Beijing has refused to hold talks with Taiwan ever since the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) came to power in 2000 and refused to recognize the "one China" principle. This has caused much disquiet throughout Tai-wanese society, not least in the opposition parties, and recently even the US has been pushing for a resumption of dialogue between Taiwan and China. But how should Taiwan approach any such dialogue or tactics employed by China in any future dialogue?
The main strategy of the Chinese authorities has always been to "win Taiwan back" through talks. This is the least expensive option when compared to taking the nation by force. Nevertheless, anyone who understands the way in which China negotiates is aware that they have consistently employed a four-stage strategy.
The first stage is in devising a principle or discussion topic deemed to be to their own advan-tage, and the outcome that they desire is generally implicit in this principle. One such example of this is the "one China" principle. The topic that they put forward for the talks will also include the result that they want.
For example, by having Taiwan as the target of talks, the outcome of these talks is a foregone conclusion the minute such a discussion topic is accepted by authorities here. This is because, as far as Taiwan is concerned, the result of any such negotiations will either be the maintenance of the status quo or something less desirable -- even to the extent that it will mean surrender on our part.
The second stage is the exertion of pressure, where Beijing tries to get opponents to accept their regulations and their proposed topic. To do this, they will either try to cause internal division within an opponent or get a third party to put the heat on them.
This is the current state of affairs: the Chinese refusing to go to the negotiating table unless Taiwan accepts the "one China" principle, while at the same time releasing information about military exercises that they are carrying out. This creation of an atmosphere of anxiety is designed to intimidate the nation into accepting their principle. This stage is generally drawn out over a number of months or even years.
The third stage is where they actually go to the negotiating table. This stage is quite short. If talks develop in a direction favorable to them, they will reach a conclusion very quickly. Otherwise, they will break off the talks and move proceedings into the fourth stage.
The fourth stage can be looked at from the point of view of two possible situations. The first situation is one in which Beijing, having reached an agreement during negotiations, interprets the outcome in a way that works in their favor while simultaneously insisting their opponents implement the substance of their interpretation.
Another possible situation is one in which negotiations break down, the blame for which will be placed firmly on the shoulders of Beijing's opponent. In such a scenario, the Chinese return to the first and second stages.
Again, they will propose a principle and topic as prerequisites for the resumption of talks, followed by a further round of pressure and divisive tactics -- in a continuous process that forces Beijing's opponent to make compromises.
In fact, there are similarities between China's negotiation strategies and the Game Theory. This is particularly true for the crucial first and second stages. These can be considered small manoeuvres prior to the main game, designed to alter the rules of play, forcing one's opponent to take a position advantageous to oneself.