Tue, Dec 21, 2004 - Page 8 News List

It's time for a break in cross-straittensions

By Li Hua-chiu李華球

The sixth legislative elections ended with a surprise. The prediction that neither the pan-blue nor pan-green camp would have a majority deviated from the actual result of the pan-blues gaining 114 legislative seats, a significant majority, while the over-confident pan-greens took only 101. Despite the unexpected outcome, it was a wise decision by voters, symbolizing Taiwan's vitality and their hope for stability by maintaining Taiwan's status quo. As for how the relationship between Taiwan, the US and China is going to be patched up, this will be a crucial factor in the future development of all three countries and deserves to be watched closely.

President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) proposal to change the names of Taiwan's state-run enterprises and foreign missions in countries with which it has no diplomatic ties to include the word "Taiwan" caused US State Department deputy spokesman Adam Ereli to respond in strong words that, "[The US is] opposed to any unilateral steps that would change the status quo," and "these changes of terminology for enterprises or economic and cultural offices abroad, in our view, would appear to unilaterally change the status quo across the Taiwan Strait ... we're not supportive of them."

The US response is likely to have its strategic considerations, but Ereli's prompt retort revealed the US' deep fear that Taiwan will cross the line in cross-strait affairs. If a cross-strait war were to occur, the US would likely be involved. Thus, the US' immediate and clear reaction was to berate Taiwan and sooth China, taking the initiative and showing its determination keep Taiwan in check and prevent China from making any further moves. In doing this, the US showed its crisis management skills, but it is clear which side this policy favors. As the election results have pleased the US, it is probably a good time to repair the fragile Taiwan-US relationship.

Four days after the legislative elections, the spokesman for the Taiwan Affairs Office (TAO) of China's State Council Li Weiyi (李維一) said the elections have proven that the recent provocative activities of Taiwan independence activists cannot win popular support. This revealed that China's determination to oppress Taiwan's independence is on the rise, and China also has taken it a step further -- to observe the mainstream public opinion in Taiwan.

China's Taiwan policies are still based on "seeking dialogue," "preparing for war," and "being prepared to wait," which means that China is combining hard tactics with soft in various ways. Chinese President Hu Jintao's (胡錦濤) four-point proposal made last year, and the "five noes" and "seven advocacies" of the May 17 declaration will continue to serve as the basic principles of the TAO.

As a consequence, cross-strait tensions should be less severe, but the gridlock is likely to continue. We should think of how to use the current moment as an opportunity to calmly and objectively break the ice in cross-strait relations to serve the interests of both sides.

Unfortunately, Li said that Lunar New Year charter flights between Taiwan and China could only be handled as "domestic flights," an indication that China might be returning to a harder line in its Taiwan policy. With the political atmosphere becoming more moderate, now should be a good opportunity to start cross-strait talks to resolve the inconvenience of travel between Taiwan and China.

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