Fri, Mar 18, 2005 - Page 8 News List

Does China need a law to wage war on Taiwan?

By Ku Er-teh 顧爾德

China's "Anti-Secession" Law clearly states that in the event that the "Taiwan independence" forces act under any name or by any means to cause Taiwan's secession from China, that major incidents entailing Taiwan's secession from China occur, or that conditions for a peaceful reunification should be completely exhausted, Beijing shall employ non-peaceful means and other necessary measures to protect China's sovereignty and territorial integrity.

These three preconditions represent Beijing's consistent stance. The official document that most clearly stated the preconditions for waging war against Taiwan prior to the Anti-Secession Law is the white paper released by China's Taiwan Affairs Office in 2000.

The Anti-Secession Law, however, takes a softer approach. The white paper listed "indefinitely refusing to negotiate" as a pre-condition for war, while the Anti-Secession Law states that war only becomes unavoidable when conditions for a peaceful reunification are completely exhausted. The major difference is that the Anti-Secession Law is a law, while the white paper is just a policy document. Since Taipei-Washington relations are regulated by the US' Taiwan Relations Act, Beijing also wants a domestic law to regulate political relations across the Taiwan Strait.

The Anti-Secession Law provides Beijing with a legal basis for waging war. However, the preface chapter of the Constitution of the People's Republic of China (PRC) already clearly stipulates that Taiwan is part of the sacred territory of the PRC. What's more, does China, with its undemocratic, autocratic regime, really care about a "legal basis?"

Another white paper on Taiwan was issued during the Jiang Zemin (江澤民) era. It listed all the pre-conditions for waging war against Taiwan, yet China at that point was still militarily unable to punish Taiwanese independence forces, which was humiliating to China's leadership. Beijing has to understand that to take Taiwan by force, it has to deal with other international superpowers.

Though Taipei has reacted fiercely to the law, it is still focusing on the domestic political repercussions. Premier Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) has said that if Beijing enacts a law to take Taiwan by force, he would support amending the Constitution to counter the legislation.

Instead of stressing the legal basis for the Anti-Secession Law, we can see the law as one of Chinese President Hu Jintao's (胡錦濤) strategies on Taiwan -- employing a legal basis to oppose Taiwan's legal "secession."

What we need to take note of is that on March 4, Hu spoke of his four-point guideline on Taiwan in response to President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) "four noes and one not." This is very different from Jiang's "listen to what [Chen] says and observe what he does" policy.

If Hu's new four-point guideline is taken together with the Anti-Secession Law and US-Japan Security Treaty, what looms ahead of Taiwan is very clear: The US and China prevent Taiwan from claiming independence, the US and Japan work together to stop China taking Taiwan by force, and the US pushes both sides to negotiate.

Hu's remarks revealed that Chen's "four noes and one not" is the bottom line acceptable to both sides, and that he expects Chen to conform to the "one China" principle.

In response to the Taiwan Solidarity Union's recent criticism, the Democratic Progressive Party is sure to condemn the Chinese Communist Party. To the outside world, however, it is more important that they get Beijing to accept, legally, a more ambiguous definition of "one China" (by amending the preface to Taiwan's Constitution, for example), to transcend Beijing's existing constitutional structure, and gain a high degree of autonomy and freedom on the international scene.

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