Speaking at the launch of his new book, former US ambassador to China and former American Intstitute in Taiwan director, James Lilley, yesterday said disputes between Taiwan and China are better solved through greater business interactions.
"Make business, not war," said Lilley, who was born in the seaport town of Qingdao (青島) in northeast China. Lilley also said there should be a peaceful resolution between the two sides of strait.
Lilley urged Taiwan to keep a low profile while focusing on economic development.
"Don't go too far to provoke China. China may provoke you, but don't get on the wrong side of this one," Lilley said.
"We're shooting with each other, and in 2003 it's all about making money. War is bad for business," he said.
"Now you have thinkers and visionaries like [former KMT vice chairman] Vincent Siew (蕭萬長) who tries to use the EU's formula to deal with China," said Lilley. "[Vice Premier] Qian Qi-chen (錢其琛) is talking about a free trade area. There is something happening there."
Lilley mapped out a future scenario for East Asia in which three important hubs exist -- two in China and one in Taiwan.
Lilley said the Yangtze Delta and the combination of Hong Kong and Shenzhen would play an important role in the economic development of East Asia.
"Half-a-million Taiwanese businessmen live in Shanghai now," said Lilley, quoting John Chang (章孝嚴), the illegitimate son of late president Chiang Ching-kuo (蔣經國).
Lilley said the port city of Kaohsiung could also function as a hub. "You are to put over NT$1 trillion into Kaohsiung over the next five years. I see you have passed a law to establish a free export zone with Kaohsiung in the middle of it," Lilley said, "Kaohsiung can very well become a hub."
"You're tied close to the America market, you're involved in free-market competition and you're actively lowering tariff barriers. All of these things are positive," Lilley said.
But Lilley also said he was worried a referendum may prevent Taiwan's economy from developing further.
"Referendums are not a good way to do business," said Lilley, when asked how Taiwan should resolve the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant dispute. "This is a very complex decision that doesn't lend itself to a simple answer," he said.
"What does the referendum do for you? What does it clarify? It's very important to examine oneself as to why it's being done." he said, "There is a lot of noise being made [on the nuclear power issue]. It's time for the pragmatist to come out, not the idealist."
He reiterated the US government's stance of non-intervention on the Taiwan-China issue
"It's not my business, not to me or to the US," Lilley said.
Lilley thinks that the US is "not smart enough" to get involved in something so complicated.
"When I get involved with China, I realize how much I don't know about it. You know what the Chinese concerns are. What they are really concerned about is the referendum of independence," he said.
"Your president said very clearly in his inauguration address, `I will not have a referendum on the status of Taiwan as long as the situation is peaceful.' I presume that's still the stance [of Taiwan]," he said.