Mon, Jan 16, 2006 - Page 2 News List

Hu's surprise call on businesspeople gets mixed reviews

By Shih Hsiu-chuan  /  STAFF REPORTER

The unexpected visit by Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) to a Taiwanese investment zone in Xiamen, in Fujian Province, on Saturday was lauded by Tai-wanese businesspeople, but criticized by some political analysts as just another example of Beijing's divide-and-conquer tactics against Taiwan.

Hu's visit to the Haicang investment zone made a good impression on the businesspeople he met with.

"We were told two days ago that an important leader would come to visit us, but we didn't know it was Hu. We were all surprised that he came," Wu Chin-chung (吳進忠), chairman of the Xiamen Association of Taiwanese, told the Taipei Times.

The Haicang zone, set up by China's State Council in 1989 as its first national-level investment zone for Taiwanese, has become the biggest such zone, attracting 92 Taiwanese businesses that had invested US$3.3 billion as of last month.

Wu said that the twenty-minute meeting persuaded him of Hu's sincerity to deliver on his promises, referring to remarks Hu made last year about doing "anything beneficial for the Taiwan compatriots."

"Due to the political impasse blocking government-to-government contact, Hu's opinions on the `three links' seemed to me to show his goodwill," Wu said.

Hu called for the negotiation on the "three links" -- direct trade, direct postal and communication links, and direct sea and air transportation -- to be conducted through non-governmental organizations on both sides and realized as soon as possible.

same old game

But some political analysts saw Hu's visit and remarks as simply more of China's "united front" tactics. Hu was trying to lay all the blame for the lack of progress on direct links on the Taiwanese government, and circumvent the government's power to regulate cross-strait affairs, analysts said.

Chiu Tai-san (邱太三), a former vice chairman of the Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) under the Democratic Progressive Party government, said that Hu's remarks demonstrate that he has no intention of discussing the "three links" with Taiwan's government.

Pointing to the successful negotiation of last year's Lunar New Year charter flights, Chiu said that such talks are not easy to carry out whenever China takes a straightforward attitude.

"If Hu really wanted to talk about the issue, he would just say that he wishes Taiwan to send its representatives to talk, instead of designating non-governmental organizations [to do so]," Chiu said.

Chiu said that Hu's urging of talks through non-governmental channels was intended to stir up trouble by turning Taiwanese businesspeople against their own government.

According to a 2003 study by the MAC, more than 70 percent of those polled support the conditional opening of direct transportation links, under which Taiwan's security, dignity and equality with China could be maintained. Fewer than 10 percent of those polled approve of opening direct links without conditions.

Regarding when such links should be opened, more than 50 percent of respondents considered it best to "take it slowly," while about 20 percent agreed with "the sooner the better."

A more recent survey showed similar results, Chiu said, showing that although most people approve of the conditional opening, they still have considerable misgivings about it, Chiu said.

Yang Chih-heng (楊志恆), an associate professor at Tamkang University's Graduate Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, said that Hu visited Haicang so that he can avoid responsibility for the current cross-strait impasse.

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