Thu, Sep 08, 2005 - Page 8 News List

China bound to increase meddling

By Nat Bellocchi 白樂崎

In Washington, among those who are involved in the three-sided cross-strait relations, there is seldom -- if ever -- a consensus on what is best for US interests. Despite occasional reports by the executive branch to the US Congress and the public, even the appearance of consensus never exists for very long, due to the increasing complexity of cross-strait relations.

Starting with last year's presidential election in Taiwan, which reinforced the ruling party, and then the legislative elections which deflated it, many experts in the US went from being deeply concerned about where Taiwan was going (provoking China) to being concerned about where it wasn't going (strengthening its security).

In Washington that is the classic division of consensus -- worry about China or worry about security.

This year Beijing changed the atmosphere when it sought domestic approval for its "Anti-Secession" Law. While the pan-green camp had been the "troublemaker" last year, China now had become the troublemaker and Taiwan the reasonable player. Taiwan's government did an unusually good public relations effort gaining wide support internationally and at home for condemning that law.

There was little time before yet another cross-strait related action emerged. This time it was a domestic issue in Taiwan which was carried to China. The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and then other opposition parties' leaders began a series of visits to China. They received an unusually high level of attention in China, including presidential meetings, and were allowed a high level of media attention as well.

Agreements were made for future party liaison with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), and in receiving offers to increase trade and other favorable actions, but not through Taiwan's government.

Since there are no laws prohibiting such behavior by political parties, the government and the ruling party were clearly unsure of itself, and the body politic of Taiwan seemed to be in complete confusion.

The results of the election for the National Assembly went to the ruling party, which helped calm the confusion somewhat. What that meant politically, however, remained unclear for two reasons.

The liaison and the commitments made between opposition parties and the CCP could not only undermine the ruling party, which has been the opposition's first priority, at any cost, since the year 2000, but could also permit more intrusive actions by China in Taiwan's internal affairs.

During the visits of the opposition leaders to China, the newly established liaison between the CCP and the KMT included an agreement to establish a line of communications. At the same time, the Chinese hosts made no changes to their fundamental requirements -- the "one China" principle, the absolute power of Beijing, or its ongoing military threat, for example.

Beijing is not likely to do so. It may well be positioning its efforts to be sure the present administration in Taipei fails, and that the next election delivers a much friendlier administration, more accommodating to Beijing's objectives. If that materializes, conceivably the US and China could become involved much more deeply than before in Taiwan's domestic affairs, but for different reasons.

The other reason for hesitation following the National Assembly's actions was that a very high profile, first time election was soon to be held within the KMT to choose a new chairman.

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