Fri, Aug 04, 2006 - Page 8 News List

Letter: Define Taiwan's territory

By Huang Jei-hsuan

China reportedly enjoyed a record trade surplus of US$14.5 billion in June, signaling a deepening dependency on foreign markets for its stellar economic prosperity and, in turn, for its domestic stability that has been plagued by growing unrest.

That same month, Chinese military personnel were invited for the first time to observe the US' annual military exercises in the Western Pacific, dubbed Valiant Shield 2006. The purpose ostensibly was to impress upon the Chinese the scale of the US' military might.

On the surface, those two events have little in common, save for the fact that they were both record-setting events. But a closer look would reveal that they are manifestations of Washington's two-pronged approach -- economic interdependence and military transparency -- to stem Beijing's warlike instincts.

But all these efforts cannot make up for the fact that the long-term health of Sino-American relations hinges on a successful resolution of the cross-strait issue that is acceptable to Taiwan, China, Japan and the US, a requisite made paramount by the US' Taiwan Relations Act, China's "Anti-Secession" Law and the mutual concern of the US-Japan alliance.

Given that Beijing has yet to comprehend the merits of this notion, measures must be taken to ensure a stable environment in Taiwan that can persist for an indefinite period until a final settlement materializes.

What's needed is the implementation of an understated version of formal sovereignty for Taiwan that would address the nation's continuing reluctance to fortify its own defense but would not cause Beijing to "lose face" internationally.

The only subject that can be included in any new Taiwanese Constitution to qualify for this purpose might be the definition of Taiwan's territory.

The beauty of this is unlike calls for changing the national name or national flag, there would be no new element added to the "status quo" and, as far as the international community is concerned, neither would there be any discernible changes -- the key to removing or at least rendering insignificant chances of embarrassing Beijing.

By keeping the controversial topic of the country's name -- Republic of China (ROC) -- off the table, achieving an internal accord on territorial definition shouldn't be insurmountable.

Absent of manipulation by politicians with ulterior motives, the prospect of a nationwide referendum affirming the territorial definition is bright considering that the subject -- namely, the land on which they subsist -- is close to the heart of all Taiwanese.

To avoid potential manipulation by unscrupulous politicians, this plebiscite should be championed as a healing process for a society that has been polarized far too long.

Aside from giving the pan-green camp the satisfaction of gaining some recognition for an independent Taiwanese state, the pan-blues could take solace in the fact that the name "ROC" would remain intact and, as a consequence, the pan-greens would have to live with the name for an indefinite period of time.

Morever, the existence of a codified territorial definition could satisfy in part the public's yearning for sovereignty -- a victory in substance if not in appearance for Beijing.

Without conceding anything, Beijing would be rewarded with at least a partial removal of the thorniest obstacle in Sino-American relations.

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