In an interview with international media earlier this month, President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) poured cold water on direct-link advocates by emphasizing that "Taiwan cannot have direct links for the sake of direct links." Chen said that if China insists on Tai-wan's unilateral acceptance of the "one China" principle as the prerequisite for the opening of direct links, "then we don't want direct links."
Chen's statement was a timely reminder to whose who have put individual or economic interests above national interests by asking the government to speed up the opening of the direct links.
What Chen emphasized in the interview was the need to educate the public about how deceitful China is about the cross-strait relationship. While using economic incentives to try to get the business community to pressure the Chen administration about economic opening, Beijing has also accelerated its deployment of missiles aimed directly at Taiwan.
According to media reports, the US Department of Defense is going to release its annual defense report on the People Liberation Army (PLA). The lastest report notes that China now has about 450 CSS-7 and CSS-6 missiles across the Taiwan Strait from Taiwan. The figure represents an increase of 50missiles over the 400 mentioned in last year's report.
The report also says that China recently conducted two test flights of its new short-range missile, known as the CSS-7. The CSS-7 is one of two short-range missiles being deployed in large numbers within striking distance of Taiwan, in a buildup that the Pentagon has called destabilizing. Therefore, China's military build-up cannot be overlooked.
The Chinese leadership has also tried to sabotage Chen's leadership by allying itself with the pro-unification forces. By taking advantage of the lack of domestic consensus in this country regarding cross-strait policy, Beijing could easily portray Chen as a troublemaker who abuses economic leverage and regional prosperity for the sake of politics.
Since most people overlook the potential danger embedded in China's growing military capability, using economic openness to cover its own military ambition represents the core of Beijing's policy toward Taiwan. How could outsiders expect Taiwan to make unilateral concessions to a country that has not renounced the use of force against it? Shouldn't national security be considered a key element when it comes to the question of opening direct links?
For Chen to be credited with the opening of cross-strait direct links would be a huge boost to the DPP government's electoral momentum, and so it is clearly not in Beijing's interest. Hence, Beijing's strategy is primarily aimed at downgrading Chen's popularity and blaming all the faults for cross-strait deadlock on his government.
But Chen has naysayed the possibility of opening direct links by the end of his first term largely because China's passive response to Taipei's moderate efforts to pursue cross-strait normalization and its continued threat to Tai-wan's security. This is a smart move in terms of shouldering domestic pressure and refraining from making excessive concession to his counterparts. It also provides a clearer picture of the status quo of the cross-strait standoff.
When Chen reiterated that he would never accept Beijing's insistence that he embrace its "one China" principle in order to realize direct flights, he pointed out the reason behind the current cross-strait stalemate. That is, Beijing should bear all the res-ponsibility for hurting the feelings of 23 million people on Taiwan through military force. Most importantly, Taiwan should never sacrifice its own national interests by opening direct links with China simply for the sake of opening direct links.