Tue, Jun 15, 2004 - Page 8 News List

Perils in Chen's short-term vision

By Lin Cho-shui林濁水

In the nearly three months since the presidential election, both sides of the Taiwan Strait have been yelling at each other, with Beijing going on about the "one China" principle, not being afraid of ghosts, refusing to allow Taiwanese businessmen to make money in China if they support independence, and so on.

Taipei's approach has been exactly the opposite -- it has been soft to the point of saying it understands why China persists with the "one China" principle. Taipei has also said that anything, including the "one China" issue, can be discussed, all in an attempt to establish a framework for peace.

Although Beijing cannot really fly into a rage over Taipei's soft approach, it remains arrogant and tough, and insists that "one China" is a fundamental principle and not just a topic for discussion.

Many people say that this rigidity makes negotiating impossible and that things are in a mess generally. But I believe it is a fortunate thing that Beijing has not agreed to talks on "one China" or a peace and stability framework. If it had, the talks would be certain to lead to more disagreement and intensified conflict.

I'm not saying there is nothing to be discussed; on the contrary, there are many things that need discussing, such as co-operating to combat crime,

territorial claims in the South China Sea and even direct links.

But "one China" has always been China's favorite theme, while the peace and stability framework

is beginning to emerge as Taiwan's favorite. The conditions conducive for a positive result just aren't there.

Both the "one China" principle and the "peace and stability framework" aim to solve the cross-strait impasse once and for all. Both solutions, however, clash on the question of who has sovereignty over Taiwan.

Beijing's "one China" principle -- whether expressed as "Taiwan is part of the People's Republic of China" or presently as "Taiwan and the mainland are part of one and the same China" -- considers Taiwan and China to belong to the same sovereign power. Whether referring to Taiwan, the Republic of China (ROC) or the ROC on Taiwan, this principle does not allow for Taiwan's independence or its own sovereignty.

Only the old Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) interpretation that "China is sovereign but political power is divided" comes close to this, but I don't think there is a market for that interpretation today.

The international community will never accept that a sovereign country can have two central governments. The interpretation that the two sides of the Taiwan Strait belong to one sovereign country leaves us with only three options: Taiwan's government will either have to acknowledge that it is a local government, or treat the government in Beijing as a local or a rebellious government. Choosing any of these options is madness. The Democratic Progressive Party's (DPP) "one China" principle can therefore only mean that there are two sovereign governments, "one China and one Taiwan," or "one country on each side" of the Taiwan Strait. This of course infuriates Beijing.

Neither side will give way on the issue. When representatives of the two sides finally sit down at the negotiating table, therefore, there is certain to be much pounding of the table.

So, unless Premier Yu Shyi-kun is preparing to put aside other issues such as direct links and display some anger toward Beijing, I don't think it would be very clever to attempt to initiate discussion of the "one China" principle if it means backing Beijing into a corner where it can no longer afford to appear weak.

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