Wed, Mar 30, 2005 - Page 8 News List

Next steps crucial in cross-strait stand-off

By Liu Kuan-teh 劉冠德

So, Taiwan won the first round by successfully telling the world that democracy and peace should prevail over China's belligerent move to enact the "Anti-Secession Law." With a rational but steadfast demonstration of public will, the March 26 parade sent a clear message to the Beijing leadership that only the people of Taiwan can decide their own future.

After the parade, the month-long battle between Taiwan and China over Beijing's legislation has entered into the next stage -- an even more decisive struggle about how to forge an institutionalized and peace-oriented cross-strait interaction.

An authoritarian China might ignore international pressure -- including warnings from the US and Japan -- to take necessary steps to ease the tension created by its passage of the law. However, pressure would also be applied on Taiwan's government both domestically and externally.

After skillfully finding a balance between the necessity for the Taiwanese people to react strongly to Beijing's action and the need to show self-restraint in order to avoid making matters worse, the Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) administration must look realistically at how to turn the favorable international momentum into consistent support for Taiwan's democracy and peace.

What tops Chen's agenda next is how to bridge the diverse reactions to the government's cross-strait policy. The fundamentalists, led by former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) and his Taiwan Solidarity Union, have strongly urged the government to suspend the current policy of "active openness and effective management" as a reaction to China's unilateral move to change the status quo in the Taiwan Strait.

The opposition pan-blue camp, after boycotting the March 26 rally, started its own kowtow trip to China on Monday, led by Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Vice Chairman Chang Ping-kun (江丙坤). Moreover, the about-face by former pro-independence businessman Hsu Wen-lung (許文龍) on the eve of the parade -- through his advocacy of "one China" -- further complicates the current cross-strait political dynamics.

The cross-strait stalemate will also bring new challenges to the recent attempts initiated by Chen to pursue reconciliation with People First Party Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜).

On the international front, the short-term sympathy for Taiwan will not last long, and Taiwan should avoid complacency regarding its campaign against the Anti-Secession Law.

Chen must redouble his efforts to conduct intensive and frank communication with the US and other major countries to reiterate Taiwan's stance of "reconciliation without flinching, standing firm yet avoiding confrontation." Moreover, maintaining candid and frequent communication will help Taiwan's government learn what is on the minds of the leaders of the People's Republic of China (PRC).

Washington's role remains significant and crucial to Taiwan's next steps. Various reports have hinted that the US administration of President George W. Bush might talk Beijing into accepting Taipei's bid for observer status in the World Health Assembly. In that case, Taiwan should carefully consider whether to accept whatever Washington offers.

Washington's next step also must be to determine the "red lines" of the PRC authorities and define the "three conditions" under which Beijing would use "non-peaceful means" to try to take over Taiwan.

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