Fri, Sep 14, 2001 - Page 12 News List

Editorial: Learning from Tuesday's tragedy

The US suffered unprecedented casualties in Tuesday's terrorist attacks. Evidence is mounting that the attacks were prompted by conflict and hatred between different cultures and religions. Ideological conflict was a hallmark of the 20th century -- but the Taiwan Strait, the two Koreas and the Middle East remain internationally recognized flashpoints as we entered the 21st century. China has rapidly increased the number of its ballistic missiles aimed at Taiwan from 200-plus to 350. This should be a cause of international concern.

At a recent international forum, Vice Premier Qian Qichen (錢其琛) reiterated Beijing's "one China" mantra and called for dialogue and the speedy establishment of direct links. Qian said China could wait patiently for Taiwan as long as the latter accepts "one China."

Such rhetoric is so conditioned a reflex that it has become a laughable cliche -- despite the efforts of Beijing academics to claim that China has given up its duplicitous doubletalk. They say Qian's remarks were the first time he has told an international audience that "There is only one China in the world. The mainland and Taiwan belong to one China. China's sovereignty and territory are inalienable." Whether small changes in the audience for such a speech represent a real change in China's Taiwan policy is hard to determine.

It has been hard to perceive goodwill in Beijing's recent behavior. Some say Beijing's successful Olympic bid will ensure seven years of peace in the Strait. But Qian has vowed not to renounce the use of force against Taiwan and the sound of gunfire continues to roar on Dongshan island, the site of massive war games by the People's Liberation Army.

Xiong Guangkai (熊光楷), the PLA's deputy chief of staff, has also stressed that military force is a necessary deterrence against Taiwan independence and a means to prevent foreign interference. However, he could not explain why the pro-independence Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) won the presidency and yet independence is a minority platform in Taiwan. He was also unable to clarify what the so-called "foreign interference" would be. His inability to explain himself -- or Beijing's position -- showed the confusion in China's military thinking. It also shows that China still holds an almost superstitious belief in the efficacy of military solutions.

Peace remains a distant ideal. Some say China will become a model of economic globalization after its entry into the WTO. But economic freedom in China is still a long way off, given the way it punished Credit Suisse First Boston for helping Taiwan's finance minister hold investment roadshows in Europe.

Any talk from Beijing about having a consistent Taiwan policy will be of little benefit. Taiwan will have to both "listen to its words and observe its actions" -- judging Beijing's intentions by its actions. If Beijing truly wants to demonstrate its sincerity, the best way to do it would be to invite Chen to the APEC leaders' summit in Shanghai.

Only when President Jiang Zemin (江澤民) and Chen shake hands there, will both Taiwan and the international community be able to believe Beijing's rhetoric. That handshake will also dissolve many of the problems.

Both sides of the Strait should learn one of the lessons from Tuesday's terrorist atrocities: hatred should not be accumulated; grudges should not be increased. As long as China can extend a respectful, equitable attitude, Taiwan can patiently wait for the arrival of peace.

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