Sun, Jun 19, 2005 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: Pan-blue China visits full of pitfalls

Reportedly, Beijing has extended an invitation to Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Lien Chan (連戰) and People First Party Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜) to attend a cross-party forum in China. It is widely believed that both Lien and Soong will accept the invitation. If this is true, Beijing is in the process of turning dialogue with the pan-blue opposition leaders into a routine matter. The implications of this for future cross-strait relations need to be closely examined.

One agreement reached between Chinese Communist Party chief and President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) and Lien during their meeting last month was to establish a mechanism for party-to-party dialogue. The suggestion of a cross-party forum is obviously built on that consensus.

As with Hu's meetings with Lien and Soong, the significance of such a forum is mostly symbolic: it helps reinforce Beijing's "one China" principle. Just imagine: If representatives from all of China's political parties, including the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and its puppet parties, congregate in one room with Lien and Soong among them, wouldn't that present an ideal opportunity for "one China" propaganda? The underlying message obviously would be that political parties in Taiwan are no different from other parties in China.

It should surprise none that President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) has not received an invitation to the forum. If he did, he most certainly should not attend, because to do so would be a great insult to this country's sovereignty and dignity. However, the fact that such a forum may take place without any attempt to involve him demonstrates that Beijing's intention is to isolate Chen in cross-strait negotiations.

The "Chinese" political parties -- including the KMT and PFP -- can chat amongst themselves until their faces turn red. But the forum will remain empty talk, because the KMT and PFP are merely opposition parties in Taiwan. No substantive change in cross-strait relations can come about until Beijing speaks with the duly elected leader of Taiwan -- which happens to be President Chen. Fortunately for Taiwan, Chen isn't ready to sell out Taiwan by embracing the "one China" principle in exchange for photo opportunities and tea with Hu. And that's why Beijing doesn't invite him.

One cannot help but ask the following: If Beijing knows perfectly well that speaking with Taiwan's opposition politicians won't help resolve the immediate problems in cross-strait relations, why bother?

First and foremost, such meetings create an illusion in the international community that the two sides of the Taiwan Strait are preparing to bury the hatchet. This will help ease the international pressure that China's has received for its military threats against Taiwan.

There is also the potential for "gradual unification" -- as pointed out by many commentators in Taiwan with increasing alarm. If more and more individuals, politicians and sectors within Taiwan bypass the government and willingly relegate their exchanges and contacts with the other side of the Taiwan Strait to the status of "domestic" or "internal" contacts, de facto unification may one day become a reality.

Finally, there is the issue of the messages conveyed by Taiwan's opposition to Beijing during their visits, which are closely monitored by the international community. They may speak on behalf of the segment of the Taiwanese public which supports unification -- a minority of the population, it should be pointed out. But because the pan-blue leaders' contacts with Beijing are often high profile, their pro-unification stance is amplified, creating the impression that they represent the mainstream view.

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