Wed, Aug 09, 2006 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: China fueling independence fires

On the eve of Premier Su Tseng-chang's (蘇貞昌) departure for Chad, China forced the African nation to sever diplomatic relations with Taiwan. This is the second time this has happened to Su since becoming premier, and it would be a miracle if he now continued his China-friendly policies. The deterioration of cross-strait relations has not been the result of Taiwan's unwillingness to display goodwill toward China, but rather of China's belligerence.

Considering the bias toward China in contemporary Taiwanese society, China's reckless diplomacy in fact bolsters the case for Taiwanese independence. When the government called its Conference on Sustaining Taiwan's Economic Development, it relegated the issues of direct links and lifting the 40 percent cap on investment in China to the heading of "other suggestions," irritating the Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU), which had been working hard to block these issues. As a result, the TSU withdrew from the conference and planned to take its opposition to the streets. Other supporters of Taiwanese independence have also been deeply disappointed by Su working against former president Lee Teng-hui's (李登輝) "no haste, be patient" policy and President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) "active management, effective opening" policy. The establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Chad should serve as a wake-up call for Su, who may adjust his policies. It has also brought a ray of hope to the cause of Taiwanese independence.

The US would do well to retract its approval of high-level cross-strait dialogue. China's hostile actions have scuppered a visit by Chen Yunlin (陳雲林), head of China's Taiwan Affairs Office, which had originally been approved by the government. Many members of the ruling party have said that Chen shouldn't come to Taiwan unless to apologize. These may be angry words, but the cross-strait atmosphere has already taken a turn for the worse. Unless China gives an explanation, Chen Yunlin's visit won't be possible.

Even though these developments won't effect cross-strait charter flights for the Mid-Autumn Festival, direct cross-strait commercial flights will probably be put off indefinitely. At the risk of displeasing the Democratic Progressive Party, the TSU and much of the public, Su rescued the proposals for direct links and relaxing the 40 percent cap on investment in China at the development conference to give the Cabinet some leeway. Now that the dovish Su has been smacked in the face by China, relaxation of cross-strait restrictions is off the agenda. Chen and Lee can breathe a sigh of relief.

Every September at the UN General Assembly meeting, Taiwan applies for UN membership under the name the Republic of China (ROC), despite the fact that China mobilizes its allies to keep the issue off the agenda. Out of concern for its international image, the Taiwanese government has in the past applied using the ROC title, which few recognize. More and more Taiwanese feel that clinging to that unrecognized title is misleading. They feel that although applying for UN membership under the title "Taiwan" may fail, it will at least help promote Taiwan's international visibility.

China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs may think that it can buy off Taiwan's allies to suppress the fact that Taiwan is a sovereign state, but China's actions are instead driving the Taiwanese government toward a more pragmatic diplomacy that doesn't focus on money or how many diplomatic allies the country has. The Taiwanese public is not blaming the government for losing ties with Chad. Instead, Beijing is providing the strongest support for the opinion that Taiwan should follow its own path.

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