Sat, Dec 06, 2003 - Page 8 News List

Taking advantage of the status quo

By Paul Lin 林保華

China has recently raised doubts about US policy on Taiwan-China relations and has been issuing a series of bellicose statements to this end. In a seminar held on Nov. 18, the vice minister of the Taiwan Affairs Office, Wang Zaixi (王在希), reiterated that if the "one China" principle is violated, it would not rule out the possibility of military force.

Using tougher language, a director of research at China's Academy of Military Sciences, Luo Yuan (羅援), said that if Taiwan amends its Constitution so that its territory only covers Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu, then that would be the constitution of an independent Taiwan, which would cross China's line in the sand and invite war.

The interesting thing is that former president Lee Teng-hui's (李登輝) "special state-to-state relations" model and President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) "one country on each side [of the Taiwan Strait]" platform both deny "one China," yet China has not used military force.

Prior to Taiwan's presidential election in 2000, then-Chinese premier Zhu Rongji (朱鎔基) and Vice Chairman of the Central Military Commission Zhang Wannian (張萬年) warned that electing a Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) president would mean war, but that war did not eventuate.

Beijing's new bottom line is that Taiwan cannot change the territory stipulated in its Constitution, which China has refused to recognize anyway. Such are Beijing's infantile games.

Does this mean that China considers itself and the Republic of Mongolia to be under the jurisdiction of Taiwan's Constitution? If so, then it's China that has to do some constitutional amending.

Regardless, the US takes the games of infants very seriously and wants to prevent China playing with fire. US State Department deputy spokesman Adam Ereli has said that using force to resolve cross-strait differences is "unacceptable." He has also said that the US opposes any attempt by either side to unilaterally change the status quo in the Taiwan Strait.

Replying to a journalist's questions, the US Deputy Secretary of State for East Asia and the Pacific, Randall Shriver, repeated a statement by National Security Council Advisor Condoleezza Rice recently. At a press conference on Oct. 15, Rice had said: "It is our very strong belief that nobody should try unilaterally to change the status quo."

So what is the status quo across the Taiwan Strait? Rice said differences across the strait must be resolved peacefully. Shriver also said that the cross-strait status quo is one in which differences of opinion should be dealt with by peaceful means. The role of US policy would be to create an environment for peaceful dialogue.

In short, they emphasized the "differences" first and only then mentioned peaceful solutions to the differences.

The so-called differences exist between China's "one China" principle and Taiwan's "one country on each side" platform. They apparently result from the fact that Taiwan exists as an independent country. If Taiwan is unwillingly and forcibly annexed by China, that would mean that the status quo had been changed.

The status quo does not include changes to the two sides' domestic political situations. For instance, China can amend its Constitution or even create a new one; Taiwan certainly can, too. Taiwan can strengthen democracy through use of referendums; China certainly can, too. It is unlikely the US would voice opposition if China pushed for democratic reform. All these are the domestic affairs of two independent, sovereign states.

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