Sun, May 26, 2002 - Page 8 News List

Chen helping build cross-strait trust

By Michael Hsiao 蕭新煌

The DPP has been in power for two years, and the time has come for a mid-term evaluation of President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁). The gravest concern domestically, and also the issue that received the most international attention during the transfer of power two years ago, was the possible impact a new ruling party could have on the cross-strait relationship.

Following the DPP's accession to power, there were many predictions that the result would be unprecedented tension in the cross-strait relationship. Such conjectures were based on the DPP party charter and its promotion of Taiwan independence, which China finds hard to accept. Beijing therefore felt it necessary to condemn and exert pressure on Taiwan and to create an atmosphere where military threats were used in order to make Chen and his government look bad and yield to the pressure.

Over the past two years we have indeed seen Beijing completely ignore the realities of Taiwan's successful transformation to becoming a democratic country and the formation of a new government. China still doggedly denounces what it calls a "handful of Taiwan independence advocates" and refuses any contact with Chen and his government, something which Beijing euphemistically likes to describe as "listening to their words and observing their behavior." How-ever, judging from several indications over the last six months, we can say that Beijing's attitudes are changing gradually since China cannot avoid earnestly facing up to the fact that the DPP is the government of Taiwan.

The first of these indications is that Zhou Mingwei (周明偉), the deputy director of the Taiwan Affairs Office of China's State Council, during a visit to the US in mid-January told his hosts that cross-strait dialogue definitely isn't a case of negotiation between central and local governments. He also said that he is hoping for a peaceful and rational solution to the issue of diverging opinions on the two sides of the Taiwan Strait that would be in line with the best interests of both sides.

Second, in the wake of Zhou's US statements, Chinese Vice Premier Qian Qichen's (錢其琛) differentiation between the majority of DPP members and a small minority of independence advocates on the seventh anniversary of the declaration of Jiang Zemin's (江澤民) "Eight points" was meant to show that a decision had already been made in favor of official contacts with the DPP and that we can hope that the fourth generation of Chinese leaders will continue this policy.

Third, in early May, the new spokesman of China's Taiwan Affairs Office, Li Weiyi (李維一), joined a delegation from China's All-China Journalists Association on a trip to Taiwan. Even though Taipei handled the visit in a low-key manner with little media exposure, it would have been im-possible for Li and the others to not meet and talk with Taiwanese officials dealing with China. This visit therefore constitutes the first time that Chinese officials dealing with Taiwan have had contact with officials from Chen's government.

Fourth, the president of Tai-wan's Chinese Petroleum Corp (中油) and a representative of China's China National Offshore Oil Corporation (中國海洋石油) signed an official oil exploration cooperation agreement in Taipei on May 16. Doesn't the fact that representatives of these two state-run corporations were authorized to sign an agreement and shake hands with each other imply an opportunity to create a new cross-strait situation?

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