Sat, Dec 25, 2004 - Page 8 News List

Beware of the Chinese bearing gifts

By Lin Cho-shui 林濁水

China's inability to achieve unification with Taiwan is a problem of practical politics, but whether it invades Taiwan or not will be decided by the international situation, its strength and its determination. It certainly is not a legal problem.

For this reason, I have often derided Beijing's flimflam over the "unification law," because people in Taiwan simply do not need to get tangled up in all of this nonsense.

It was something of a surprise to see Beijing giving its "unification law" a makeover and turning it into an "anti-secession law," which they want to pass before the end of the month, so that they can give the people of Taiwan a great, big Christmas present.

The fact that people in both the government and the opposition have reacted in such a hysterical way has been very frustrating for me.

The anti-session law gives rise to a host of practical and jurisprudential problems, and is really no different from the "unification law."

The first problem arises with the stated purpose of the law. The definition of "secession" is a thorny problem, for if the current situation is one of secession, then China would have to declare war as soon as the law is passed, but if a state of secession does not exist, then the idea of unification is meaningless.

So, is Beijing prepared to ignore the whole issue of de facto independence and deal only with de jure independence (which China eccentricly defines in terms of constitutional re-engineering, or any change to the national title or national flag)? Is it now willing to take a more balanced view over its claims that Taiwan is a secessionist state, while accepting current political reality?

This is the only way that makes sense of the law -- but it doesn't seem that Beijing is capable of such a sharp turnaround at this time.

And, if Taiwan is not regarded as a secessionist territory, then how will Beijing be able to deal with demands for independence by Xinjiang and Tibet?

By making this law, China is only making difficulties for itself. In fact, Beijing has not shown much interest in the "unification law" for some time, but this sudden move to create an "anti-secession law," while thought by some to be a move against hawks in Taiwan's government, is more probably a threatening tactic, seeing that talk of such laws has proved so effective in generating a hysterical response in Taiwan's government and opposition parties.

Taiwan has proved remarkably cooperative in letting China use this method to exert pressure, and by sensationalizing the reports, it simply adds weight to China's words.

The US gladly passed on the news that China was in the process of drafting an "anti-secession law." It also stated that it was an excellent opportunity to scold China for being a "naughty child" for upsetting the status quo -- and we all know how much the US hates any change to the status quo -- and they made a great deal of the matter.

But by letting the issue play out in this way, Taipei has fallen completely into Beijing's trap. First, the reason that China told the US was to exert pressure on it, and the reason the US passed this information on to Taiwan was also to exert pressure. It beggars belief that Taiwan still actually believes that the US is working for Taiwan's benefit.

Second, even if the US believes that China is being naughty for proposing an anti-secession law, the US will also put the blame on the cause of the naughty child's temper tantrum, namely Taiwan.

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