Thu, May 25, 2000 - Page 8 News List

A clear endorsement of ambiguity

By Lin Cheng-yi

There was not much in Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) inaugural address about cross-strait relations and the ambiguous things he did say came near the end of the speech. If you look carefully at the complete text, however, it becomes apparent that Chen tried to promote peaceful relations and emphasize Taiwan's sovereignty at the same time.

In the past, the DPP had to break free of the KMT's hold on power in order to establish demo-cracy. Democracy has allowed Taiwan to "stand up" to China, similar to the way "the Chinese people stood up" to end humiliation by foreigners in 1949. The US has purposefully ignored the portions of Chen's speech on "Tai-wan's subjectivity," instead encouraging and supporting Chen's olive branch to China.

The focus of US congressional support for Taiwan's democracy has smoothly shifted from Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) to Chen. This demonstrates that the US supports freedom and democracy in Taiwan, regardless of its leaders. A recent US Congressional resolution acknowledged Lee's contribution to freedom and democracy in Taiwan, and extended support and best wishes to Chen and Annette Lu (呂秀蓮).

President Bill Clinton, however, has been more concerned about the possible instability the new administration could bring to cross-strait issues. Since his election, Chen has continued to make gestures of peace to China while generally downplaying the issues.

For the US, Chen's speech will not erase the tensions in cross-strait relations, but may ease the strain. Similarly, the speech will not dispel all of Washington's doubts about Chen, but should ensure a feeling in Washington that the new administration is a responsible one.

Chen mentioned "war" three times when he was talking about cross-strait issues, revealing his administration's fear that such issues are unlikely be resolved peacefully. This was perhaps the most serious danger of Chen's address. He did not directly ask China to forsake the use of military force, but ambiguously said that Taiwan will not declare independence, "as long as the Chinese Communist Party regime has no intention to use military force against Taiwan."

This seems to prove that Taiwan will not flagrantly go against China's wishes. The linkage of these points is very similar to the US response to cross-strait issues. The US has tied Beijing's agreement to settle cross-strait issues peacefully as a condition for US support for the "one China" principle.

Relations between China, the US and Taiwan were thrown into confusion after former President Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) announced his "special state-to-state" model (兩國論). Clinton responded with his "three pillar" policy.

Chen called upon China and Taiwan to "jointly create an era of reconciliation" because "now is a new opportunity." Chen also proposed bilateral talks. This dovetails with US hopes for talks with no set limits. Washington still wants China to renounce the use of military force against Taiwan, while asking Taiwan to keep to the "one-China" policy.

Both China and the US will continue to pressure Taiwan to take a stand on "one-China" now that Taiwan has stated it will not pursue de jure independence. But the two countries have differing interpretations of the principle. The US believes that "peaceful resolution" is a precondition to the principle, while Beijing wants Taiwan to accept "one-China" unconditionally.

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