A peaceful resolution to conflict
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao (溫家寶) brought with him a few important issues during his US visit -- the issues of Taiwan, Sino-US trade relations, nuclear arms development on the Korean Peninsula and global terrorism. Among them, the issue of Taiwan and Sino-US trade relations concern Beijing the most.
\nThe response Wen got from US President George W. Bush on Taiwan was: no independence for Taiwan, no use of military force from Beijing and maintaining the status quo.
\nWhat Bush said at a press conference was this: "Let me tell you what I've just told the premier on this issue. The United States government's policy is `one China,' based upon the three communiques and the Taiwan Relations Act. We oppose any unilateral decision by either China or Taiwan to change the status quo. And the comments and actions made by the leader of Taiwan indicate that he may be willing to make decisions unilaterally to change the status quo, which we oppose."
\nThis statement was exactly what Beijing wanted, so Wen said he "very much" appreciated the position adopted by Washington, the essence of which was no independence for Taiwan, no use of military force from Beijing and maintaining the status quo.
\nThe US is facing difficulties in Iraq. Washington needs Beijing's help to deal with the nuclear problem in North Korea and global terrorism. In view of his country's interests, Bush of course does not want to see any conflicts in the Taiwan Strait to make the situation worse. The proposal of a defensive referendum or an independence-unification referendum by the Taiwanese authorities can potentially change the status quo. Based on the Taiwan Relations Act, the US is obliged to help defend Taiwan in case of any military threats from China. Washington is most reluctant to let Taiwan decide whether a conflict is to erupt between the US and China. Beijing, on the other hand, cannot accept Taiwan's formal independence. Chinese leaders are afraid that Chinese people would accuse them of doing nothing about the loss of Taiwan. Under such circumstances, China's military intimidation against Taiwan does concern the US.
\nBush's statement not only looked after US interests but also proved to be the best way at the moment to protect Taiwan's democracy from a Chinese invasion.
\nHowever, is the US policy drastically tilted toward Beijing? No. The long-term strategies and policies of the US for cross-strait relations have not changed. The US still insists on "one China" and a peaceful resolution, and opposes Beijing's military violation of Taiwan. Bush said to Wen in a straightforward manner: "Look, you know, if you force us, if you try to use force or coercion against Taiwan, we're going to be there."
\nHere are the basic points of America's long-term strategies and policies for the cross-strait issue:
\nChina and the US have different ideologies and social systems, thus different strategic interests.
\nChina is a large country on the rise and has the potential to become a strong power, so the US has to take precautions. That's why it will not easily leave Taiwan to Beijing's authoritarian dictatorship.
\nThe US wants China to become a democracy so as to fundamentally eradicate the possibility of major conflicts between the two countries. Taiwan's democratic system represents an excellent model and puts pressure on Beijing to reform its authoritarian regime and social system. In fact, Taiwan's influence on China over the past 25 years surpasses people's imagination. It will continue to expand its economic, social and political influence, thereby promoting the development of democracy in China.
\nThere are pro-Taiwan forces in both the US Senate and House of Representatives that support Taiwan's democratic system and oppose Beijing's authoritarian regime and its violations of Taiwan.
\nAs long as Taiwan does not negatively influence the global anti-terrorism strategies of the US, Washington will certainly use the Taiwan Relations Act to protect and support Taiwan's democratic system.
\nChina's authoritarian dictatorship is one of the factors that had led to the expansion of pro-independence forces in Taiwan. Beijing will pay a price for its rigid thinking on the issue of Taiwan. Some of the rigid decision makers in Beijing believe that they can annex the Republic of China as long as China's military is strong enough. However, they have never thought about the consequences of postwar hatred. Nor have they ever thought seriously about the US policy of opposing any unilateral change of the status quo.
\nIn its handling of Taiwan, Beijing does not respect history and reality. It unreasonably oppresses Taiwan and expects the island to surrender and recognize "one country, two systems." The ruling and opposition parties in Taiwan will by no means accept such a deal because people have seen the example of Hong Kong. Therefore, although Wen seemed to get an upper hand in front of Bush, the fundamental problem is still there and the long-term goal is yet to be reached.
\nHow can we fundamentally resolve the issue of cross-strait relations? I think China has to undergo political reform and become a constitutional democracy where government officials of all levels are elected and monitored by the people, making China's political and social systems closer to those of Taiwan, while economic, cultural and social exchanges across the Strait expand. Sino-US relations should also continue to improve and mutual trust should be built. Only when these criteria are realized and when there is a foundation of democracy, freedom, rule of law and constitutional politics, can Taiwan and China hold talks about a peaceful unification. This is the best unification model, which incurs the lowest social cost and is most welcomed in the international community. This is the ultimate goal in cross-strait relations.
\nSince the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the US and China have had a relatively harmonious relationship. Beijing has become the US's ally in its anti-terrorism campaign. In the nuclear crisis on the Korean Peninsula, Beijing also mediated to ensure smooth diplomatic channels and promote the six-party talks. From now on, Washington will ask Beijing to play an active role in the issue in return for Washington's concession on the Taiwan issue.
\nSimilarly, China needs the American market and more capital and hi-tech equipment from the US. The US trade deficit with China reached US$120 billion this year, becoming one of the focal points of conflict between the two countries. Following Bush's statement, China will make concessions, major ones, on trade issues. Wen agreed to make more efforts to improve China's trade relations with the US. First, Chinese Vice Premier Wu Yi (吳儀) will co-chair with US Secretary of Commerce Donald Evans a Sino-US trade coordination committee, which is due to start working next spring. Then, China will purchase more products from the US. The two sides will also negotiate the exchange rate of the Chinese yuan, which China is very likely to adjust. That is, Beijing will use a considerable amount of capital to strengthen and improve its trade relations and economic exchanges with the US and improve its productivity. These trade activities are far better than a cross-strait war that will consume resources, destroy productivity and cause economic and social development to deteriorate.
\nChris Wu is editor in chief of China Spring and China Affairs magazines.
\n Translated by Jennie Shih
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