Mon, May 27, 2002 - Page 8 News List

Misleading public on direct links a big no-no

By Wang Tuoh 王拓

A few days ago, Chen Yunlin (陳雲林), head of China's Taiwan Affairs Office, called on Taiwan's government to appoint business leaders such as Wang Yung-ching (王永慶), chairman of Formosa Group (台塑集團) and Kao Ching-yuan (高清愿), chairman of Uni-President Enterprises Corp (統一企業) to act as representatives in cross-strait negotiations on the opening of "direct links."

I'm certainly glad to see this happen if the two businessmen can benefit the nation's economy and cross-strait relations. But I'm worried that if such a situation continues, all efforts will be in vain as both sides of the Taiwan Strait are just testing each other's sincerity while passing the ball back and forth.

The opening of direct links will never be achieved simply through civil negotiations -- it is too sensitive a political issue.

The political nature of the matter can be reduced only when the Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) and Beijing's Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait (ARATS) go back to the regular track and resume talks.

By naming certain business leaders for negotiations, Beijing is trying to block the resumption of talks between the foundation and ARTAS.

In appearance, Beijing is responding to President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) speech, say-ing that "the government may authorize civil organizations to negotiate with China." In fact, it is testing Taipei's willingness to push the opening of the direct links forward by throwing the ball back into our court.

China is not too worried about cross-strait relations right now and the cross-strait situation is relatively stable. Beijing won't take any action on the matter until the Chinese Communist Party's 16th National Congress is over. At that time, it may take the opening of the direct links as a bargaining chip in order to take the initiative in cross-strait talks.

In addition, domestic pressure will greatly increase if Taipei is unable to control the timetable for the opening of direct links.

Thus, I'm afraid that time will not wait for Taiwan.

Basically, the opening of direct links is just a goodwill gesture expressed by both sides of the Taiwan Strait, not a fixed policy. It is inappropriate for leaders on either side to frequently convey the false impression that direct links will be opened soon.

If the government announces the opening of direct links, who will take the responsibility once that goal can't be met?

Of course, it's necessary to continuously promote the opening of the "three links." But the opening has to be appropriately planned on the basis of national security.

As with any policy announcement, it's my hope that the government will not only put ideology aside, but will also tell the public the truth.

It shouldn't leave the public with false, pie-in-the-sky expectations. Otherwise, it will leave a bad impression of "not keeping its promises" to the public. This is what a responsible government should never do.

I also appeal to the Chinese government not to use direct links as a tool to divide Taiwan.

If Beijing really wants to benefit from cross-strait economy and trade, for the sake of the people on both sides it should stop taking the opening of the direct links as a political ball game.

If Beijing is really sincere about carrying out cross-strait negotiations, isn't the SEF's chairman, Koo Chen-fu (辜振甫), a better negotiator than the business leaders named by Beijing -- as viewed from his experience and performance in the past?

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