Mon, Apr 18, 2005 - Page 8 News List

Clear up the cross-strait confusion

By Nat Bellocchi 白樂崎

In the international community, including the US, and now even within Taiwan -- and perhaps even among observers in China as well -- the continuous change in the atmosphere of cross-strait relations must be very confusing.

Despite this, US policy has not changed in rhetoric, and it may be unsustainable. For one thing, its position in the triangular relationship is being pushed by the other two players for more active involvement. A small step was recently announced by the US that a regular, senior-level meeting with China will be established. That should be tried with Taiwan, too.

A change in US policy actually began with its actions to protect its interests with the change in government in Taipei in 2000. This is now defined as preventing any unilateral change in the status quo. It was further reinforced during the next presidential election campaign in 2003 and last year, when it appeared that US interests might be challenged. That was only a year ago. Taiwan then was seen as the troublemaker.

A year later, with the approval of the "Anti-Secession" Law in Beijing, it was China that had become the troublemaker and Taiwan the reasonable player. Here, too, the US had intervened, predictably more modestly, and with less success in Beijing. The basis for this intervention was the same, however: No unilateral change to the status quo.

This did not even have time to at least lower tensions in the Strait when yet another cross-strait related action occurred. This time it was a domestic issue in Taiwan which was carried over to China. There was no US intervention here, though its possible influence on future relations is still unclear.

The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) dispatched a large delegation to China to strengthen the perception that the opposition, not the ruling party, is taking the initiative in "managing" Taiwan's relations with China. Predictably, the party played this up heavily in media supporting their cause, with little challenge.

The Chinese Communist Party host supported this effort by using high-level meetings as a carrot. The meetings with these officials, and the 10-point agreement reached between them, have caused the delegates problems at home.

Every democracy has its own set of traditions, compiled over the years as needed. Most countries at some point develop traditions and laws that are concerned with citizens who deal with the country's main adversary. Taiwan apparently has some laws to this effect and the government has stated the courts will decide if these laws have been violated by the opposition party.

There is another element, however, that will not be so clearly resolved. The host party in China, (or was it the government?), also used a stick elsewhere while discussing economic matters with the visitors. It seems Taiwanese businessmen with interests in China are being given an incentive to influence Taiwan's government in China's favor.

This is the kind of action that one could see coming, ie, China's efforts to pressurize Taiwan businessmen who have investments or trade arrangements with China, as well as its influence elsewhere, in getting the international community to accept its Taiwan containment policy.

There seems to be uncertainty on Taiwan's side about whether the views of Taiwanese voters regarding cross-strait issues have become more ambiguous. Do they believe China is using the KMT for its own purposes, or is the KMT using China to regain power at home, or both? Is the political platform of the KMT returning to its previous stand of national identity, or is it maintaining the changes made in last year's election campaign?

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