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    China’s Short-Lived Soft Stance on Taiwan (Combined from various news resources)
 

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China Says Conditions Not Ripe for Taiwan Talks (Jan 31, 2002)

China said on Wednesday conditions are not right to resume talks with arch rival Taiwan despite an easing of policy toward the island's pro-independence ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).  "I don't think there are conditions, including this Spring," Zhang told reporters when asked if there was a chance that talks, stalled since 1999, could start up again soon.  The spokesman of the Taiwan Affairs Office, Zhang Mingqing, said there would be no relaxation of Beijing's stance of no contact with Chen's Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) unless it renounced its pro-independence charter and recognized the one China principle.

Last week, Chinese Vice Premier Qian Qichen signalled a softer line toward Taiwan saying only a small number of members of Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian's DPP were separatists. Beijing previously had shunned the DPP and Chen, elected in 2000, as separatists, and remains wary of the DPP leadership. Qian also invited DPP members to visit the mainland in an "appropriate status" and called for closer economic ties and the establishment of an "economic cooperation mechanism" now that both had joined the World Trade Organisation.

Taiwan is one of the mainland's biggest investors and Beijing has said it is in favour of establishing the so-called "three links" of direct trade, transport and mail now largely barred by Taiwan.  Zhang said the idea behind the mechanism for boosting economic cooperation was "very broad".  "The main idea is that as long as it benefits cross-straits trade, development and the 'three links', we support it," he said, adding that businessmen, economists and academics from both sides of the Taiwan Straits would be consulted.

Zhang said Qian's invitation to the majority of DPP members to come to China excluded Chen, who has offered to visit, and his outspoken deputy Annette Lu.  "It's impossible," Zhang said when asked if they could come to the mainland. "They don't belong to the majority group of the DPP. They are part of the minority segment," Zhang said.

Signs of Rift Emerge over Qian Speech  (Taipei Times, Jan. 30, 2002)

A speech by Chinese Vice Premier Qian Qichen last week at a forum marking the anniversary of "Jiang's eight points" has triggered a power struggle in Beijing.  Two days after the Jan. 24 speech -- in which Qian said China would be open to visits by DPP members -- a message appeared on the Internet, saying Chinese President Jiang Zemin fell out with his vice president and heir apparent Hu Jintao less than 72 hours after Hu attended the forum.

According to the message, Jiang said Hu and Qian were "messing things up."

The same source also said the Chinese Communist Party's (CCP) propaganda department urgently summoned the heads of the People's Daily, the Xinhua News Agency and China News Services on Saturday night.  The propaganda department reportedly ordered the news agencies to stop reporting on Qian's remarks and said no reports could be filed on the reaction to the speech in Hong Kong and Taiwan.

On the day after the speech, Hong Kong's Wen Wei Po and the US-based Qiaobao, both of which are the CCP's overseas mouthpieces, covered Qian's speech on the front page above the fold, with headlines such as "Beijing: DPP members welcomed to visit the mainland" and "Qian Qichen shouts directly to DPP."

On the same day, the Wen Wei Po reported that an official from a "department concerned" had criticized overseas media for fabricating news, saying "From beginning to end, Vice President Hu Jintao did not speak at the forum" commemorating "Jiang's eight points."  By "fabrication" the official was referring to quotes in which Hu reportedly said, "Taiwan's localization is not equivalent to Taiwan independence, neither is the DPP equivalent to Taiwan independence."

But the official did not clarify whether Hu made similar statements on any other occasion. One can also find traces of a power struggle by observing the People's Daily, the newspaper of the CCP headquarters. On the day after the vice premier's speech, the newspaper ran a front-page report on the forum, as well as the entire text of Qian's remarks. But the next day the paper's report on the commemorations of "Jiang's eight points" did not mention the vice premier's remarks at all.

On Sunday, the People's Daily ran an article commemorating the anniversary of "Jiang's eight points." The article made no mention of Qian's comments. But it's impossible to think that Jiang had no prior knowledge of Qian's important speech. Jiang's confidante, Zeng Qinghong, presided over the forum. One can conclude that Jiang used the occasion to stir up trouble and attack Hu, who has begun to get involved in Taiwan-related matters. Also, Jiang, by opposing Qian's remarks, could be playing up to the military by showing a hardline attitude against Taiwan, as a part of efforts to keep the chairman's position in the Central Military Commission and shut out Hu when he becomes China's president.

