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Sun, Aug 19, 2001 - Page 3 News List

China slams new cross-strait moves

HARD LINE Beijing downplayed Taipei's proposed relaxation of curbs on investments in China by saying that the move avoided the `one-China principle'

AFP , BEIJING

Chinese officials and analysts have slammed plans by Taiwan to relax curbs on investments in China as "deceptive" and insufficient to thaw frosty cross-strait relations, state media said yesterday.

In order to bring real progress, Taiwan would have to acknowledge the "one-China" principle stating the country is an inseparable part of the mainland, the China Daily said.

"If [Taipei] attempts to steer clear of the most pressing problem by keeping silent on the one-China principle, it will be totally impossible to break the stalemate in cross-strait ties," said an unnamed official with the Cabinet's Taiwan Affairs Office.

The scrapping of a blanket ban on investment projects in China valued at more than US$50 million in favor of case-by-case evaluation, was among a slew of new measures proposed by a panel meeting in Taiwan early this week.

The panel, charged with formulating a new policy on economic ties with China, also agreed to the opening up of direct shipping and air links for cargo via six designated ports in Taiwan.

To match the changes, the panel suggested the "no haste, be patient" policy -- shorthand for not rushing into China's embrace -- should be replaced by the more ambitious-sounding policy of "active opening and effective management."

Chinese analysts were unimpressed and described the offer as "little more than an attempt to find a solution to Taiwan's stumbling economy," the China Daily said.

Taiwan's economy, battered by the global technology downturn, shrank 2.35 percent in the second quarter, the biggest quarterly fall in 26 years, the nation's government announced on Friday.

Despite the economic incentive for Taiwan to upgrade ties with China, Chinese observers threw cold water on the panel's proposals.

"It's still too early to predict any substantial change in cross-strait relations as everything is pending," said Li Jiaquan (李家泉), a researcher on Taiwan at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, the nation's top think tank. "We have to wait and see."

Zhu Weidong (朱衛東), another Taiwan analyst at the think tank, told the paper that President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) could merely be trying to gather support ahead of upcoming elections at the end of the year.

"So far, it seems that Chen's endorsement of the [economic panel's] proposed policy is more a political plot than a demonstration of his sincerity [in developing] cross-strait economic ties," Zhu said.

"Just as he has done many times in the past, Chen appears to be putting on a political show to woo voters in the coming legislative elections in December," he said.

China looks with intense mistrust at Chen, who began his political career as a high-profile advocate of Taiwan's independence from China.

Since becoming president in May last year, Chen has not made a clear statement in favor of the so-called "one-China" principle, which Beijing sets as a precondition for dialogue.

He is unlikely to make such a statement any time soon, given strong opposition to the principle within the DPP, according to Chinese analysts.

"Currently, Chen has little maneuvering room in accepting the principle as his hands are bound by die-hard DPP members who clamor for Taiwanese independence," said Li, the think-tank analyst.

Taiwanese investments in China have continued to rise despite tensions between the two sides and now total an estimated US$70 billion.

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