Taipei, 29 September 1998
From 14 through 19 October 1998, a visit to China is being planned
for Mr. Koo Chen-fu, chairman of Taiwan's Straits Exchange
Foundation. The visit is hosted by Mr. Wang Daohan, the chairman of
China's Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait (ARATS),
and will reportedly include a meeting with China's President Jiang
The meeting is being heralded as a "reopening" of the
dialogue between Taiwan and China. Messrs. Koo and Wang last met in
Singapore in 1993. The exchanges were suspended in 1995, when China
aggressively launched provocative military exercises and missile
firings after Taiwan president Lee's visit to his alma mater Cornell
in June 1995.
During the past months, the Chinese have been pressuring Taiwan to
open a "political dialogue" designed to force it into
negotiations on so-called "reunification", while the
Kuomintang authorities in Taiwan have stated that they want to
restrict the discussions to "technical matters", such as
resolution of fishing disputes, protection of the investment of
Taiwanese businessmen in China, and repatriation of hijackers.
In preparation for the meeting, Mr. Wang has floated some
fuzzy-sounding suggestions, such as "shared sovereignty",
and according to a pro-China American academic would even "...consider
a new flag and would change the national anthem if that would help
persuade Taiwan to become part of a single China."
The reported suggestions are totally preposterous. Nobody is his
right mind can believe that China will change its name, flag or
anthem. They are just a smokescreen, designed to confuse the outside
world in an attempt to make China's position sound reasonable.
If China does indeed renounce the use of force, then "technical
discussions" could be held on a range of practical issues,
which would function as a confidence-building exercise, and would
show whether China would keep its words on those issues. However,
any "political discussions" will have to wait until the
people of Taiwan have been able to express their views on the future
of the island in a fully open and democratic process.
In the present situation, there are still two major reasons why
the real views of the Taiwanese have not been fully heard yet:
- the after-effects of Kuomintang's long history of repression,
which seriously inhibited the Taiwanese from expressing themselves
on political issues, and
- China's campaign of threats and intimidations, which is
equivalent to a gun to the head of the Taiwanese.
If China is serious in its resolve to end its dispute with Taiwan,
it should thus first renounce the use of force, and then acknowledge
that the present Taiwan is totally different from the old so-called
"Republic of China" of the Chinese Nationalists, with
which it fought its Civil War. The next step would be to come to an
accommodation with this new Taiwan, accept it as a friendly
neighbor, and establish diplomatic relations with this neighbor.