Last week, President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) stated that this year and next year would provide "windows of opportunity" for the resumption of cross-strait dialogue, adding that he was willing to sit down, shake hands, reconcile and engage in dialogue with Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) in a third country.
As cross-strait relations are still fraught with problems, Chen's remark did not serve to ease tensions. Instead, it indicated that a storm is looming. At such a time, a national leader should not make statements that anesthetize his people and weaken their psychological preparedness against Chinese aggression.
What has caused cross-strait relations to remain strained is Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Lien Chan's (
During Lien's meeting with Hu in Beijing, Lien repeated his assurance that inclusion of referendums in the Constitution would not lead to Taiwan pursuing independence.
Since concluding his tour of China, Lien has yet to receive a positive reply from Chen. Lien has instead been accused of allying himself with the Chinese Communist Party to contain Taiwanese independence.
Chinese authorities in charge of Taiwan affairs now believe that Lien's "journey of peace" to China was only a ploy aimed at establishing the KMT's political line and allowing Lien to go down in history. The realization that his visit was not really about cross-strait detente is said to have "hurt China's feelings."
Thus, national security departments within the People's Liberation Army (PLA) have extensively studied the issue of referendums and concluded that the attempt to include these in the Constitution is the first step toward seeking de jure independence. On May 28 and 29, China's Taiwan experts convened in Beihai, Guangxi Province, in the hope of setting the tone for future cross-strait relations.
During the meeting, some proposed directly negotiating the sovereignty issue and the status of Taiwan with Taipei rather than the impractical suggestion that "all topics are open for discussion." Apparently, these people have been racking their brains to seek ways for both sides to make concessions and engage in dialogue.
Such a claim has yet to garner sufficient support within China. Most argue that Beijing should set a limit on concessions made to Taipei, and that China should not ignore the threat posed by the cause of Taiwanese independence.
This hardline approach prevailed at the meeting, but how to implement it was not finalized. The matter has been handed over to the national security divisions of the PLA for further study. If it is the PLA that has the final say in cross-strait matters, it is not hard to guess what direction affairs in the Taiwan Strait will take.
Despite this, there is still hope for peace. China is monitoring the various statements coming from the government, but since the Chen administration does not support its words with actions, the Chinese officials in charge of Taiwan affairs have been vexed over what is true and what is not. What they hope for most of all is for Chen to put his aspirations down on paper, listing the conditions on which negotiations can be resumed. Only then might all topics be open for discussion.
Therefore, to open the "window of opportunity" for peace across the Taiwan Strait, Chen not only has to make clear what he is prepared to do for the establishment of a "mechanism of mutual trust," he also has to ascertain whether the "doves" in the Chinese government are willing to accept his goodwill. Unfortunately, this "voice of peace" is not able to make itself heard over the voice of those calling for a "civil war" across the Strait. That is why we have the current crisis, and that is why US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld felt it necessary at a conference in Singapore on the weekend to warn of expanding Chinese military activity.