Sat, Jul 15, 2006 - Page 3 News List

China's shift poses new challenges: academic

`PARADIGM SHIFT' A former defense official said that China's recent shift to a `soft' strategy presented new challenges and opportunities that Taiwan should respond to

By Chang Yun-ping  /  STAFF REPORTER

Chinese foreign policy under the leadership of President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) has undergone a major paradigm shift, with a new focus on "soft" economic and cultural power instead of military might, a former top defense official said yesterday.

In a speech to Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) officials, Tamkang University professor and former vice defense minister Lin Chong-pin (林中斌) said that the implication of the new paradigm for cross-strait relations was that China is now engaged in a full-scale, "soft power" strategy employing "united front" tactics to further its unification agenda.

"United front" refers to the Chinese Communist Party's time-honored tactics aimed at isolating and defeating their primary enemy.

Lin said that there was a major shift in rhetoric between Hu's speech to mark the passage of the "Anti-Secession" Law on March 4 last year, and his speech after meeting with former Chinese Nationalist Party chairman Lien Chan (連戰) on April 16 this year. In the latter, Hu did not mention Beijing's unification mantras such as the "one China" principle, "peaceful reunification," "one country, two systems" and the possible "use of force against Taiwan." Rather, Hu spoke of "peaceful development" as the basis for future cross-strait relations, exhibiting a more proactive and positive attitude, Lin said.

The four major points of Hu's April 16 speech were the so-called "1992 consensus," "seeking the welfare of Taiwanese compatriots," "creating a win-win situation for both sides of the Strait," and "having dialogue on an equal footing" as the guidelines for the future cross-strait interaction.

"Hu's `new four points' reflected a deep change or paradigm shift in Beijing's policy toward Taiwan. We should look very carefully into this new change to see whether it presents a new kind of security threat to us, could bring in more economic opportunities to Taiwan or conceals a conspiracy to undermine Taiwan's sovereignty," Lin said.

"If we interpret it as nothing new and ignore it, we could miss out on a lot of opportunities," Lin said.

He added that Hu's new paradigm puts a strong focus on China's economic and cultural power, which helps the country reap diplomatic benefits.

The establishment of Confucius Schools around the world, as well as the international Buddhism conference in April, attracted a lot of international attention and have helped give birth to a booming Chinese culture fad.

"Confucianism was a tradition that was supposed to be stamped out during the Chinese Cultural Revolution, and religion was taboo in Chinese society. But now they have both become useful diplomatic tools for China."

"Confucianism places a lot of emphasis on respect for authority. So actually it doesn't post a threat to Chinese authority. And Buddhism asks its believers to endure pains and hardship as part of the process of deepening faith ... By promoting Buddhism, China could reap the benefit of being the world's religious leader in Buddhism," Lin said.

He said that with China shifting away from a confrontational posture, the government should make appropriate adjustments to the new cross-strait situation.

With the Taiwanese government expected to ease restrictions on the entry of Chinese tourists at the end of this year, Lin said that Taiwan should adopt a mature attitude and be open-minded, in order to face the new challenges ahead.

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