Lai Ching-de, a candidate for the 2024 Taiwan Presidential Electoral Progressive Party, published an article "My Plan to Preserve Peace in the Taiwan Strait" in the Wall Street Journal on July 7, proposing the concept of "four pillars" as his political view of declaring to practice cross-strait peace. The article has not been discussed much in Taiwan's public opinion field, and it is rare that "Hong Kong 4" observed that the mainland official media launched a fierce bombardment on it, and the main tone believed that Lai Qingde's thesis was actually "fake peace" and "real vote fraud". What message Beijing sends to Taiwan through this move should be an important awareness of this incident.

Lai Qingde submitted a letter to the US media to "hand over hearts" to the United States?

According to the original text, the "four pillars" proposed by Lai Qingde are as follows:

1. Taiwan's deterrent power must be established.

2. Economic security is national security.

3. Build partnerships with democracies around the world.

4. Stable and principled leadership in cross-Strait relations.

On July 7, the Wall Street Journal published a special article by Democratic Progressive Party Chairman and presidential candidate Lai Qingde, entitled "My Plan to Defend Peace in the Taiwan Strait," which expounded the four pillars of peace in practice. (Facebook/Lai Qingde)

As soon as this thesis came out, the general view was that Lai Qingde was preparing for the planned interview trip to the United States, trying to dispel and dilute the US side's misgivings about its "Taiwan independence" stance. Even the British media BBC Chinese published an interview article by scholars, pointing out that Lai's "four pillars" are intended to "exchange hearts" with the United States, and its cross-strait position can be described as "Tsai Ing-wen 2.0" version. Bonnie Glaser, a U.S. expert on Taiwan-related affairs and director of Indo-Pacific research at Germany's Marshall Fund (GMF), believes that Lai's statement "will be welcomed by Washington because it shows that he will adhere to Tsai Ing-wen's core principles for handling cross-strait relations."

In fact, since Lai Qingde came to power, he has always been regarded as an ideologically advanced DPP politician. As early as when he was a deputy to Taiwan's National Assembly, he took advantage of the report of then President Lee Teng-hui to hold up a slogan "Long live Taiwan independence" to express his ideas; During his tenure as mayor of Tainan, he stated several times in parliament that "I stand for Taiwan independence"; During his tenure as Taiwan's chief executive, he claimed in the Legislative Yuan that he was a pragmatic Taiwan independence worker. On the eve of the 2020 election, Lai Qingde and Tsai Ing-wen competed for the nomination of the Democratic Progressive Party and were fully supported by four "Taiwan independence bigwigs" such as Wu Lipei, Peng Mingmin, Gao Junming, and Li Yuanzhe, thus being jokingly called the "golden grandson of Taiwan independence".

However, the "votes" of democratic politics will change the heads of politicians, and this "pragmatic Taiwan independence worker" has indeed "pragmatically" quietly moved his "Taiwan independence" position. He was sworn in as chairman of the Democratic Progressive Party on January 2023, 1, and immediately stated that he "pragmatically believes that Taiwan is already a sovereign and independent country, and there is no need to declare Taiwan's independence again." This change of rhetoric shows that Lai wants to move closer from the "deep green Taiwan independence" to the middle, imitating Tsai Ing-wen's "Republic of China Taiwan" line, not only to win Taiwan's middle voters, but also to "reassure" the United States.

State media at all levels in the mainland have slammed the four-pillar theory

Compared with the reaction of Taiwan and the United States, Beijing's reaction to Lai Qingde's article published in the United States is worth scrutinizing. The chief reporter of "Hong Kong 01" in Taiwan collated, and the highest-level state media in the mainland, People's Daily and Xinhua News Agency, both signed articles to criticize it. The former was issued in the column "Sun Moon Talks", saying that Lai Qingde's article "hides a knife in laughter" is a "letter of submission" submitted by him to the United States; The latter denounced Lai Wen for being full of "empty reverie," "contradictory exposition," "inferior deception," and "thinking he was clever in manipulating the lies and tactics of 'Taiwan independence'."

The "Taiwan Compatriots Home", a media affiliated with the All-China Association of Taiwan Compatriots, has issued many articles in recent days criticizing Lai Qingde's "four pillars" theory. (Screenshot from the "Taiwan Compatriot Home" WeChat public account)

In addition, the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council's online media "China Taiwan Net" criticized the "four pillars" theory as "completely 'Taiwan independence' clamor and war guarantee". Other Taiwan-related domestic media, such as the Straits Herald and the Voice of the Straits, also agreed that Lai Qingde's thesis had not changed his stubborn stance on "Taiwan independence," saying that the "four pillars" were the "four major scams" and "exposed his false goodwill and the face of his true plot for 'independence'."

