Fri, Feb 04, 2005 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: How can Taiwanese trust Beijing?

Recent events indicate how much the people of Taiwan long for an improved cross-strait relationship against a backdrop of prolonged military threats from China and international isolation. The slightest gesture of warmth or lessening of hostility on the part of Beijing is enough to incite wishful thinking among some people in Taiwan, which makes these people highly susceptible to Chinese unification propaganda.

The first recent event that gave false hope to people in Taiwan is the fact that the governments on the two sides of the Taiwan Strait have finally reached an agreement to make possible non-stop charter flights for the Lunar New Year holiday period. Although Beijing has repeatedly made it clear that this year's charter flights are an isolated incident, many still wholeheartedly believe that it was the beginning of a new-found friendship between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait. They turned a blind eye to the fact that Taiwan had actually taken grave national security risks to make the flights possible. It is truly worrisome that some groups within Taiwan will use this as a stepping stone to push for permanent cross-strait links, without thinking twice about what kind of price the people of Taiwan would have to pay.

The second event that brought hope to the naive is the arrival on Tuesday of a delegation from China to pay their respects to the late top negotiator Koo Chen-fu (辜振甫), former chairman of the Straits Exchange Foundation. Sun Yafu (孫亞夫), vice chairman of China's Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait (ARATS) and director of its Taiwan Affairs Office, and Li Yafei (李亞飛), secretary-general of ARATS, came in their unofficial capacities as personal envoys of Koo's Chinese counterpart, ARATS chairman Wang Daohan (汪道涵).

During their brief stay, they refrained from making any official statements on the future of cross-strait relations and avoided meeting government officials, except for a brief meeting and handshake with SEF Chairman and Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) Vice Chairman Johnnason Liu (劉德動) and SEF Secretary-General Jan Jyh-horng (詹益宏) around the end of the memorial service on Wednesday. In fact, they deliberately arrived close to the end of the service to avoid meeting President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), who attended earlier.

Despite this window-dressing gesture of good will, Beijing has not slowed its pace even slightly in getting its anti-secession law enacted. In fact, the Chinese National People's Congress will finish enactment of this law by the end of March. The intended target of the law is obviously none other than Taiwan. Few can overlook the fact that the anti-secession law will give Beijing a legal basis to move against Taiwan in the event of any action Beijing interprets as an act of "Taiwan independence." The hostility and implications of the anti-secession law is so strong and unsettling that the US has openly voiced concerns on more than one occasion.

This could explain why Beijing agreed to the Lunar New Year charter flights and dispatched Sun and Li to Taiwan. However, the tokenism of these two small gestures amounts to virtually nothing in the face of the enormous hostility behind the anti-secession law. This is not to mention the fact that, throughout the process, Beijing did not forget to continue increasing the number of missiles targeting Taiwan. The president recently announced that the number of missiles had grown to 706. Under the circumstances, one cannot help but wonder how anyone in Taiwan can believe that Beijing is sincere about improving its relationship with Taiwan.

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