Beijing will take both a harder and a softer line when dealing with Taiwan in the future, making more concessions on non-political topics while remaining uncompromising on sovereignty issues, academics said yesterday.
Cross-strait experts speaking at a forum pointed to the two primary events affecting the Taiwan Strait since last month's legislative elections to prove their point. They said the launch of non-stop cross-strait charter flights this year is a result of compromise and the shelving of political differences. On the other hand, China has simultaneously upped the ante politically with its proposed anti-secession legislation.
"If China wants to be `soft,' it will be softer than before. If China wants to be hard, it will be harder than before," said Chang Wu-Ueh (張五岳), a professor at Tamkang University's Institute of China Studies, pointing to the polarization of Beijing's Taiwan policy in recent years.
"China will take a soft line on matters when it serves their interests," said former Mainland Affairs council vice chairman Chen Ming-tong (陳明通).
As today is the anniversary of former Chinese president Jiang Zeming's (江澤民) pronouncement of his "Eight Points" -- an occasion Beijing's leaders have often used to signal their Taiwan policy for the coming year. Pundits have probed China's recent policies for hints as to what its policies will look like this year under President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤).
Institute for National Policy Research executive director Lo Chih-cheng (羅致政) said China has begun taking a more proactive role, forcing Taiwan to continually react to situations that Beijing initiates.
"After the legislative elections, when everyone expected a decline in tension, China brought up the anti-secession law ? and when everyone expected Beijing to make a move during the anniversary of Macau's return to Chinese sovereignty, Hu didn't say anything," Lo said.
Chang agreed with Lo, adding that while the framework of China's Taiwan policy would not be altered significantly, it's method of implementation would probably differ in the future.
"China will still insist on its `one China' principle and `one country, two systems' ? but in the future it will accord different treatment to different people and issues," Chang said.
He said China would increase both its willingness to compromise and to take a hard stance on Taiwan.
"Those who support Taiwanese independence will be treated differently from those who don't," Chang said.
Chen, however, noted that while China will be uncompromising on its proposed anti-secession law, since Hu consolidated his power Beijing has refrained from mentioning the "one China" principle as often as before.
"Whether China mentions the `one China' principle tomorrow [today] will be an important signal to look for," Chen said.
But Chen predicted that given Hu's leadership style, there would not be any surprises in his speech today.
Lin Wen-cheng (林文程), vice president of the Taiwan Foundation for Democracy, however, was not as optimistic.
He said that if Beijing's Taiwan policy was viewed within a simplistic spectrum of either moving toward war or peace, then the statement made on May 17 last year was definitely a move in the direction of war from Jiang's "Eight Points" in 1995.
Lin said that the cross-strait charters flights were only possible this year because Taipei had conceded to all of Beijing's requests -- namely round-trip, non-stop flights serviced by both Taiwanese and Chinese carriers.