Wed, Mar 27, 2002 - Page 3 News List

Hu Jintao's visit to US unlikely to raise Taiwan issue

By Monique Chu  /  STAFF REPORTER

Given the fact that Chinese Vice President Hu Jintao's (胡錦濤) upcoming visit to the US is a "getting-to-know you" visit, sensitive issues such as the Taiwan question are unlikely to be tabled, US scholars and Taiwanese officials said yesterday.

"My personal view is that the visit is largely symbolic. Substantive issues are unlikely to be overtly touched upon," said Senior Adviser to the National Security Council (NSC) Lin Chia-lung (林佳龍) of Hu's visit to the US next month."To our knowledge, neither Washington or Beijing plan to focus on concrete issues. After all, both sides really want to get better acquainted with one another."

Lin and Hu made the remarks at the 9th annual CSIS and Chinatrust Commercial Bank roundtable meeting yesterday.

"I think it's a `get-to-know you' session," Erik R. Peterson, Senior Vice President of the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) said of the visit.

In his presentation on the changing political environment of the Asia-Pacific region, Gerrit W. Gong, Assistant to the President of Brigham Young University, agreed that key issues in Sino-US relations are not likely to be discussed during Hu's visit.

"The primary purpose of the vice president's visit to the US is to establish his understanding of what the US is," said the Oxford-trained scholar of Hu's first American trip.

Even though there will be serious discussions on issues of mutual concern, they will be put in context, emphasizing -- "friendship and cooperation as the long-term framework for the two countries," Gong argued.

Analysts have argued that the basic framework for Sino-US relations remains unchanged following US President George W. Bush's visit to China last month. Critics have also noted that Bush has apparently failed in talks with Beijing seeking to persuade Chinese President Jiang Zemin (江澤民) to halt sales of missile technology or soften China's stance on religious freedom.

The upcoming leadership transition in Beijing, slated to formally begin during the 16th Chinese Communist Party meeting next autumn, is unlikely to lead to a drastic change in China's policy towards Taiwan, at least not in the near future, analysts predicted.

The priority for the new Chinese leadership, Gong said, is to ensure economic stability to maintain its regime legitimacy.

Lin offered a similar observation, saying: "the Chinese leadership in Beijing put economic issues as number one priority."

While agreeing resumption of cross-strait talks is unlikely to take place in the near future, some analysts attending the seminar saw Taiwan and China's WTO accession as a window opportunity for enhancement of economic exchanges across the strait.

But scholars and officials found themselves in disagreement with the extent to which government intervention should impose on trade and invest flows from Taiwan to China.

Meanwhile, in his presentation on the region's economic outlook, Peterson said signs of gradual economic recovery on the global scale could make economic adjustment by both Taipei and Beijing a way to bring their economic restructuring into conformity with WTO requirement a bit easier.

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