Fri, Jun 04, 2004 - Page 8 News List

Reason is the key to cross-strait ties

By Chiou Chwei-liang邱垂亮

On May 17, China issued its latest statement on the Taiwan issue, now dubbed "Hu's Seven Points." President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) inauguration speech on May 20 is the latest version of Taiwan's China policy, and the blueprint for the Chen government's policy promises and development direction for the next four years.

The question of whether these two statements have something in common and whether they offer feasible ways of improving the cross-strait relationship, or whether the two sides are sticking to their own interpretation and may even be causing the relationship to deteriorate, must be answered through objective, rational and cautious analysis.

The American China expert Kenneth Lieberthal does not believe that China's statement implies a policy change. He says there is nothing new in the statement's tough approach to Taiwan's independence, and that it is consistent with China's past attitudes.

The statement did not mention unification or the "one country, two systems" model. Instead, it focused on the establishment of a long-term stable framework that it hopes will resuscitate cross-strait exchanges and dialogue.

Lieberthal believes the Chen government should seriously study the possibilities for such interaction. If it doesn't, a future deterioration of the situation would spell disaster for both Taiwan and China. Lieberthal also says the current problem is that China thinks Taiwan's acceptance of the "one China" principle is the premise for such a framework. This is the reality. Taiwan has to give substantial and serious consideration to the meaning of a "one China" to which both China and Taiwan belong.

I often disagree with Lieberthal's point of view, but I think these arguments are pertinent and to the point. At first glance, the "five absolute noes" in the first half of China's statement -- "never compromise on the one-China principle, never give up our efforts for peace negotiations, never falter in our sincere pursuit of peace and development on both sides of the Strait with our Taiwan compatriots, never waver in our resolve to safeguard China's sovereignty and territorial integrity, and never accept `Taiwan independence'" -- seem overbearing, but a closer look reveals that they are but reiterations of past statements.

The statement warns "Taiwan leaders" that they must "pull back immediately from their dangerous lurch towards independence" instead of "following their separatist agenda to cut Taiwan from the rest of China and, in the end, meet their own destruction by playing with fire."

The statement goes on to say that "the Chinese people are not afraid of ghosts, nor will they be intimidated by brutal force. To the Chinese people, nothing is more important and more sacred than safeguarding the sovereignty and territorial integrity of their country. We will do our utmost with the maximum sincerity to strive for the prospect of peaceful reunification of the motherland. However, if Taiwan's leaders should move recklessly to provoke major incidents of `Taiwan independence,' the Chinese people will crush their schemes firmly and thoroughly at any cost."

Such saber-rattling has been heard before, but this time it is all being put in one and the same statement, and that sounds frightening to anyone who has never heard it before.

Nor are the seven points in the second half of China's statement very new. They have all been mentioned before, and they are also based on the "one China" premise: "No matter who holds power in Taiwan in the next four years, as long as they recognize that there is only one China in the world and both China and Taiwan belong to that one and same China, abandon the `Taiwan Independence' stance and stop the separatist activities, then cross-strait relations can hold out a bright prospect of peace, stability and development ..."

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