Wed, Dec 10, 2003 - Page 8 News List

China asks US to aid in suppression

By James Wang 王景弘

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao (溫家寶) has repackaged the Taiwan policy drawn up by former president Jiang Zemin (江澤民) and is bringing it with him to sell to the US. In an interview with the Washington Post before leaving for the US, Wen gave a more detailed explanation of this repackaged policy. The most obvious feature was that "placing hope in the people of Taiwan" has been omitted; hope is now placed in the US suppressing Taiwan's democratic development.

Overall, Wen's repackaged policy is gentler compared to Jiang's. It is meant to create an image of Beijing as the protector of peace and stability and blame Taiwan for any possible unease created by Beijing. Wen told the Post that "the Chinese people will pay any price to safeguard the unity of the motherland," but did not repeat the naked threat that China does not abandon the option to use armed force.

Even so, the medicine Wen wants to sell doesn't address the illness. He talks extravagantly about democracy without understanding the meaning of the word. He said that "we completely understand the desire of the Taiwan compatriots for democracy," but he still demanded that "the US side must be crystal clear in opposing the use of a referendum or writing a constitution" -- basic rights in a democratic system. The fact that he can make these contradictory statements shows his lack of understanding of democracy.

Placing hope in the US was the new direction that Jiang adopted following the 1996 Taiwan Strait crisis, when China fired missiles across Taiwan into the Pacific Ocean. He felt that if China were to use armed force to invade Taiwan, US intervention was a factor that would have to be considered. But neither he nor any military leader dared say that China had the power to deal with the US and force an armed invasion of Taiwan.

lessons learned

Beijing did not believe that the US bombing of China's embassy in Belgrade was a mistake, seeing it as a deliberate show of force by the US to make China realize its shortcomings. Jiang and former premier Qian Qichen (錢其琛) learned a lesson from the collapse of the Soviet Union -- to become the hypothetical enemy of and enter into an arms race with the US without having real economic and technological power would amount to digging one's own grave.

The direction laid down by Jiang gives the highest priority to developing the domestic economy and technology. Under this guiding principle, China needs US markets, capital, technology as well as friendly Sino-US relations, and it should avoid becoming a hypothetical enemy of the US.

The Taiwanese people's self awareness has improved following democratization, and China's past guideline of placing hope in the people of Taiwan is no longer realistic. It cannot, however, say that it places its hope in the pan-blue camp. Therefore, it has to look to the US to suppress the development of democracy in Taiwan to give China time to use economic benefits to co-opt Taiwanese businessmen who will, in turn, pressure Taiwan's political leaders.

Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) and Wen have just taken power and, although Jiang is not loved by the people, he emulates former paramount leader Deng Xiaoping (鄧小平) by holding onto the post of chairman of the Central Military Commission and reserving the right to speak up on issues concerning the US and Taiwan. Hu and Wen are unlikely to immediately change Jiang's guidelines. The most reliable and appropriate way for them to proceed is to continue handling matters according to Jiang's guidelines. If they are impractical, it is not the fault of Hu and Wen.

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