Yesterday I was picking up old magazines, I read a 2006 edition of The Economist.
Inside there is an article about Gibraltar.
I heard a little bit about Gibraltar but didnt know much about it. Apparently Gibraltar is a contested territory between Spain, which consider it as part of its rightful territory, and Britain, which is the current sovereignty holder, and also the local Gibraltar residents, who do not wish to merge with Spain.
I was reading this article, it was interesting, and I think there are several similarities with the Chinese Reunification project. Actually there are several pointers and tips that can be picked up from studying this Gibraltar situation, and other similar experiences by others in the world.
Here is the article, and please read through it, you will find MANY uncanny resemblance with the current major direction and issues of the Chinese Reunification vis-a-vis Taiwan.
Britan, Spain and Gibraltar
Between a Rock and a Hard Place
A trilateral deal over a disputed patch of territory
Spain's foreign minister, Miguel Angel Moratinos, likes to point out to his British visitors the large 18th century oil painting that hangs behind his desk. The picture is of Gibraltar, a tiny British overseas territory whose 30,000 inhabitants obstinately refuse, despite Spain's claim of sovereignty, to become Spaniards.
Given Mr Moratinos's taste in pictures, it must have cost him an effort to smile on September 18th, when he posed in Cordoba for a three way handshake with Gibraltar's elected chief minister, Peter Caruana, and Britain's Europe minister, Geoff Hoon. Yet the handshake represented an historic shift in Spain's attitude to Gibraltar. For it marks the moment when sticks are replaced by carrots.
The deal resolves many arguments over Gibraltar, but leaves the question of sovereignty on one side. Gibraltar's airport will get a new terminal straddling the frontier and there will be direct flights from Spanish cities and, vitally for such a poor region, for tourists from all round Europe. A row over British pension payments to 6,000 Spaniards who lost their jobs at Gibraltar's Royal Navy dockyards when Franco closed the border in 1969 has been settled. Gibraltar will get direct dialling. Spanish controls at the border, fully reopened in 1985, will be eased. And an outpost of Spain's Cervantes Institute will open - letting the Spanish flag to fly in Gibraltar for the first time in half a century.
"The Spanish government's political courage has been key" commented Mr Caruana. This was a sign that carrot diplomacy may be working. The stick wielded by previous governments had signally failed to advance Spain's quest to regain sovereignty it ceded in the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713. Instead it set generations of Gibraltarians firmly against Spain. Asked in a 2002 referendum if they would contemplate co-sovereignty, 98.97% of Gibraltarians said no. Britain, which is happy to share, has pledged not to concede anything on sovereignty against local wishes.
Spain, which has had problems over self-determination for its own regions, has always refused to accept that Gibraltarians can decide their future. Previous governments would not have shaken hands with them over anything. Spain's centre-right opposition will chide the Socialist government, although the new approach should improve relations with Britain, a European Union partner. The British might have looked better had they sent the foreign secretary, Margaret Beckett, in place of a more junior minister. But Mr Hoon must be getting used to deputising: Mrs.beckett has skipped all of the tree most recent meetings of EU foreign ministers.
Map of Gibraltar:
Some things which I noticed and want to comment, apparently Spain is taking a path which is almost identical and very similar to what China is doing now, which is, to open pragmatic links, contacts, between Gibraltar residents and Spain, while putting sovereignty issue aside. They have also realized that putting too much emphasis on "sticks" have not worked and in fact majority of Gibraltarians do not wish to merge with them, or to have co-sovereignty even. So now Spain change tack and is trying to normalize or relax relations and put out more carrots.
I believe the overall development, and in fact some events, very much resemble what is happening with China-Taiwan. I think it can serve as a useful comparative study. Everyone who is interested in Chinese Reunification should study this and other cases in the world, to see what lessons can be picked up and apply some tips.
Other similarities I think, in Taiwan the majority do not wish to merge with China. We have to be honest with this. Taiwanese prefer status-quo, which means no to reunification. Same with Gibraltar. China does not consider Taiwanese should have the capability to decide or opine, same with Spain's position on Gibraltar.
Another similarity, a third party superpower. Just like Gibraltar which can survive up to this day it is because it falls under British protection. Otherwise Spain could have forced its way. Similarly Taiwan is actually an American protectorate. The guarantor and protector of Taiwan sovereignty is a third party superpower, in this case America.
If we look at the article above, we can see a triangular movement of Spain, Britan, and Gibraltar, and we can see that Britain officially is not opposed to sharing sovereignty or presumably other forms of compromise, but yet in practice they say they want to adhere to local Gibraltarians wishes, which is, for now, no to any changes. So Britain, although officially is saying they are not against a compromise, is actually acting in a different manner, in contrary to Spain's interests, by using "respecting local Gibraltarians wishes" as a reason.
It has a lot of parallels with China-Taiwan-USA situation, how USA is officially saying Taiwan is part of China, but is conducting acts which is contrary to the stated position, by taking up numerous stated reasons whether it is defending Taiwan, defending democracy, and so on.
I think this case of Gibraltar-Spain-Britain detente should be followed and studied, how it evolves and what lessons can be learnt, because it has a lot of uncanny resemblance with China-Taiwan-USA situation, and by sheer coincidence, both of these triangles are now moving in a same direction.