Chen welcomes Beijing's remarks (Taipei Times, Jan 29, 2002)

President Chen Shui-bian yesterday reacted positively to recent remarks by Chinese Vice Premier Qian Qichen, saying they demonstrated Beijing's understanding of the political reality in Taiwan. "We welcome and appreciate any statement or measure that will be helpful in stabilizing and improving cross-strait relations," Chen said at a meeting with Richard Bush, the chairman of the America Institute in Taiwan, the US de facto embassy in Taiwan.

The president stressed that the democratic choices of Taiwan's 23 million people should be respected and accepted by the international community. "Communist China has squarely faced the results of Taiwan's legislative elections on Dec. 1 and respects and recognizes the political reality," Chen said.

The DPP emerged as the largest party in the Legislative Yuan for the first time following the polls.

Chen's statement is the first official reaction to the remarks Qian made Thursday, in which he said Beijing welcomed DPP members to visit China and that most members of the party were not stubborn pro-independence activists. 

Chen stopped short of describing the gesture by Qian as "friendly," but said the two sides of the Strait should engage in "active cooperation" and urged China's leaders to show goodwill and sincerity in dealing with the country. "Dialogue between both sides' leaders should be more about economics and less about politics, involve more contacts to reduce misunderstanding, and be based on trust instead of suppression," he said.

Chen said he hoped a visit to China by US President George W. Bush next month would benefit relations between Taiwan and China. "I believe President Bush will not do anything harmful to the interests of the Taiwanese people," he told Richard Bush, adding he hoped Washington would play a role as a "stabilizer, balancer and promoter" of cross-strait ties. 

"There is a huge difference between the US `one China' policy and Communist China's `one China' principle," Chen said. "The US government expects that the cross-strait relationship can be resolved through peaceful means, which is very different to peaceful reunification," the president added.

Richard Bush, the top US envoy to Taiwan, has already reassured the Chen administration that the US president will not sacrifice Taiwan's interests during his trip to China. Beijing's offer to hold unification talks under the "one China" ramework with the DPP has been rejected by Chen, who has stressed the country's independent sovereignty.

AIT chief assures Taiwan (Taipei Times, Jan 29, 2002)

In what analysts termed a forceful show of support for Taipei, Washington's top envoy to Taiwan Richard Bush yesterday sided with the Taiwanese government in its handling of the cross-strait impasse.

"It does not seem constructive for one side to set pre-conditions for a resumption of dialogue that the other side even suspects would be tantamount to conceding a fundamental issue before discussion begins," said Bush, chairman and managing director of the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) during a talk at National Chengchi University yesterday.

China and Taiwan held historic talks in Singapore in April 1993 between leaders of two quasi-official bodies governing cross-strait relations. But Beijing suspended talks in 1995 after then president Lee Teng-hui's ( 李登輝 ) trip to the US, a move which China believes was to promote Taiwanese independence.

Beijing has set the so-called "one China" principle as a precondition for the resumption of cross-strait talks. But President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) from the pro-independence DPP, has said Beijing's "one China" principle is too vague, refusing to accept it as a precondition for talks.

Analysts attending Bush's talk deemed his statement as a forceful show of support for Chen's reluctance to accept Beijing's preconditions. "This is the strongest statement yet from the US side, as far as I can see, to put the blame on Beijing for the impasse in cross-strait talks," Joseph Wu (吳釗燮), a research fellow at the Institute of International Relations at National Chengchi University, told the Taipei Times.

The AIT chief also assured his audience that US President George W. Bush's visit to Beijing next month would not sacrifice Taiwan's interests. "The purpose of the trip would be to consolidate our cooperation with China on areas where cooperation is possible, including countering terrorism. But I think there will also be a frank discussion on issues we disagree ... I don't think Taiwan's interests are going to be sacrificed in any way," Bush said. He also said it's premature to predict whether Chinese Vice Premier Qian Qichen's ( 錢其琛 ) softer tones toward Taiwan would culminate in a resumption of cross-strait talks.

"The US government welcomes any step that might lead to a reduction in cross-strait tensions. But each side of the Strait has to evaluate any proposals for resuming cross-strait dialogue. It's up to the two sides to decide that," Bush said.

"I think it's premature to make any predictions," Bush said when assessing prospects for resumption of cross-strait talks in the wake of Qian's remarks during a question and answer session after his talk.

