Taiwan is now less isolated because president-elect Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) is not seen as a troublemaker by China, but the country will not likely have much more international space even after Ma takes office, former Singaporean prime minister Lee Kuan Yew (李光耀) said in a recent interview.
“I believe Taiwan will not have much more international space in the next four years. Beijing will have to take into account that a successor DPP president may exploit this increased space,” Lee said in the May 6 interview.
Following Ma’s election, some experts have suggested that Beijing should take the initiative to express goodwill toward Taiwan, including halting its suppression of Taiwan’s presence in the international arena, allowing it to take part in some international organizations and responding to demands that it withdraw at least some of its missiles aimed at Taiwan.
Commenting on such suggestions, Lee said he did not think missile withdrawal was critical as missiles can be withdrawn and repositioned in a few days or weeks.
“The question to ask is under what circumstances will they [China] fire them. I do not see the Chinese destroying Taiwan when they intend to have Taiwan grow and to benefit from that growth,” Lee said.
But if Taiwan goes for independence, Lee said, “China will attack.”
Lee further said he sees no signs that either side of the Taiwan Strait is eager to discuss the “one country, two systems” model or relevant sovereignty disputes.
“One country, two systems” is “political” and can be set aside for the next four years or even eight years, Lee said.
Lee said sustainable economic growth is important to China. Such a desire can serve as a basis for the future development of cross-strait relations, he said.
Asked if it would be sufficient for Ma to just shelve the issue of unification versus independence, Lee said: “If I were him, I would shelve it for the next four years. Don’t talk about it.”
Lee said Chinese President Hu Jintao’s (胡錦濤) “16 [Chinese] characters” response to vice president-elect Vincent Siew’s (蕭萬長) “16 characters proposal” for more liberal economic ties between the two sides during the duo’s meeting at the Boao Forum in China’s Hainan Province last month means; “Let’s put aside our differences and grow.”
So long as the disputes can be set aside, Lee said, there will be “a big change in Taiwan” in just four years.
As to the future of cross-strait relations, Lee said he believed that the wishes of the Taiwanese people would not be decisive on the issue of unification.
“The decisive factors are the economic and military strength and determination of China and America,” Lee said. “The US government has made it clear that they will only support the status quo of the ROC — no independence and no unification by force.”
Lee said that if Taiwan maintains steady relations with China and avoids confrontation, “there is no reason for Taiwan to be squeezed out.”