At a time when Taipei is thinking over its international strategy in response to Beijing's proposal of an anti-secession law (反分裂國家法) last month, several local academics and experts have predicted that China will make concessions on direct cross-strait charter flights for the Lunar New Year holiday -- as this would constitute just a single, insignificant case.
In doing so, China will be able to affect Taiwan's international strategy: just as Taipei is firing back at the proposed legislation, it will be accepting a symbolic reconciliation between the two sides when Chinese charter flights arrive in Taiwan.
Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) took the initiative by first making a statement on May 17 on the anti-secession law, and he is no longer responding passively to Taiwan's moves. Meanwhile, he is playing a soft tune on non-political issues to attract the support of the Taiwanese people and the international community.
When Koo Chen-fu (辜振甫), the late chairman of the Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF), fell seriously ill last year, Taipei wished to invite the chairman of China's Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait (ARATS), Wang Daohan (汪道涵), to visit him. Beijing thinks highly of Koo, and clearly knows that another Koo-Wang meeting could have reduced tensions across the Strait. But Beijing repeatedly refused Taipei's invitation, due to its rigid political stance.
The condolence message Wang sent after Koo's death is a reflection of their personal friendship. But it also shows that, if the necessary moral courage is absent, one will be destined to yield to Beijing's strategic arrangement.
China's creation of the anti-secession law shows that Hu wants to take the initiative to restrain Taiwan from a plan to create a new constitution through a referendum next year. China has been preparing the legislation for a long while, but claims that the proposed law is passive and defensive. China is obviously trying to prevent not only formal Taiwan independence, but also US interference.
After hurting the feelings of the Taiwanese people with this strategic arrangement, a ray of hope over charter flights has appeared. Unfortunately, Beijing's political maneuvering can be seen behind its goodwill.
According to a poll on the anti-secession law taken by the pro-independence Taiwan Thinktank on Dec. 31, more than half of those questioned think that the law may restrict their expression of opinion on unification and independence, block the resumption of cross-strait talks and even increase tension across the Strait. About 70 percent of the respondents think that Taiwan's international space will be further oppressed.
About 80 percent of respondents objected to the legislation, while as many as 88 percent thought that Taiwan's political parties should give up their power struggles in the face of the legislation. Perhaps it is beyond Beijing's imagination that the law might promote unity among Taiwan's major parties.
Although Taipei wants to strike back, it is under pressure from Washington. But if no action is taken, this will be interpreted as tacit recognition of Beijing's action.
Taipei has purposely defined Beijing's move as an attempt to unilaterally change the status quo. US President George W. Bush's government did not criticize Beijing for the proposed law, unlike its response to Taipei's holding of a so-called defensive referendum last year.