Sat, Jan 29, 2005 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: Open the window of opportunity

Today is a day of great significance for cross-strait relations. Taiwan's first charter flight for the Lunar New Year heads for China, the first non-stop flight after more than fifty years of political stalemate across the Strait. Although this policy is beneficial only to Taiwanese businessmen in China, the decision made by the government is still of great symbolic significance at this juncture when the cross-strait relationship is still strained.

Additionally, marking the tenth anniversary of "Jiang's Eight Points," proposed by former Chinese President Jiang Zemin (江澤民) in 1995, Jia Qinglin (賈慶林), chairman of China's People's Political Consultative Conference, adopted a carrot and stick approach. He reiterated China's policy on Taiwan and pointed out that China is willing to negotiate with the DPP if it abandons the cause of Taiwan independence. However, Jia harshly criticized the idea of Taiwan independence, pointing out that China will not balk at going to war to prevent a permanent split.

Jiang declared his eight points a decade ago. Despite being the foundation of China's Taiwan policy, they have had little effect on Taiwan itself. This is because they only see the situation from China's own perspective, and fail to take into account the incontrovertible fact that Taiwan already is an independent, sovereign nation. They require Taiwan to deny its own existence in favor of the "one China" concept and to trust the Chinese government to bestow upon it some degree of freedom and autonomy. But that would lead to Taiwan being downgraded to the same status as Hong Kong under the "one country, two systems" principle. This is unacceptable to most Taiwanese. Given this, Jiang's Eight Points are not overly appealing.

A few months ago, China adopted the two-pronged approach of hardening its stance on some issues while softening it on others. On the one hand, China is reaching out to some Taiwanese, for example by allowing direct cross-strait flights for the Lunar New Year, which enables Taiwanese businesspeople in China to spend the holidays with their families. On the other hand, they are preparing for the worst, stepping up military purchases and getting ready for hostilities. They also plan an anti-secession law designed to provide a legal basis for an attack on Taiwan.

Both the US government and US academics believe this law is unwise and will change the cross-strait status quo. Taiwan's response has been even stronger, with some people suggesting that the response to China's law should be a defensive referendum or an anti-annexation law. Both sides of the Strait are building up their defenses in preparation for armed conflict. They also have plans for legal warfare, and the international propaganda war is ongoing. These actions are not at all beneficial to maintaining the cross-strait status quo.

Rather than loudly promoting Jiang's Eight Points, China should promote the spirit that led to the Lunar New Year charter flights across the Strait. To get that deal, both sides displayed flexibility and creativity by first establishing mutual credibility and consensus on economic and practical issues.

Following his re-election, President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) has on several occasions extended goodwill to China. The next premier, Frank Hsieh (謝長廷), has also made some concrete conciliatory measures. If China would let Wang Daohan (汪道涵) properly address the death of Koo Chen-fu (辜振甫) and delay the passage of the anti-secession legislation, a resolution of the cross-strait issue would no longer seem impossible.

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