Wed, Jan 25, 2006 - Page 1 News List

China tells Chen to get in step with public opinion

SOWING DIVISION A day after outgoing premier Frank Hsieh warned Chen was out of tune with the public on cross-strait ties, Beijing echoed Hsieh's line


The Chinese government urged Taiwan yesterday to "bow to public opinion" and develop relations with China, an apparent reference to the tougher policy signaled towards Beijing by the president.

Asked to comment on President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) new Cabinet, Li Weiyi (李維一), spokesman for Beijing's policy-making Taiwan Affairs Office, warned the president against "adopting practices that run counter to the wishes and interests of numerous Taiwan compatriots."

"We hope the Taiwan authorities will recognize the trend of the times, bow to public opinion ... and boost cross-strait exchanges and cooperation, as well as ease and develop cross-strait relations," Li told a news conference.

Responding to Beijing's criticism, Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) officials said there was nothing new in the remarks, which merely trotted out China's usual political agenda embodied in the "Anti-Secession" Law. The law outlines China's "right" to attack Taiwan if it "moves toward independence."

The officials also told Beijing not to misinterpret public opinion in Taiwan, and thereby miss opportunities to normalize relations between the two countries.

China also called for talks to make the current Lunar New Year direct cross-strait flights available year-round.

Li said Chinese officials have repeatedly urged talks with their Taiwanese counterparts on year-round charters, showing China's "sincerity and good will."

"Responsible officials in Taiwan have also openly expressed their support for joint talks on starting passenger and freight charter flights," Li said.

But the MAC officials said that Beijing has prevented Taiwan's democratically elected government from being involved in talks on "certain cross-strait issues."

The Chen administration has the final say over air routes, although aviation talks with China must be held by nominally private industry groups because of Beijing's refusal to recognize Taiwan's government.

Li's comments echoed those of outgoing premier Frank Hsieh (謝長廷), who stepped down on Monday with a warning to Chen that his policies were out of sync with the wishes of the Taiwanese people.

Taiwan investors have poured an estimated US$100 billion in China and are pushing for direct air and shipping links -- banned due to security fears -- to cut costs and save time.

Taiwan posted a trade surplus of US$58 billion with China last year, Li said, adding that Taiwan's accumulated trade surplus of US$330 billion with China eclipsed its foreign exchange reserves of US$253.29 billion at the end of December.

"This huge trade surplus has directly boosted [Taiwan's] economy, resolved the employment problem of many and raised the incomes of many residents," Li said.

Also at the news conference, Li denounced a recent call by Chen for stronger government controls over Taiwanese investments in China.

China buys an estimated 40 percent of Taiwanese exports. Without its trade surplus with China, Taiwan would run a trade deficit, Li said.

"The victims of any manmade sabotage or harm to cross-strait trade would be the Taiwanese economy and the Taiwanese people," Li said.

The Chinese spokesman then renewed an offer to give Taiwan a pair of pandas as a "token of peace," and welcomed Taiwanese businesspeople to invest in Olympic projects ahead of the 2008 Beijing Games.

He said China was also seriously considering allowing the Olympic torch relay to cross Taiwan.

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