Officials and analysts scaled down the importance of remarks by Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji (朱鎔基) on China's policy toward Taiwan yesterday, saying such rhetoric showed no softening of Beijing's policy toward Taipei.
"There is nothing new in the speech," said James Huang (黃志芳), spokesman for the Presidential Office, of Zhu's address to an annual session of China's parliament in Beijing yesterday.
"Zhu's remarks were nothing special to me," Huang said.
Zhu repeated China's precondition for the resumption of cross-strait talks, namely, that Taiwan should accept the "one China" principle.
"China still saw the `one China' principle as the precondition for resumption of cross-strait talks, so Beijing hardly softened its fundamental policy toward Taiwan," said Joanne Chang (
Talks between Taipei and Beijing have been frozen since July 1999 when former president Lee Teng-hui (
Zhu's speech was the the first time the Chinese premier mentioned the so-called "one China, three phases" rhetoric (
The "three phases" notion has been reiterated by the Chinese vice premier Qian Qichen (
"The only positive sign is that China for the first time is including this rhetoric into its written government documentation. In the past we saw nothing but oral expression of the rhetoric," noted Andy Chang (張五岳), a China watcher at Tamkang University.
Seen as a conciliatory gesture by some observers, the rhetoric stressed that there is only one China in the world; China and Taiwan belong to "one China;" and the completion of China's sovereignty and territory should not be challenged.
The suggestion that the PRC and Taiwan might be part of an as yet undefined "one China," argued by scholars such as Garry Klintworth, seemed to go some way toward the notion of a future China proposed by President Chen Shui-bian (
Andy Chang said Zhu's remarks would be "meaningless" in the eyes of Taiwan if China continued to refuse to treat Taiwan as an equal and continued to sabotage Taiwan's international space.
In view of China's upcoming power transfer to a new generation of leaders, it is unlikely that Beijing's incumbent leadership would come up with any innovative policy toward Taiwan, Joanne Chang said.
The leadership changes are scheduled to formally take place at this year's 16th Chinese Communist Party Congress, although power maneuvering ahead of the meeting has already begun -- with older leaders working to hang onto power and younger ones seeking to replace them.
Taiwan should move beyond the latest remarks by Chinese leaders to be watchful of any upcoming major events in Beijing-Washington relations that may have a tremendous impact on Taiwan, such as the visit of Chinese vice president Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) to the US, Joanne Chang warned.
"Taiwan should watch very carefully how the US handles the issue of China's arms proliferation if Hu links the issue to US arms sales to Taiwan," she said.
Hu is also the heir apparent of Chinese president Jiang Zemin (