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DPP Chairman Lin Yi-hsiung speaks in Washington

Washington, 1 December 1999

Lin Yi-hsiung

On 1 December 1999, DPP Chairman Lin Yi-hsiung spoke in Washington at the American Enterpise Institute.

Below, you find the text of the remarks of his prepared statement.

"Engagement with China -- a DPP View"

Distinguished ladies and gentlemen:

Good Morning. It is my pleasure to have this opportunity to speak to this distinguished audience at the American Enterprise Institute, and I would like to thank all of you for your interest in Taiwan and in the Democratic Progressive Party.

This is the first time for me to visit Washington since being inaugurated the Chairman of the DPP in August last year. Although it is a very short visit, it has been extremely rewarding. In the private meetings during the past two days, I have had the opportunity to discuss a range of issues, and I would like to take this opportunity to share with you some thoughts on matters related to Taiwan's domestic developments as well as broader regional issues that include cross-strait and Taiwan-US relations.

In Taiwan, all political attention is focused on the coming presidential election, scheduled for March 18 next year. This will be a historical opportunity for the DPP, in that there is a realistic chance for the KMT candidate to be defeated. It is because of this possibility that many people in the international community have expressed serious interest in our policies and positions that might affect the broader region. We are well aware of this interest, and we are sincere about establishing ourselves in a responsible and constructive role.

Prior to my departure on Sunday, our presidential candidate Chen Shui-bian announced his foreign policy white paper, and earlier this month, he also formally presented his China policy and defense policy. In addition, our party headquarters presented the "Year 2000 Policy Guidelines," outlining the DPP's vision for Taiwan in the next millennium. These policy papers reflect broad consensus within our party, and are products of years of thorough discussion and consultation.

Taiwan's relations with China must be put into a broader context of Taiwan's strategic position in the world. Since the end of the Cold War, a new global order is in the process of formation, and this process is characterized by a number of contradictions and dilemmas, in which Taiwan must find an appropriate balancing middle way.

Taiwan is a small country, and our greatest challenge is to maneuver in a global system of big power politics and grand contradictions. Despite the apparent isolation imposed by China's pressures, we believe that there is much room for new initiatives to maximize our interests.

One contradiction in the global environment, which presents the foremost challenge for Taiwan, is the conflicting trend of globalization and state nationalism. In other words, the breaking down of sovereign boundaries in the context of cultural and economic integration has chartered new opportunities and enabled new vitality for Taiwan in the international civil society. At the same time, however, rising nationalism in response to suppression by larger nations, such as in the cases of East Timor, Kosovo, Chechenya, and even Taiwan, suggest that the traditional realist emphasis on statehood in the international system remains salient.

Many people have subjectively felt that political relations with China must dominate our international relations. As a result, Taiwan's full potential has been inhibited by obsessive and symbolic political disputes. We must overcome this limitation by putting our China relationship under a broader global context of Taiwan's new international role.

This new international role, in our view, is a cautious balance between the demands of globalization on one side, and state security on another. And it is under this context that we have presented a foreign policy that emphasizes diverse initiatives in the international civil society. Our concept of diplomacy is not limited to traditional governmental relations and political formalities. Rather, we envision unlimited opportunities for Taiwan to take a leading role in international economic activities, conservation, human rights, and trade. The uniqueness of Taiwan's economic advantages, complemented by democratization, have already provided a natural stage for Taiwan's global participation. This recognition also lends us confidence to engage in a more active relationship with China.

At the same time, we note that Taiwan's confidence for internationalization must be premised on maintaining our national security. Thus under the goal of "normalizing" relations between Taiwan and China, we have presented an "economic security" strategy as an important chain in our global relations.

"Economic security" assumes a positive correlation between a certain level of economic integration with the enhancement of national security. This is unlike the Taiwan government's traditional view that economic integration necessarily contradicts national security.

There is no doubt that the lifting of current limitations on direct trade with China will have consequences, whether positive or negative, on Taiwan's domestic economy. From a purely economic standpoint, obviously there will be a competition for capital, as more Taiwanese investors shift their operations and capital into China. Then there will be pressure on Taiwan's traditional manufacturing and agricultural sectors, as low-cost Chinese products dominate a comparative advantage. However, these economic consequences are not necessarily related to trade with China only. They are products of general globalization. They will be seen as soon as WTO accession is completed, and some of the pressures are a necessary part of Taiwan's growing pains, as long as Taiwan moves in the direction of trade liberalization.

