Wed, Dec 20, 2006 - Page 8 News List

The fictional 'status quo,' Part 1

By June Teufel Dreyer

It mentions nothing about sovereignty as a precondition.

In the case of China, it has changed the status quo by, among other actions, carrying out a military modernization program that seems specifically targeted at an invasion of Taiwan.

This includes, among other things, deploying massive numbers of short-range missiles that are pointed at Taiwan, initiating an ambitious submarine enhancement program and significantly expanding its sea mining assets.

Beijing also passed an anti-secession law in March last year.

China said that this did not change the status quo and, given that Beijing has consistently refused to foreswear the use of force as a means to its goal of unifying with Taiwan, the PRC has a plausible case.

But Taiwan did not agree, and the US and the EU concurred with Taipei.

But the law was enacted anyway, with little consequence to China save that the EU postponed lifting the quasi-arms embargo it imposed after the Tiananmen Square Massacre in 1989.

As for Taiwan, President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) made a number of promises in his first inaugural address, one of which was that he would not abolish the National Unification Council.

However, in February, he announced that the Council's functions would cease.

There was a brief but heated debate about what ceasing the functions of the council meant. Analysts agreed this was weaker than "abolishing" the council but stronger than "freezing" or "suspending" it.

China and the US protested that this constituted a change in the status quo.

Chen said it was because the opposition party had cut the council's budget to such a low level that the organization could not afford to meet, and in fact it had not met in several years.

Therefore ceasing the council's functions could not be construed as a change in the status quo.

Whether one agrees or disagrees with Chen's interpretation, the council has not met since his declaration.

Perhaps it has not quite been abolished, but neither is it quite in existence.

Moreover, none of the parties involved seems concerned when the status quo gets changed in a direction it likes.

There were no cries of protest from Beijing when the Taiwanese government, in 1991, gave up its claim to the right to administer the "mainland" or have the Chinese provinces represented in the Legislative Yuan in Taipei.

Also, in May last year, following statements by some Taiwan opposition party figures who said positive things about unification during meetings in Beijing, the Beijing Review observed that changes in the status quo in the direction of unification are actually a good thing.

June Teufel Dreyer is professor of political science at the University of Miami, Coral Gables, Florida (this is part one of a two-part article. Part two will appear tomorrow).

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