美国方面不说“支持台独”,做其他任何事都不妨碍其“一中政策”的成立。美方实际上不断地在踩踏中国方面的“红区”,引发中方的愤怒和焦虑,但却宣称没有穿越中方的底线。与此同时,如果换一个视角看,尽管中国政府不断重申“和平统一、一国两制”的基本方针,但只要中国军队的能力在增长,活动范围在扩大,美方就会认为中国正在逐渐放弃“和平统一”的方针。

Because the general environment has changed, for all parties to return to the “status quo” of ten years ago is a bit like making a notch on the boat to mark the site your sword fell into the water [刻舟求剑, to take an action that shows a lack of understanding of changed circumstances]. Today, to stabilize the situation in the Taiwan Strait, we must achieve a new balance in the new environment. This is somewhat similar to the process from 1972 to 1979 through which China and the United States agreed upon a new formula on the Taiwan issue in a new strategic environment.

由于大环境已经变了,要各方都回到十年前的“现状”或许有些刻舟求剑的味道。现在要稳定台海形势,需要的是在新的大环境下实现新的均衡。这有点类似1972-1979年之间中美在新的战略环境下达成有关台湾问题新论述(formula)的过程。

Some scholars believe that China and the United States need a fourth “joint communique.” Although this idea is unrealistic, its core meaning is that China and the United States should reach a new strategic understanding in a new environment. This line of thought is reasonable. The challenge is that, on the one hand, it remains to be seen whether Chinese and U.S. policymakers can withstand the strong domestic forces generated by the deterioration of Sino-U.S. relations that are pulling on them. On the other hand, it remains to be seen whether China and the United States can sit down and have a really in-depth discussion to ensure that each other can send restraint signals that can be accurately grasped by the other side. Both points are undoubtedly extremely difficult, and this situation has left us with little time. If we cannot achieve strategic stability through self-restraint and mutual assurance, we may have to wait for stability to be achieved through a larger crisis, conflict, or even war. However, this path would be extremely costly for China, the United States, and the world.

有学者认为中美需要第四个“联合公报”,这种想法虽然不现实,但其核心是中美要在新环境下达成新的战略谅解,这种思想是合理的。考验在于,一方面,中美决策者能否抵御各自在国内因中美关系恶化而产生的强大牵引力;另一方面,中美能否坐下来进行真正深入的讨论,确保彼此都能发出克制的信号并让对方准确掌握。这两点无疑都是极端困难的,而且形势留给我们的时间已经不多了。如果我们不能通过自我克制以及相互保证来实现战略稳定,我们恐怕就只能等待通过更大的一场危机、冲突甚至战争来实现稳定,而这条路径对中国、美国和全世界来说,代价无疑都太大了。

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达巍 (Da Wei) (2022). "How Can We Achieve New Stability on the Taiwan Issue—Dialogue, Crisis, or War? [如何实现台湾问题的新稳定,对话、危机还是战争?]". Interpret: China, Original work published August 22, 2022, https://interpret.csis.org/translations/how-can-we-achieve-new-stability-on-the-taiwan-issue-dialogue-crisis-or-war/

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