In economic terms, the DPP has emphasized market functions. We call on the government to refrain from intervention in normal economic functions, as Taiwan's private sector is mature and capable enough to function on its own. Excessive government intervention and over-regulation will only limit the potential of companies and hinder their abilities to adapt to the demands of globalization.

The opening of direct transportation should be allowed on a gradual basis, and in accordance with the principle of mutual benefit. This is to decrease the cost of economic interaction and travel between the two sides.

At the same time, we must also address the security concerns that arise from more direct interaction, at least until there are meaningful indications of an easing in tensions. In other words, de-regulation and liberalization is conditioned on adequate protections of Taiwan's vital national interests. Some practical measures include the following:

  • To alleviate apprehensions over Taiwan's air security, we suggest that the initial phase of direct air links should be managed unilaterally by Taiwanese airlines, but the profits should be shared by both sides.
  • To avoid over-reliance and dependence on the Chinese market, and to prevent possible Chinese control or manipulation of Taiwan's stock market, we believe that further diversification and expansion of Taiwan's overall stock and trade is essential, and we aim to achieve this by measures including further privatization of state enterprises, and lifting the regulations on foreign capital.
  • Regulations must remain in Taiwan's vital national lifelines such as railways, telecommunications, public utilities, as well as vital sectors like high-tech and semi-conductors.
  • In principle, for business related activities, PRC nationals should be permitted to visit Taiwan. But concerned government agencies such as the Investigation Bureau and the National Security Bureau must strengthen background security checks.

Beyond the economic dimension, our China policy also contains other core elements as follows:

First of all, we emphasize the significance of comprehensive dialogue. We recognize that there are significant differences between Taiwan and China, and that there is no easy solution, given the different systems of government and different expectations. However, before we can arrive at a final solution that satisfies both sides, we stress the importance of establishing regular channels of interaction and communication for the purposes of building mutual confidence and respect, and decreasing the possibility of miscalculation and conflict.

At this point it is difficult for us to imagine any meaningful compromises on the issue of sovereignty from either side. We would therefore prefer that other matters of practical significance take precedence. However, we must not preclude any issue, whether functional or political, from dialogue and communication, and neither would we set any preconditions. We only insist that the final outcome of any formal negotiations between authorized institutions of the two governments must be consistent with the wishes of the people.

Channels of communication should be diversified, and we are willing to comprehensively engage with all sectors of Chinese government and society, including those living overseas. Ongoing second-tract discussions on a private, informal level, are useful to enhance mutual understanding, but it is equally important to take a more active attitude towards governmental interaction, especially in the areas of military confidence-building measures, bilateral trade, and other areas of mutual interest.

In our interaction with China, we believe it is also important for Taiwan to take a stronger initiative to play a role in China's democratization. The DPP is proud to have chartered the course of democratization process in Taiwan, and we believe there is much experience to share. Promotion of China's democratization is not only in our overall concern for human rights and democracy globally, but furthermore, we see it as strategically in Taiwan's best interest as well. We view democracy and openness in China as a crucial element to Taiwan's security. As such, we would seek to initiate dialogue with democracy activists within and outside of China, while at the same time welcome visits by Chinese government and non-governmental sectors to Taiwan to observe the elections next year.

The management of the complicated relationship with China is a difficult task. Overall, the DPP policy is more progressive than the current government's position, in calling for more active engagement. It outlines Taiwan's important economic role in China's development, and furthermore, it overtakes the narrow debate on sovereignty and is a sincere effort to seek mutual benefit out of a relationship that requires serious mending. Most importantly, it views the molding of a mutually complementary trade relationship with China as a part of a broader global strategy of diversification and integration, for Taiwan's survival and continuing prosperity.

Due to the time constraints, I will not elaborate further, but I would like to let you know that the English versions of our China Policy and Foreign Policy White Papers will be available in our Washington office.

While the other major candidates in Taiwan are at this moment disputing over party loyalty and personal characters, the DPP and our candidate, Chen Shui-bian have been the only ones to present a detailed and thorough position towards China. We hope that these details can be discussed and debated in the coming months leading to the election. I also welcome your valuable suggestions and comments.

Thank you.