Fri, Mar 25, 2005 - Page 8 News List

China's law brings new challenges

By Lin Cheng-yi 林正義

In announcing the enactment of the "Anti-Secession" Law China stressed that it was done for the purpose of maintaining peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait. Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) also argued that efforts to strive for peaceful reunification would not be abandoned and that the guideline demanding that their hopes be pinned on the Taiwanese people would never be changed.

However, what the whole world has seen is that China is using the terms "non-peaceful means and other necessary measures" to package its threat to use military force. While Beijing was stressing that the law is not a war law, it authorized the State Council and the Central Military Commission to decide on and execute military action, allowing the world to see that it is a law to authorize war.

Not only does the law take direct aim at Taiwan, it also has repercussions for the implementation of the US' Taiwan Relations Act and will influence the recent US-Japan joint declaration of a common strategic objective.

Beijings' actions have been criticized in editorials by a majority of US and Japanese mainstream newspapers, such as the Asian Wall Street Journal, the Daily Yomiuri, Los Angeles Times and the Washington Post. US and Japanese experts on China also expressed regret over Beijing's decision. US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the law clearly escalated cross-strait tensions and that this is neither necessary nor constructive.

Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi urged both Taiwan and China to exercise restraint and said that from now on, Japan will work to push both sides to resolve disputes peacefully. Japanese government spokesman Hiroyuki Hosoda also said Japan is concerned that the law will have a negative effect on peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait.

On Feb. 19, the US-Japan Security Consultative Committee issued a joint statement that their regional common strategic objective includes, among other things, developing a cooperative relationship with China, encouraging the peaceful resolution of issues concerning the Taiwan Strait through dialogue, encouraging China to improve transparency in its military affairs, and discouraging destabilizing sales and transfers of arms and military technology.

The statement was a public acknowledgement by Japan that the Taiwan Strait is an area in its periphery and a link in the security environment. Further US-Japan cooperation is needed to respond to any disputes that might emerge in the Taiwan Strait.

Although the US had said previously that the Anti-Secession Law was unnecessary, and that it would not support it, Washington continued to urge Taipei not to overreact. Although the US opposes both Taiwan holding a defensive referendum and China's Anti-Secession Law, it is difficult for it to directly intervene in the domestic affairs of either side.

What the US can do is to minimize the effects of existing doubts and damage, and do its best to widen the scope of cooperation and dialogue. In view of this, Washington will probably ask Beijing to clarify some of the details of the Anti-Secession Law.

For instance, Article 5 of the law states that "Taiwan may practice systems different from those on the mainland and enjoy a high degree of autonomy."

Does this mean more flexibility will be granted to Taiwan than to both Hong Kong and Macao and that Taiwan can remain unchanged not only for 50 years but 100 years? Will Taiwan's freedom on the international scene be broadened? How does Beijing define "major incidents," the complete exhaustion of possibilities for peaceful reunification and other necessary measures in Article 8?

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