President Chen Shui-bian (
Chen recently suggested -- on the 93rd anniversary of the founding of the Chinese republic in 1911 -- the reopening of talks between the two sides akin to the 1992 meeting of officials in Hong Kong.
Beijing apparently sees a plot in this and other peace initiatives, designed to legitimize Taiwan's separate and sovereign existence. China is also not keen to further legitimize Chen's popular credentials as Taiwan's democratically elected president. In other words, Beijing doesn't want talks without a prior recognition of Taiwan's status as part of China. In that case, there is nothing left for Taipei to talk about except its terms of surrender.
But Chen keeps trying. He has once again reiterated his country's desire to establish peaceful political relations with China "in any form whatsoever." Elaborating, he said, "We would not exclude any possibility [including, apparently, unification], so long as it has the consent of the 23 million people of Taiwan."
Beijing is not impressed.
There was a vague hope in some quarters that former president Jiang Zemin's (江澤民) political retirement might moderate Beijing's stance. But it is business as usual. In his first speech as the country's military supremo, President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) urged the People's Liberation Army (PLA) "to seize the moment and do a good job of preparing for a military struggle." And China keeps on upping the ante with even greater shows of force.
According to Chen, "At present, there are more than 600 ballistic missiles targeting Taiwan, and the numbers grow by 50 to 75 missiles each year?" But as Taipei undertakes to strengthen its defenses against China's relentless military build-up, Beijing starts to cry foul.
China, for instance, is terribly upset because Taiwan wants to buy from the US a package of sophisticated weaponry -- including warships, submarines and missile defenses -- worth US$18 billion to bolster its defenses, even though it might take years for these weapons to be delivered and become operational. And that only if Taiwanese politicians eventually agree to the government's proposals.
We know that China wants to annex Taiwan, with or without force. Beijing regards it as a "renegade" province and hence part of China. They would very much like a Hong Kong-type solution where the colonial power settled its return on the basis of an autonomy package. The problem, though, is that Taiwan is not ruled by a colonial power. It is a democracy ruled by the will of its people, expressed through periodic elections.
Unlike China's leaders, appointed through a carefully controlled party hierarchy, Chen was actually elected by his people. China's oligarchs don't trust him because they can't control him. He is accountable to his people. Beijing, therefore, has a big problem if it wants to override and outlaw the Taiwanese people.
This is madness. But there is a method to China's madness. Their blueprint for Taiwan's annexation has several elements. First, they seek to subvert Taiwan from within. They do this by cultivating the business community, and political parties and groups keen to make a deal with China. These Taiwanese groups do not want to confront China and believe that they can create a modus vivendi, like prospective unification over an extended period of time.