Sun, Apr 25, 2004 - Page 3 News List

Planning for the future

Ross Terrill is an associate researcher at The Fairbank Center for East Asian Research, Harvard University, and a long-time China expert. He has spent more than 40 years studying communist Chinese society and was one of the very few Western journalists allowed to enter China before the Cultural Revolution. Author of the book ``The New Chinese Empire,'' Terrill spoke to `Taipei Times' staff reporter Chang Yun-ping in a recent interview, in which he said there was a new willingness in the US to accept the idea of an independent Taiwan and that US-Taiwan relations, which soured during the presidential election, would soon be repaired. He also suggested that Taiwan include a section in its planned constitution that would leave open the possibility for Taiwan to form a nation with another Chinese nation, such as China


Ross Terrill, associate researcher at the Fairbank Center for East Asian Research, Harvard University, says that there is a new willingness in the US to accept the idea of an independent Taiwan.


Taipei Times: In your previous talks to the local media, you've mentioned that President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) should slow down the schedule for formulating a new constitution. But Chen has stressed he will go ahead with his own schedule despite China's opposition. What do you think of this?

Terrill: China's opposition is one thing, but carrying the people in Taiwan with him is a different thing. I was referring to the desirability that after a difficult election that the unity of Taiwan's people be maintained. What I meant is that President Chen should take the steps in a way that carries as much support as possible from as many Taiwan's people as possible. My idea that is that Chen should take into consideration the whole Taiwanese people to mend the fences of ethnic conflicts and let the society heal before he could go ahead with rewriting the constitution. He has shown he can increase his support. He went up from 39 percent in 2000 to more than 50 percent in 2004. If he can persuade even more people, then he is on the right track. It means the constitutional change is soundly based.

TT: Why would you suggest that Taiwan include a section in its new constitution that would allow Taiwan to form a nation with another Chinese nation in the future?

Terrill: The idea behind my remark is for democracy, history is never closed. Only for a dictatorship can you say history is frozen. And the boundaries of the countries have changed and if they change [it is] by the agreement of the people. That's one thing. If they change by war, that causes a lot of suffering. In the 1990s, Czechoslovakia was divided into two, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, as the two sides came to an agreement. In the future, if the two decided to come back together, that's their business. One day, in the South Pacific, some of the small countries of the South Pacific may join a federation. They are very weak, the islands of the South Pacific. In 1900 and 1901, New Zealand and Australia almost joined a federation. At the last moment, New Zealand changed its mind. But if you read the Australian Constitution today, there is a section that says there is place for New Zealand if they want to come in. The important thing is this is done by the agreement of the people.

TT: Is such a suggestion a way to defuse China's anger?

Terrill: It depends on how you write the constitution. It can be very open to other countries. Who would have expected France and Germany to be entering into a union? Only 55 years ago, they fought each other. The European Union is a case before our eyes of many different countries starting to get quite close to uniting. My point is in the future there are all sorts of possibilities. We have the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN). Who knows, one day Taiwan may be part of that. Beijing would be angry. They may be angry this year, but 10 years from now, they may not be angry. Taiwan went into APEC, many people said Beijing would not permit that, but they did permit it. Therefore you may write a constitution that leads the doors open to associations of one kind or another with another country, including China.

TT: What's the implication of an imperial China on the world and its relations with a democratic Taiwan?

Terrill: Historically, China was used to expecting respect from the neighboring peoples, who had to bring gifts and pay tribute to China and behave themselves and say the right words. In some cases, the king of China's neighboring countries had to send a mission to Beijing to get the new king approved, like the king of the Ryukus. Beijing had to bless him. If they did it this way, Beijing was happy because it showed Beijing that the world is working the way the world should work.

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