Tue, Nov 25, 2003 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: China offers Taiwan no incentive

Before the campaign for the nation's presidential election has even been formally launched, the Chinese government warned Taiwan and the US; although it would have been wise to restrain itself from getting involved in Taiwan's elections so as not to repeat its mistakes from 1996 and 2000 when it campaigned against candidates it disliked. Beijing's leaders seem to lack wisdom and tolerance.

Faced with Taiwan's call for referendum legislation and a new constitution, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao (溫家寶) warned in an interview with the Washington Post that "the Chinese people will pay any price to safeguard the unity of the motherland."

Wen tried to intensify his intimidation by saying "We completely understand the desire of the Taiwan compatriots for democracy and a peaceful environment. However, when the leadership of the Taiwan authorities wants to separate Taiwan from Chinese territory, no Chinese will agree."

So far, Wen is the highest-ranking Chinese official to declare Beijing's formal stance on Taiwan's referendum legislation. It is generally believed that Wen's upcoming trip to the US, scheduled to begin on Dec. 7, is aimed at urging the US to suppress Taiwan's recent move toward independence.

Since China has never implemented democracy on its soil, Wen's understanding of it is poor. Holding referendums and writing a constitution are only two ways for Taiwanese people to exercise their political rights. They are not necessarily equal to Taiwan independence.

Furthermore, Chinese leaders don't understand what Taiwanese people want. It's China that is pushing Taiwan toward independence. In the history of interaction between the two sides, Taiwanese people have few happy memories. The leadership in Beijing must ask itself: Has China ever offered any effective incentives for promoting unification?

China has long attempted to oppress and suffocate Taiwan's diplomatic activities. The regime never ceases its efforts to intimidate Taiwan either through propaganda or military force. During the epidemic of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), Beijing did not cooperate with Taiwan and concealed the reality of the SARS situation in China. When Taiwan needed a helping hand from the World Health Organization, China not only obstructed the process but also said "Who cares about you [Taiwanese]?"

Even in the economic arena, China spares no effort to lower Taiwan's status. To Taiwan's proposal to initiate the small three links, China said no. When Taiwan pushed for direct freight links, China refused to talk. Even those hundreds of thousands of China-based Taiwanese businesspeople, who function as a driving force behind China's bright economic performance, are in the eyes of the Chinese government and people are just cash cows to be milked.

Suppose that a man, upon breaking up with his wife, threatens her by saying "If you divorce me, I'm going to kill you." Most likely, the woman would divorce him and run as far away as she could. The same principle applies to cross-strait relations. If China mistakenly thinks that imposing pressure on the relationship can bring about reunion, the result may turn out to be just the opposite.

China does not need to "pay any price" to prevent Taiwan from moving toward independence. All it needs to do is change its attitudes and respect Taiwan's current status as an independent and sovereign entity. Let Taiwan have freedom. Take away the walls and the missiles across the Strait. Let people freely engage across the Strait and discover each other's merits and their common interests. Then there may be a chance to start the relationship anew.

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