What is quite surprising is that the strongest of these bombardments is the All-China Taiwan Compatriots Association, a national organization of mainland and Taiwan personages that focuses on cross-strait nongovernmental exchange work. On July 7, the association's new media "Taiwan Compatriot Home" took the lead in issuing a quick commentary, saying that the "four pillars" were actually "fake peace and real selling Taiwan", and the full text of the commentary was also reprinted by "Privy Council No. 9" under the People's Daily and "Global Network". On the 10th and 11th, the "Home of Taiwan Compatriots" actively mobilized Taiwanese and overseas Taiwanese living in the mainland, Hong Kong and Macao to "speak out" and express their refutation and opposition to Lai Qingde's statement; On the 11th, he also interviewed a number of mainland Taiwan-related scholars and commented that the "four pillars" are "not only a 'letter of submission' in coordination with the United States and Western countries to 'use Taiwan to control China,' but also a carefully woven 'fraud', which is essentially betraying the interests of Taiwan compatriots and seeking 'Taiwan independence' for their own selfishness."

The "House of Taiwan Compatriots" also forwarded a statement by the "Workers' Party," a political party on Taiwan's reunification faction, saying that its article showed the policy tone of the "Taiwan independence" position, deliberately distorted the truth, and maliciously criticized Chinese mainland by reversing black and white tactics to seek political self-interest.

Tsai Ing-wen + Lai Qingde = "independence plus independence"?

In the eyes of the Taiwanese people, it may be surprising why Chinese mainland strongly rebound against the four pillars, after all, these statements are basically old bottles of old wine, which is insensitive. However, the cross-strait message behind Beijing's backlash is what mainland hopes Taiwanese voters will read.

Lai Ching-de, who was a deputy to Taiwan's National Assembly before 1997, held up a slogan "Long live Taiwan independence" in the parliament to openly advocate the idea of Taiwan independence. (Profile picture)

You know, even if Lai Qingde's "four pillars" are concerned, it is only a repackaging of Tsai Ing-wen's statement and a change in the arrangement and combination, but it can be said to be a retreat from Lai Qingde's "Taiwan independence" position. The problem is that for Beijing, the DPP has not yet abandoned the "Taiwan independence" party platform, and the Tsai Ing-wen government has refused to accept the "consensus of '92" (even stole it into "one country, two systems"), and put forward the theory of "mutual non-subordination" with the meaning of "two-state theory"; In terms of foreign relations, Tsai Ing-wen has also pursued a one-sided "pro-American" policy, echoing the US strategy of building Taiwan into an "arsenal", and at the same time weakening relations with international organizations and "non-friendly" countries and hollowing out the "one-China" principle.

Therefore, although Tsai Ing-wen and Lai Qingde are not yet on Beijing's blacklist of diehards of Taiwan independence, they have been identified as a firm separatist line for independence. What's more, Lai Qingde has already made clear his position on "Taiwan independence", and now inheriting Tsai Ing-wen's line, for Beijing, isn't it "independence plus independence"?

Returning to Lai Qingde's "Four Pillars" theory, which he publicized as a "plan to defend peace across the Taiwan Strait," it is one thing for Taiwan voters to feel, but in the eyes of Beijing, which has clearly grasped the dominance and initiative in cross-strait relations, I am afraid that it is another matter, and it may be dismantled as follows:

1. "It is necessary to establish Taiwan's deterrent power": It means that Lai Qingde will strengthen its arms purchases from the United States, implement the "asymmetric strategy" promoted by the United States, and "all people are soldiers", that is, Beijing's "use of force to seek independence".

2. Economic Security is National Security: Suggested that Lai Qingde may ignore Taiwan's growing economic and trade dependence on the mainland and strengthen Taiwan's economic decentralization from the mainland.

3. "Partnership with democracies around the world": Lai Qingde will deepen the cross-strait ideological barrier of "autocracy" vs. "democracy" internally, exaggerate the theory of "China threat", and break the imagination of "one China" framework to create an "international democratic camp", which is a "intervention by external forces" that Beijing is extremely taboo.

4. Stable and principled leadership in cross-strait relations: said that Lai Qingde, like Tsai Ing-wen or other politicians in Taiwan, will remain in the Cold War mentality, fail to see the "century-old changes" of the world order, reject both the "consensus of '<>" and "reject reunification" in the name of "maintaining the status quo", which is the "two-state theory" that Beijing cannot accept and endure, and "obstruct cross-strait exchanges and cooperation."

Lai Qingde (second from left) said that the "four pillars" continued to follow the "pro-American" line of Tsai Ing-wen (third from left), and Beijing prevented the deterioration of cross-strait relations. (Facebook/Lai Qingde)

From the above "translation" of Lai Qingde's "four pillars" theory in Beijing's eyes, it is not difficult to imagine why the backlash is so deep. In fact, when Xi Jinping announced the launch of the reunification process with the "two-system Taiwan plan", Chinese mainland no longer cared about the victory or defeat of Taiwan's large and small elections, that is, no matter who is in power, it will not affect the pace and rhythm of the CCP's promotion of reunification of Taiwan.

However, in addition to reiterating its own position and looking forward to peaceful development across the strait for Taiwan's general election, there is also a premise that Beijing does not want to see cross-strait relations deteriorate on the basis of Tsai Ing-wen's line, and does not want the Taiwan independence line to rush towards the United States. Therefore, Beijing concentrated its efforts to bombard Lai Qingde, targeting and preventing the "Lai Qingde line", thereby indicating the red line and principle on the Taiwan issue, and hoping that Taiwanese voters could hear the "voice" of "peace".

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