Thu, Oct 23, 2008 - Page 3 News List

INTERVIEW: Chinese dissident urges caution on cross-strait ties

WORDS OF WARNINGWilson Chen said the Chinese Communist Party does not do favors for anyone, warning that it is trying to reel in Taiwan economically and politically

By Tzou Jing-wen  /  STAFF REPORTER

Chinese democracy activist turned academic Chen Pokong smiles during an interview in Taipei last Saturday.


Chinese democracy activist turned economist Wilson Chen (陳破空) says the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) will try to gain a propaganda advantage from the planned visit to Taiwan by Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait (ARATS) Chairman Chen Yunlin (陳雲林).

“Beijing will tell the Chinese people that the visit is a victory for China’s Taiwan policy of waving a military stick while dangling an economic carrot. Taiwanese people should protest the visit,” the US-based academic said in an interview on cross-strait relations with the Liberty Times (the Taipei Times’ sister newspaper) on Saturday.

“Rather than exaggerate the economic aspects of the visit, Taiwan’s government should insist on talking about Taiwan’s strengths — democracy and human rights. If the government acts in a cowardly manner, China will look down on Taiwan even more, believing that it can and will have the country under its control,” he said.

“The CCP will view the visit as a huge success and use it to keep fooling the Chinese people. It will claim that the CCP regime is as strong as a rock, since it can force Taiwan to yield after regaining both Hong Kong and Macao and stabilizing Tibet,” he said.

On the recent toxic milk scandal, “the flawed system behind China’s toxic milk powder and counterfeit goods has harmed not only China itself but the whole world, including Taiwan,” he said.

“The CCP government refuses to apologize, but the Chinese people cannot protest because they have always been deprived of their right to do so. As a democracy, Taiwan should stage a protest over the health and safety issue and demand an apology,” Chen Pokong said.

“Taiwan’s government is eager to boost its economy, and it is pinning its hopes on doing business with China. It expects that direct flights, Chinese tourists, preferential measures and setting up a relationship similar to that of the Mainland and Hong Kong Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement [CEPA] can remedy all its problems,” he said.

Chen Pokong

• Born Chen Jinsong (陳勁松) in Sichuan Province.

• Received a masters degree in public administration from Columbia University in New York City.

• Currently a visiting scholar at Colombia.

• Organized and participated in the 1989 student movement in Guangzhou; put into prison twice between 1989 and 1995; served nearly five years.

• First person to provide the UN with evidence that the Chinese Communist Party had forced prisoners undergoing “reform through labor” to make products for export.

• Author of “China’s economy: prosperity under a shadow” (中國經濟:陰影下的繁榮).

“But when you ask for a favor, you may also be taken advantage of. The CCP regime does not do someone a favor easily, and when it does it does it for a purpose. The purpose this time is to try and bait and hook Taiwan, first economically and then politically,” he said.

“Beijing is unlikely to grant Taipei’s requests instantly, and will instead dangle them like a carrot in front of a donkey. For example, the number of Chinese tourists visiting Taiwan can be decided completely by the Chinese side,” Chen said.

He said Taiwan had not depended on China for its economic takeoff in the 1970s.

“Today, China is important because of two factors. First, China is Asia’s biggest market, and it keeps growing, so many countries want to do business with it. Second, China has seriously limited Taiwan’s diplomatic space, causing it diplomatic difficulties while affecting its market as well. If Taiwan wants to develop economic and trade relations with China, those ties should be based on equality and dignity and be propelled by market forces. It is not necessarily appropriate for the government to take the lead,” he said.

The inevitable result of relaxing restrictions on cross-strait business will be that Taiwanese capital will flow to China, and China’s labor and products will flow to Taiwan, because Taiwan is a developed economy and China is a developing one, he said.

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