Sat, Dec 27, 2003 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: Do not be duped by China's ploys

China's leaders at Zhongnanhai have always looked for ways to influence Taiwanese politics. In the past, China has used military threats, held war games during Taiwan's election campaigns in an attempt to unsettle people's minds, and attacked those candidates it disliked and promoted those it favored.

Such tactics, however, have never yielded the effects that China desired, but instead have proved counterproductive.

China has adopted a different tactic this year. Their new two-pronged approach involves the use of a Taiwanese spy case to broadside President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) while at the same time Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) has received Taiwanese businesspeople with operations in China.

Apparently, the Chinese leaders are getting better at manipulating Taiwan's elections. China no longer stages military exercises or fires missiles to scare Taiwan. Instead, it is focusing its attack on Chen.

It is very hard to claim that Chen's remarks about Chinese missiles led to the recent arrests of Taiwanese businesspeople. The spy uproar was an attack against Chen's reputation as well as an attempt to constrain Taiwan's government by holding Taiwanese businesspeople hostage.

Meanwhile, the meeting with Hu -- a "soft offensive" aimed at Taiwanese businesspeople -- was unprecedented in the history of the Chinese leadership. During the meeting, Hu reiterated Beijing's opposition to "Taiwan independence" and put the blame for the failure to establish links at the feet of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) government.

The timing of Hu's meeting with Taiwanese businesspeople, just before the holiday season, apparently had to do with the aborted plan for chartered flights to take them back to Taiwan for annual family reunions during the Lunar New Year holidays. China wants to blame the failure to establish direct links on "the destruction of cross-strait relations by Taiwan's leaders and their deliberate platform and policy of splitting the motherland."

China is trying to hurt the DPP's election chances by taking advantage of businesspeople's desire for direct links.

The offensive began when the State Council's Taiwan Affairs Office issued a policy paper earlier this month, followed by remarks from officials at China's transportation ministry, civil aviation administration and trade bodies explaining the content of the policy paper. Now China has brought Taiwanese businesspeople to Beijing to hear Hu's lecture on direct links.

China claims that it wants direct links with Taiwan, but in reality it has ignored the many goodwill gestures made by the Taiwanese government. Beijing's plan is to not let Chen's administration gain any brownie points on cross-strait relations. Taiwan has made all the preparations it can for direct links -- including the three-stage plan for cross-strait links proposed by Chen and the new measures announced by the Mainland Affairs Council in September to expedite cross-strait cargo flights.

The Legislative Yuan has also amended regulations governing cross-strait relations, allowing the government to commission non-governmental organizations other than the Straits Exchange Foundation to negotiate with Beijing. A mechanism for negotiations on direct cargo flights has also been set up.

Beijing, however, has refused to cooperate on even the Lunar New Year charters, which were successfully carried out for the first time last year.

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