Sat, Dec 27, 2003 - Page 8 News List

Only China can help its own cause

By Zhang Jialin 章嘉琳

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao's (溫家寶) recent visit to the US created a certain amount of trust and stability in the Sino-US relationship, placing the two on a track toward mutual reliance in matters of strategic interest.

When it comes to the Taiwan issue, however, the US' clarification of its position can only be said to have temporarily calmed the tense situation in the Taiwan Strait.

The fact that the US got involved in resolving this crisis is clear evidence that it is expanding its role in the Taiwan Strait and that the cross-strait relationship has been included in the scope of matters that can be influenced by the US.

Prior to Wen's visit, the US presented a framework for handling the cross-strait issue -- no Taiwan independence, no armed invasion by the mainland, and no unilateral change of the cross-strait status quo by either of the two sides. The US wants this framework to assure mainland China that Taiwan will not move toward independence and to assure Taiwan that mainland China will not use force against Taiwan. The US policy is to maintain the status quo and stability in the Taiwan Strait.

Beijing's Taiwan policy is not to maintain the status quo, but to achieve peaceful unification and the implementation of "one country, two systems." If the status quo is maintained, unification will be permanently postponed.

As for the US' opposition to a mainland invasion of Taiwan, no conditions have been set. Could China take armed action if Taiwan declares independence? Judging from the explanations given by several US officials and scholars, as well as US President George W. Bush's recent statement that the US will do what it takes to protect Taiwan, the US seems to demand that China not take armed action under any circumstances. If this is correct, China will have one hand tied behind its back.

It seems that maintaining the status quo would both block Taiwan independence and eliminate the Chinese wish for a unified nation, a situation that meets the US' regional and global strategic interests.

There is a touch of irony in the fact that though Beijing always has claimed that the Taiwan issue is a domestic Chinese issue, and that it will not tolerate interference by any country, it now finds it more and more difficult to resolve the Taiwan issue without the US.

The US alone can solve the current crisis, which may explode at the slightest touch. This is evidence that Beijing's influence over and appeal to Taiwan is weakening and that its room for action is shrinking as it is retreating toward its bottom line and, step by step, losing the initiative. It seems unification has become just extravagant talk, and that simply maintaining the status quo would be an achievement.

The US can help prevent independence, but cannot (and maybe does not wish to) promote unification. In the final analysis, if we want to stabilize the situation in the Taiwan Strait and solve the national unification issue, we must rely on no one but ourselves.

Beijing should reflect in earnest on why it has been led by the nose by Taiwan on the cross-strait issue since the time of former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝). Why is Taiwanese public opinion becoming more and more alienated by Beijing while economic integration is growing closer and closer (public opinion polls show a steady decrease in the number of people considering themselves to be Chinese)?

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