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Taiwan Confrontation - Developments 2000-2002

2000 Developments

The level of rhetorical tension between Taiwan and China last rose as Taiwan's elections drew closer to 18 March 2000. Opposition candidate Chen Shui-bian of the Democratic Progressive Party was elected president of Taiwan. Mr. Chen's victory meant that the Nationalist Party had been ousted from power after 51 years of rule. Taiwanese voters appear to have ignored China's warning that they not choose Mr. Chen as their new president.

Although his party's platform advocates formal independence for the island, Mr. Chen had backed away from that stance during his inauguration address. Chen Shui-bian's inauguration address included his "five noes" pledge in a bid to calm jitters at home and abroad that his independence leanings would provoke military aggression from China. To avoid conflict, Chen said that during his tenure as president, he would

  1. not declare Taiwanese independence
  2. not call a referendum on changing the status quo in regard to Taiwan's independence
  3. not write the two-state theory or the concept of "state-to-state" relations between the island and the mainland into the Constitution
  4. not seek change to Taiwan's "national title" official name, flag, or territory.
  5. not to abolish the National Unification Council and its charter, the Guidelines for National Unification, which paints a vague timetable for the eventual integration of Taiwan and China under a democratic system

However Chen, since taking power in May 2000, refused to accept the one-China principle that both the mainland and Taiwan are part of China.

The Taiwan crisis of the year 2000 came at a time of unusual tension between America and China. A string of incidents over the past two years -- the bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade during the Kosovo war, Congressional charges of Chinese attempts to corruptly influence American elections and policies, the 1998 scandal over satellite and rocket technology transfers and the 1999 scandal over possible theft of nuclear secrets -- greatly complicated an unavoidably complex relationship.

And during the previous election campaign on Taiwan four years earlier in 1996, China fired missiles into waters near the island, trying to intimidate independence-minded voters. US Military sources said China had hundreds of ballistic missiles at that time, and had been adding new ones at the rate of 50 per year.

2001 Developments

Following the a crisis in Sino-US Relations touched off by a mid-air collision involving a US EP-3E ARIES II aircraft and a Chinese naval aircraft, during a 24 April 2001 interview with ABC News, broadcast April 25, President George W. Bush said he would do "whatever it took" to defend Taiwan from an attack by China. Bush said he remained committed to a one-China policy - and to a peaceful resolution of the dispute between China and Taiwan - despite his suggestion that the United States would be willing to apply all its military might to the defense of the island. The President said China must understand that the United States has an obligation to Taiwan's defense, and he responded in the affirmative when asked whether this meant using the full force of the US military. The Bush comments touched off a stir among foreign policy analysts and others, who said they appeared to mark the end of a two-decade-long US policy of deliberate ambiguity about the extent of the US commitment.

The Bush administration's decision in April 2001 to sell Taiwan much of the modern weaponry it wanted in order to present a credible military deterrent to Beijing was seen as further straining an already tense bilateral relationship. President Bush not only expressed strong support for the defense of Taiwan, in April 2001, he also decided to make available to Taiwan a robust arms sales package, including Kidd-class destroyers and submarines. Official Chinese media blasted the "inflammatory decision." The announcement followed a litany of Chinese editorial criticism of Washington for refusing to foreswear continued electronic surveillance flights, for granting a visa to former Taiwan President Lee, for labeling Beijing as a human rights violator and for pursuing its missile defense plans. While the US opted to sell additional technology to Taiwan, it did not agree to make available AEGIS radar systems, something that Taiwan has been seeking to boost its air defense capabilities.

2002 Developments

Under the administration of George W. Bush, Taiwan-US relations have grown even closer. The ROC president and premier were also permitted to transit through the United States more extensively and in a more dignified manner, including necessary courtesies and opportunities to meet with members of the U.S. Congress and local dignitaries. To promote U.S. relations with Taiwan, more than 110 members of Congress established the Congressional Taiwan Caucus in April 2002.

In 2002, when Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian's refusal to recognise the one-China principle made resumption of suspended cross-strait dialogue uncertain, Chinese Vice-Premier Qian Qichen had suggested the separation of politics from economics. This allowed for discussions on economic and trade exchanges as well as direct three links to be held by non-governmental organisations.

On 3 August 2002, Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian presented a speech to the pro-independence World Federation of Taiwanese Associations in Tokyo via teleconference. In his speech Chen said that he backed legislation on a referendum to decide whether Taiwan should declare independence and preached that ``each side (of the Taiwan Straits) is a country.'' These comments set off alarm bells in Beijing causing, Li Weiyi, the government spokesman for the Taiwan Affairs Committee, to state, "We seriously warn Taiwan splittist forces not to wrongly judge the situation, to immediately stop the horse at the edge of the precipice and to stop all splittist activities.'' Li also said Chen's statement that ``each side is a country'' proved that the ``Four No's'' pledge he made in his inauguration speech in 2000 (Four Nos': Taiwan would not declare independence, change the ``national title,'' enlist the concept of ``state-to-state'' relations between the island and the mainland in its ``constitution,'' nor promote any referendum to change the status quo in regards to independence) was merely an expedient measure aimed at deceiving the people in Taiwan and world opinion.

The First Lady of Taiwan, Chen Wu Shu-chen, made a historic trip to New York, Washington, DC, and Los Angeles in September 2002. This was the first time an ROC first lady had visited the U.S. since diplomatic ties between the ROC and the U.S. were severed in 1979.

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Page last modified: 27-09-2014 20:04:48 ZULU