Wed, May 25, 2005 - Page 8 News List

Understand Beijing to start cross-strait talks

By Liu Kuan-teh 劉冠德

After a month of "China fever" sparked by the visits of Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Lien Chan (連戰) and People First Party Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜) to China, the cross-strait relationship seemed to be returning to the starting point of a political stalemate, especially when Beijing slapped Taiwan's face during Taipei's bid for observer status in the World Health Assembly.

Senior KMT members even revealed that during Lien's meeting with Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) late last month, the Chinese president stated he had no plans to initiate dialogue with the Democratic Progressive Party government during the remaining three years of President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) second term and claimed that "time is not on Taiwan's side."

If the changes to cross-strait dynamics and the assumption that Hu would continue to refuse to reach out to the Chen administration are true, how could Chen expect to leave a legacy in terms of reopening cross-strait dialogue and establishing lasting peace?

Even if Beijing were to incorporate new and pragmatic thinking to deal seriously with Chen, are Chen and his government ready for a resumption of talks with their Chinese counterparts? Or to put it more simply, is a Chen-Hu summit realistic?

With Chen facing both domestic and international pressure, it is fair to ask how he can regain momentum for cross-strait talks and leave a legacy of "not allowing Taiwan to become a second Hong Kong."

To decipher Beijing's two-handed scheme of "divide and conquer" and to engage in steadfast but pragmatic negotiations with China, Taiwan must conduct a systematic evaluation of Beijing's negotiation techniques.

A key characteristic of the Chinese Communist Party negotiation process involves the distinctive use of language and symbolic acts. Negotiators from the People's Republic of China (PRC) are fond of quoting their counterparts' own words to hold them to a position they might want to change, or to force their opponents to make concessions.

Hence, even when Chen reached a consensus with Soong to the effect that "the Republic of China" (ROC) is the "greatest common denominator" regarding Taiwan's sovereignty, Beijing slammed him for affirming that "the ROC is an independent and sovereign country" and described his plans for constitutional reform as an attempt to pursue "de jure Taiwan independence."

This mentality contributes to a maneuver favored by PRC diplomats: engaging in word games with their opponents through the insistence on certain "principles." In this case it is the "one China" principle as well as the "1992 consensus." After early browbeating to secure a counterpart's commitment to certain general principles, PRC officials will use that commitment to constrain the other side's actions as the relationship evolves.

The PRC's intention to exploit this situation explains why Beijing has continued to pressure Chen to accept its "one China" principle without directly reacting to his numerous olive branches.

When PRC negotiators wish to convey the impression that they are impervious to pressure or unwilling to compromise on some issue, they will assert, often not very convincingly, that they do not particularly care about a given situation or about attaining a certain objective.

This tactic underlines the PRC regime's insistence on not abandoning the option to attack Taiwan if Taiwan pursues independence or even indefinitely delays talks on unification.

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