May 30th, 2000
Avoiding the `one China' trap
Chen Shui-bian's (³¯¤ô«ó) inaugural speech was a deft exercise
in wordcraft. It was both conciliatory in tone and was generally
well-received, in the end buying Chen some breathing space
from China's threats. But the "one China" issue
still haunts Taiwan, and Beijing is using all the methods
at its disposal to force its poison on Taiwan.
listened carefully to Chen's speech, however, it would have
heard some hidden messages. For instance, the phrase "Taiwan
stands up" was stressed three times in the speech and
was obviously an echo of Mao Zedong's (¤ò¿AªF) speech in Tiananmen
Square in 1949, announcing the overthrow of the old regime
and the birth of a new state.
which was used many times in the speech, has long been something
of a code word for independence in Taiwan. Chen also called
Taiwan "our eternal mother," and shouted out, "Long
live the people of Taiwan," while only wishing for the
well-being of the Republic of China. Chen gave the impression
he was stressing his identification with Taiwan.
made reference to China and Taiwan's common history of colonial
domination, but only to underscore the different historical
trajectories of the two countries that can be traced back
more than 300 years.
many strategic positions in the new administration -- including
mainland and foreign affairs, education, culture and even
the National Palace Museum -- were given to people with a
strong Taiwanese identity. Several important figures in Taiwan's
independence movement were also appointed as presidential
are always more powerful than mere words and Beijing's mistrust
of Chen will not be solved with just one speech. Beijing will
continue to pressure Chen to accept the "one China"
principle, even if it has been unable so far to find Taiwan's
pressure point. One reason Beijing still lacks such leverage
is because Chen's inaugural speech was highly acclaimed internationally,
denying China any excuse to act against Taiwan.
has been unable to reach a consensus on how to deal with Taiwan
and it appears that the leadership will remain divided, at
least until after the Communist government's annual meetings
in Beidaihe (¥_À¹ªe) in July. The US election campaign will
start up soon after and China is unlikely to make any move
against Taiwan during that time. Taiwan should be able to
dodge the specter of war as long as it keeps a cool head and
a low profile.
continues to stress its "one country, two systems"
policy and contends that the PRC is the only legal Chinese
government. Taiwan would therefore be at a serious disadvantage
during future negotiations if it accepted the "one China"
would not be satisfied even if Taiwan did accept the "one
China" formula. Taiwan would be writing China a blank
check, turning Taiwan into China's debtor. Moreover, an acceptance
of the "one China" principle would merely whet the
appetite of hardliners in China, encouraging them to demand
more from Taiwan.
to chart a carefully plotted middle course. But he would be
sacrificing Taiwan's sovereignty if he admitted to the "one
China" principle. None of his challengers in the March
elections would have accepted the formula. What would be the
point if they wanted to continue to serve as president? Moreover,
the voters of Taiwan will not agree to the "one China"
principle. Otherwise, why bother electing their own leader?