Taiwan's official response to China's "anti-secession" law focuses on the legal codification of military aggression, but political pundits said yesterday that a closer reading of the law suggested the possibility of economic or diplomatic warfare.
"[Beijing] could be referring to economic sanctions or diplomatic warfare. They avoid the situation of binding themselves [to certain options]," said Tamkang University Graduate Institute of International Affairs and Strategic Studies professor Lin Chong-pin (林中斌).
Lin previously served as the top deputy at both the Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) and the Ministry of National Defense.
Beijing's draft anti-secession law, which came up for legislative deliberation on Tuesday, provides terms that could trigger the implementation of "non-peaceful means or other necessary measures."
Referring to the possible interpretations of Beijing's deliberately ambiguous reference to "non-peaceful means or other necessary measures," former MAC vice chairman Alexander Huang (
But he ventured a few examples, despite noting that the bill's implementation was a decision that was privy only to Beijing's leaders.
Saying the "other necessary measures" mentioned in the bill were probably "at least coercive," Huang said that Beijing could be referring to "economic sanctions, the freezing of Taiwanese investors' assets on the Mainland ? it could try to use its currency or fiscal and monetary policy to exclude Taiwan from participation in Asian Pacific economic groupings."
"There are many possibilities and a lot of room for interpretation, but basically, these measures are not peaceful. They're unilateral and not necessary," said Lin Cheng-yi (林正義), director of the Institute of International Relations at National Chengchi University and formerly a senior advisor to the National Security Council.
Lin further said that Beijing had effectively put a new spin on its approach to war in the anti-secession law, taking into serious consideration the socio-economic factors of employing military force. He highlighted Beijing's decision to entrust the State Council, in addition to the Central Military Commission, with the task of initiating "non-peaceful means."
"This indicates that economic and social concerns are being taken into consideration [in initiating non-peaceful means]," Lin said, and added, "The threat to Taiwan is not military ? but economic, cultural, social, religious ? it's coming at us in a sneaky manner."
Asked how the government should react to China's bill, political pundits agreed on the need for international intervention.
Lin Cheng-yi laid out terms that Taiwan should stand by, saying "at the very least, Taiwan needs to reserve the right to say `no' to China's unification maneuvers."
He also said that holding a referendum was a possible route as it had previously been attempted.
While not favoring a referendum, Huang nevertheless said Taiwan needed to communicate its stance via a "strong, meaningful, touching statement assuring the international community that we are a sovereign state and that we would never compromise our way of living ? we will continue to elect our president and legislature."
Academics said, however, that Taiwan's first task was to realign its strategy, being cognizant of China's new Taiwan policy under Chinese President Hu Jintao's (
"Hu could pose more of a threat to Taiwan than [former Chinese President] Jiang Zemin (江澤民) because his strategy is to take pre-emptive measures ? and these pre-emptive moves are unilateral," Lin said.
Lin described Hu's Taiwan policy as flexible and varied and identified examples of this in the controversial bill. He said that Hu had omitted any mention of a time frame in the anti-secession law.
"He did away with the idea of a timetable ? this reflects that China thinks time is on its side," Lin said, noting the departure from Jiang's style.
He also said that China had revised its bill in light of international concern. Speaking of the rare mention of its intent to protect foreigners living in Taiwan, Lin said that he imagined it was a result of admonishments from the US and Japan. China had met with Japanese and US authorities prior to unveiling the draft law.
In addition, Lin highlighted China's move to draw a distinction between ordinary Taiwanese and "Taiwanese independence forces" in the bill.
"They've shrunk the target of attack. Even those in the ruling party, if they put their independence posturing behind them, could be acceptable.
"This is very skillful ? it isolates those who are for independence," Lin said.
Given the hand that China has played, Lin said that the government had to follow suit with a more "pluralistic" policy.
"It should be two or three-handed, soft and hard. We should really think through this. The policy should have many layers, levels and responses," Lin said.
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