Sat, Feb 12, 2005 - Page 2 News List

Beijing wields the carrot and stick

CONCESSIONS Some may be excited about prospects for cross-strait detente, but analysts say that Beijing's tactics are prevailing in the propaganda war with Taipei


While one would usually be hard-pressed to describe cross-strait affairs as eventful, the past few weeks have been exactly that.

Beginning with the anniversary of former Chinese president Jiang Zemin's (江澤民) "Eight Points" on Jan 28, and continuing with the launch of cross-strait flights and the arrival of senior Chinese officials in Taiwan, a string of events has kept local policymakers on their toes and brought about what has been described as a juncture in cross-strait relations.

Most would agree that, judging from the recent concessions that Taiwan and China have made, the situation has seen a turn for the better; however, it is difficult to predict how long this tentative detente can hold and how constructive it really is.

"Does this indicate the dawn of a new spring or is this just a transitional phase?" asked Chang Wu-ueh (張五岳), a professor at Tamkang University's Institute of China Studies.

Lin Cheng-yi (林正義), director of the Institute of International Relations at National Chengchi University, does not seem to think recent events amount to trendsetting changes, citing China's determination to enact an anti-secession law criminalizing so-called "separatist" activities. The bill will be reviewed and probably cleared by the National People's Congress early next month.

"This is all aimed at confusing the international community," Lin said. "It is aimed at doing away with criticism of the bill."

He said that recent events had to be studied in the context of the anti-secession bill.

"The anti-secession law is China's ultimate goal and their real strategy. It's a fundamental, structural change," Lin said.

The charter flights and the arrival of Chinese officials in Taiwan to pay homage to late Straits Exchange Foundation chairman Koo Chen-fu (辜振甫) were merely one-off events, he said.

"It's like punching someone and then patting them on the head," he said.

And it seems that China has pushed Taiwan into a contradictory position as well. The nation's top cross-strait policymaking organ, the Mainland Affairs Council, was forced to change its focus from the anti-secession bill to offering a number of concessions and goodwill gestures.

Over the span of a week, at least two important precedents were set -- Taiwan and China demonstrated enough political flexibility to allow unprecedented non-stop, reciprocal charter flights to operate, and the highest ranking Chinese officials to step on Taiwanese soil in 10 years met authorities from the semi-official Straits Exchange Foundation.

It seems that, as a result, Beijing has cornered Taiwan by doling out concessions while also taking assertive steps toward implementing "one China" legislation. And because of international and domestic pressure, Taiwan is accepting these concessions with open arms.

As a result, the Mainland Affairs Council is in a relatively difficult position in its propaganda war against the anti-secession bill. This week it was forced to issue a warning against the bill while at the same time saying that cross-strait ties are looking up.

"Even with missiles aimed at Taiwan and the anti-secession law, [the government] has no choice but to relax its policies," Lin said. "I really don't think that the cross-strait charter flights need to go on for so long. They don't need to operate all the way to Feb. 20. This is meant to soften up [Taiwan] for the anti-secession law."

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