Earlier in his talk on Taiwan-US ties, Bush described relations between the two sides as "good and getting better," adding: "I think one can argue that our ties are stronger now than at any time in the last fifty years." He added that the US would not sacrifice Taiwan's interests for the sake of having a better relationship with China -- even in the wake of Beijing-Washington cooperation in countering terrorism.

He also expressed the US' gratitude for Taiwan's support in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks, in terms of financial donations, measures adopted to heighten the protection of Americans in Taiwan and security at Taiwan's ports of entry, as well as monitoring financial flows, among others.

"It is in times of crisis that we learn who our true friends are. And the US knew from the beginning of this particular crisis where Taiwan stood," he said.

China Eases Stance on Taiwan: Moves Aimed at Improving Ties With U.S. Ahead of Bush Visit (Washington Post, Jan. 24, 2002)

China announced a significant softening of its policy toward Taiwan today, released another prisoner with U.S. ties, and pledged $150 million to the effort to rebuild Afghanistan – moves aimed at underscoring its desire for good ties with Washington before President Bush visits next month.

The scheduled summit between President Bush and China's President Jiang Zemin in Beijing on Feb. 21-22 is expected to be short on concrete announcements and long on politics. But China is working hard to create a welcoming atmosphere for Bush, who was scheduled to travel to Beijing in October but postponed his trip because of the war in Afghanistan.

The most significant of today's developments was a statement by Qian Qichen, China's top foreign policy official, welcoming members of Taiwan's governing Democratic Progressive Party to visit China and calling for renewed dialogue and stronger economic ties across the Taiwan Strait.

In a statement quoted by the official New China News Agency and state-run radio, Qian also said that only a small number of the Democratic Progressive Party's members were separatists – a major change in China's stated view of the party, whose platform lists independence from China as a goal. "We believe there is a distinction between the vast majority of Democratic Progressive Party members and a very small number of stubborn Taiwan independence activists," state radio quoted Qian as saying. "We invite them to tour and visit in an appropriate status to promote understanding."

The United States has been pressing China to open contacts with the Democratic Progressive Party. China has shunned the party since March 2000 when its candidate Chen Shui-bian was the first opposition leader elected president in Taiwan's history.

"This was done with a eye to Taipei and an eye toward Washington," said a Chinese security official, referring to today's announcement. "We are showing good faith both to Taiwan and the United States." China maintains that Taiwan is part of China and has threatened to attack the island of 23 million people if it declares independence. But since Chen's victory two years ago, China has played down the threats and instead courted Chen's rivals in the Nationalist Party that governed Taiwan for nearly five decades.

That policy lasted until December when Chen's party routed the Nationalists in parliamentary elections. Qian's statement today was tantamount to an acknowledgment of the DPP's success, Western diplomats and Chinese security experts said. "We understand now that we have got to deal with the Democratic Progressive Party," said one Chinese expert on Taiwan. "This is a major step forward." Qian also stressed that the recent entry of both China and Taiwan into the World Trade Organization provided new opportunities to develop bilateral trade relations, since there was now a mechanism for settling trade disputes between them. "Political differences should not interfere with trade exchange and man-made obstacles which limit economic cooperation should be removed as soon as possible," Qian said. "We are willing to listen to the views and recommendations from Taiwan people from all walks of life about the establishment of a cooperation mechanism to bring cross-strait economic ties closer."

However, Qian reiterated that contacts with Taiwan could occur only if Taiwan accepted the "one China" principle – which Chen's government has not. Beijing defines the principle as meaning that Taiwan and China belong to a single country. Beijing used to define it as meaning Taiwan was just a province of China, but has modified that view in recent years to give Taiwan more of an equal standing with China.

DPP Welcomes Beijing's Decision to Invite Govt to Visit (Agence France Presse, Jan. 25, 2002)

Taiwan's Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) welcomed Beijing's move of opening contacts with the pro-independence party. "We think this is a demonstration of goodwill and we would be happy to see its progress," DPP Chairman Frank Hsieh told reporters. "It means that the People's Republic of China has started to understand Taiwan's political situation." It also indicated that the DPP had made the right move by adopting a "centre" China policy -- which meant the ruling party did not support either reunification or independence, Hsieh said.

Chen Ming-tung, vice chairman of the island's Mainland Affairs Council, said: "We are pleased to see the other side sending messages which are helpful in facilitating cross-strait relations. "The government takes the messages seriously and will react in an appropriate time after analysing the latest information," he said.


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