China needs to be flexible: US academics


Thu, Feb 12, 2004 - Page 3

If Beijing wants to get better reactions from the people of Taiwan, it should initiate a more flexible policy toward Taiwan as well as abandon its "one China" principle as a premise for resuming cross-strait dialogue, a group of US academics said in Washington on Tuesday.

They also said that China should show goodwill by allowing Taiwan to enter the World Health Organization (WHO) and to jointly organize some events of the 2008 Olympic Games.

The academics made the comments while attending a seminar sponsored by the Heritage Foundation and the US-Taiwan Business Council.

Richard Bush, former chairman of the American Institute in Taiwan and director of the Brookings Institution's Center for Northeast Asia, said that the threat from Beijing has strengthened Taiwan's identity consciousness as well as enlarging the distance between Taiwan and China.

He also said that Beijing's refusal to resume talks with Taiwan when President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) took office in 2000 has caused it to miss a chance to improve cross-strait relations, as well as to reduce the differences between the two sides.

Bush said that it would change the feelings of the people of Taiwan if Beijing would see Taipei's bid for WHO observer status is not an issue of sovereignty and if it would stop preventing Taiwan from joining the organization.

He said other things that Beijing can do include reviewing its "one country, two systems" policy, reducing its threat to Taiwan's security as well as refraining from interfering in the island's internal affairs.

Bonnie Glaser, a research fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said that whoever wins the March election, Bei-jing should understand that its current policies -- such as the "one country, two systems" model - -- are not practical and will not be accepted by the people of Taiwan.

She suggested that China should also allow Taiwan to host some events of the 2008 Olympics, saying that this would not only strengthen cross-strait cultural exchanges but would also promote interaction between Taipei and Beijing.

Saying that the most important thing is to resume cross-strait dialogue, Glaser said that Beijing should not use its "one China" principle as a prerequisite for holding cross-strait dialogue, because it will difficult for whoever wins the election to accept such a precondition.

Robert Sutter, a Georgetown University professor, said that he is not optimistic about the possible changes of Beijing's attitude toward Taiwan.

Saying that because of its own inertia, China's leadership will not change its Taiwan policy, Sutter said that Beijing's leaders are not expected to adopt a more flexible policy toward Taiwan at present.