The November 1997 election victory for the democratic opposition in Taiwan brings the prospect of further gains by the DPP in Legislative Yuan elections at the end of 1998, and a possibility of a DPP-victory in the presidential elections in 2000.
Mr. Chen Shui-bian, the likely DPP candidate in the next Presidential elections, stated in an interview in the Washington Post ("Taipei's ambitious mayor", 6 February 1998) that the future of Taiwan can only be decided by the 21.5 million people on the island through a referendum.
|Mr. Chen Shui-bian|
While those elections and the referendum are still some time off, this new prospect requires the United States and other nations around the world to reassess their policy towards the island nation. The basic elements of such a new policy could be summarized under the heading of the "Three yes" policy:
1. Yes, the people of Taiwan have the right to determine their own future under the principle of self-determination as enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations;
2. Yes, the People's Republic of China can accept Taiwan as a friendly neighboring state, instead of perpetuating the hostility and rivalry dating from the Chinese Civil War with the Kuomintang;
3. Yes, the international community, and in particular those nations which adhere to democratic principles, will accept Taiwan as a full and equal member in the international family of nations, including the UN.
Such a "Three Yes" policy would enhance peace and stability in East Asia, since it would finally end the decade-old hostility between the Kuomintang authorities on Taiwan and the Communists in the PRC.
Of course, until now China has not been willing yet to accept friendly relations with Taiwan as an independent neighboring state yet. However, over the next few years, the situation will change, like it changed in Eastern Europe in the late 1980s: who would have predicted in 1987 that the Berlin Wall would fall, that the Soviet Union would collapse, and that a new Russia would accept democratic governments in Eastern Europa and even allow the Baltic States to become independent ?
|Taiwan to the USA: "If you think I will crawl through that tiny hole in the "One China Wall", you are nuts !!|
The conventional wisdom in the United States and other Western nations has been the anachronistic "One China" policy rooted in the Cold War. This outdated policy "acknowledges" the Chinese claims to Taiwan, and emphasizes "peaceful resolution" of the conflict by the "Chinese on both sides of the Taiwan Straits." Regrettably, such policies play into the cards of Beijing, and reinforce the Chinese misconception that they can gradually reduce Taiwan's international links by "playing tough", and in the end invade and annex the island.
It is thus essential for peace and stability in East Asia that the United States and other Western nations help prepare for positive change in that region, and attempt to convince the Chinese leaders that it is in their own interest to accept Taiwan as a friendly neighbor. The "Three Yes" policy outline above provides a sound basis for such an approach.
Starting at the end of December 1997, the Beijing regime began a "let's talk" offensive. In a series of statements by officials from President Jiang Zemin and premier Li Peng (the "butcher of Tienanmen") on down, Beijing urged the Kuomintang authorities to come to the negotiating table for "political" talks.
Beijing itself had broken off the lower-level "technical" talks between the mainland's Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits (ARATS) and Taiwan's Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) after President Lee Teng-hui visited Cornell in June 1995, and is sparing no efforts in preventing Taiwan from gaining international breathing space.
In some of the statements, they even implied that Taipei would be "treated as equal" and that there would be "no pre-conditions" if Taipei came to the negotiating table as long as they accepted Taiwan to be part of "One China." And that is where the problem comes in ...!!
To his credit, President Lee Teng-hui has not let himself be pushed by the Chinese ploys, and devised the "no haste" approach, emphasizing that China should first show good faith in the lower-level "technical" discussions on a range of issues, before any "political" level talks can be held.
Mr. Lee has also stated that any political talks can only be held if the Beijing authorities would accept Taiwan as an "equal political entity".
Taiwan Communiqué comment: Any talks at the present time, and any concessions the Kuo-mintang would make in such talks, would be viewed by the Taiwanese electorate as a sell-out to the Communists, and would cost the Kuomintang dearly in upcoming Legislative Yuan elections at the end of 1998 and Presidential elections in March 2000.
The Kuomintang would thus do well to wait. Hasty and ill-prepared talks at the present time can only result in the unification of an unhappy Taiwanese mouse with a big fat Chinese cat.
Meaningful talks with China can only be held if 1) the Beijing leaders show some readiness to accept Taiwan, and 2) there is a broad consensus on Taiwan on the future of the island. Such a consensus is lacking at the present time, and can only be achieved if the people on the island can express themselves freely and openly on the issue of their future without any Chinese interference, with missiles or otherwise.
The November 1997 elections victory for the opposition Democratic progressive Party (DPP) has focused international attention on the person likely to lead the DPP in the future: Taipei Mayor Chen Shui-bian.
At this point, Mayor Chen is trying to decide whether to run for party chairman in June 1998 or run for re-election as Taipei mayor at the end of the year. Either position would provide him with a good stepping stone for the race for the Taiwan Presidency in March 2000. As DPP chairman he would control the Party machinery, essential for the presidential race. However, for the DPP it is also essential to trounce any Kuomintang challenger for the Taipei mayorship position, and Chen is still the best person for that job.
Mayor Chen has also started to speak out more on national and international affairs: in several interviews with the press, he reiterated his conviction that the Taiwan Government should hold a referendum to allow the people to decide their political future. "The future of Taiwan should be decided by its residents by means of a referendum," Mr Chen said during a short visit to Japan at the end of December 1997. He added: "Taiwanese people have the right to decide their future and decide where Taiwan should go."
Mr Chen, a key figure in the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) , stressed his party would hold a referendum on independence if it came to power, adding the timing of a referendum would be carefully studied.
In a separate interview Chen said a democratic move to independence by
Taiwan should be respected by the international community. "The
Democratic Progressive Party wants
to establish a sovereign independent Republic of Taiwan, to form a new constitution and to let Taiwan residents make the ultimate choice about Taiwan's future," Chen said.
"Such positions have not been revised, altered or abolished," Chen said. He added that he was confident that the Democratic Progressives, a banned, underground organization before martial law was lifted in 1987, would soon become Taiwan's ruling party.
"Democracy in Taiwan has matured to an extent that it could endure Chinese Communists' missile tests," Chen said, referring to Beijing's war games and missile tests in the run-up to Taiwan's March 1996 presidential elections. "(The missile tests) could not shake Taiwan people's willingness and determination to pursue democracy. Why will the Democratic Progressives' becoming a ruling party or controlling the parliament, or even winning the presidential election, destabilize Taiwan?"
Mr. Chen also touched on the Asian financial crisis: He said the island would feel the effects of East Asia's financial crisis despite its sound economic situation. "This is a world issue," Mr Chen said. "Taiwan cannot avoid being influenced by Asian financial problems." Mr Chen said Taiwan had a responsibility to help affected Asian nations since "to help others means Taiwan helping itself".
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