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Office of Research Issue Focus Foreign Media Reaction

June 2, 2004

June 2, 2004

CHINA ROUNDUP: BEIJING'S 'TENSE' RELATIONS WITH TAIWAN AND HONG KONG

 

KEY FINDINGS

 

** Pro-Beijing papers assail Taiwan President Chen's "obstinate insistence" on independence.

 

** Taiwanese and Japanese dailies praise Chen's "conciliatory message."

 

** The U.S. must "help Beijing and Taipei...break the sovereignty impasse."

 

** Independent Hong Kong dailies see a new "atmosphere of fear" in the territory.

 

MAJOR THEMES

 

Chen's 'stubborn nature regarding Taiwan independence' remains evident-- Pro-PRC dailies concluded "Chen still poses a big threat to cross-Straits peace and stability." The official China Daily dismissed his inaugural speech as the "beguiling words of a slippery politician," adding that he "has neither abandoned his pro-independence stance nor demonstrated real sincerity." Official Global Times agreed that despite Chen's "mild and vague words," he seeks to "purposely increase the tension." Pro-Beijing writers in Hong Kong acknowledged that Chen "showed some restraint," but predicted "he will continue to...provoke China."

 

'Chen made an effort to pacify the rulers in Beijing'-- Taiwanese, Japanese and Canadian papers saw an "olive branch" in Chen's "balanced but strong" inaugural address and welcomed his "passionate resolve to improve relations" with the PRC. Taiwan's conservative China Post said Chen's address "was clearly designed to placate all those who had doubts" about his pragmatism; Japan's conservative Sankei hailed his "enthusiasm for bringing about peace and stability to China-Taiwan relations." Independent Hong Kong dailies described the lack of a "similarly constructive response" from Beijing as "disappointing."

 

U.S.-China relations depend 'mainly on the U.S. attitude' towards Taiwan-- Pro-Beijing outlets saw a "U.S. strategy to use Taiwan to contain the Mainland" and alleged that the main reason the "Taiwan issue hasn't been solved is U.S. interference." China's official International Herald Leader declared that "content no longer exists" in the U.S.' "hollow" one-China policy. But pro-independence dailies such as the Taiwan News backed the way the U.S. has made clear "it will not look favorably on any unilateral change of the cross-Strait status quo."

 

'Hong Kong's freedom of speech has been seriously undermined'-- A popular politician's claim that "mainland officials applied various forms of pressure...to persuade him to tone down his criticism" of state officials ahead of September legislative elections has "deepened the distrust between the central government and the Hong Kong people" according to independent Hong Kong Economic Times. The independent South China Morning Post added that the apparent "sinister attempt to suppress" Hong Kong's freedoms has laid bare the SAR's "unhealthy climate." Pro-PRC papers rejected the "vicious rumors"; Wen Wei Po warned that such "groundless speculations can go very far in triggering a crisis."

 

EDITOR: Ben Goldberg

 

EDITOR'S NOTE: Media Reaction reporting conveys the spectrum of foreign press sentiment. Posts select commentary to provide a representative picture of local editorial opinion. This report summarizes and interprets foreign editorial opinion and does not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Government. This analysis was based on 59 reports from 8 entities over 19 May - 1 June 2004. Editorial excerpts from each country are listed from the most recent date.

 

EUROPE

 

RUSSIA: "Mission Hardly Possible"

 

Andrey Ivanov wrote in business-oriented Kommersant (5/21): "One of the principal goals--the unity of Taiwanese society--proclaimed by Chen Shui-bian at the inauguration ceremony yesterday may prove hard to accomplish. In fact, it is absolutely unfeasible, given the economic problems brought about by Chen Shui-bian's populist policy. His ecological slogans have caused a flight of capital and production to mainland China. Nor is it going to be any easier for the President to deal with Beijing, which suspects him of plans to declare independence."

 

MIDDLE EAST

 

UAE: "Trouble Over Taiwan"

 

The expatriate-oriented English-language Khaleej Times stated (5/26): "The Taiwan Strait is among the hottest flashpoints in the world today. China regularly rattles its sabre to intimidate separatist Taiwan but has thus far stopped short of overt military action. The latest warning to Taiwan from Communist rulers comes soon after Chen Shui-bian formally took over as Taiwan president for a second term. The latest round of sabre-rattling began with Chen's controversial election in March.... Beijing has not taken kindly to Chen's posturing on Taiwan's status. Yesterday, China warned that it will completely 'annihilate' all attempts to gain independence from mainland China. The problem would not be so complicated if Taiwan's traditional ally, the U.S., had kept itself out of the picture. On election eve, President Bush had rightly advised the Taiwan leadership against making any attempts to change the status quo. However, with Beijing turning the heat on Taipei, Washington warned Beijing last week that it was committed to Taiwan's security. Although Taiwan has successfully emerged from under the mainland's shadow, China continues to hope for eventual reunification. Unfortunately, despite changed global realities, Beijing refuses to see the big picture. If China hopes to win over the island and its people, it should adopt a more reasonable and conciliatory approach."

 

EAST ASIA

 

CHINA: "What Do We Do To Deter 'Taiwan Independence'"

 

Official Communist Party-run international Global Times (Huanqiu Shibao) declared (6/1): "In the next two years, the U.S.-China conflict on the Taiwan issue will become even more serious.... We must dominate regarding the measures we adopt to deter 'Taiwan independence.' How U.S.-China relations proceed during the four years depends mainly on the U.S. attitude toward 'Taiwan independence'.... The U.S.' Taiwan policy is 'using' in the strategic mode, using Taiwan to deter China, and 'controlling' in the tactical mode, preventing Chen Shuibian from dragging the U.S. into the chaos.... China should establish a 'Unification Law,' such that it can domestically put down a local administration's 'small laws and illegitimacy', and in foreign affairs field resist the U.S. government's interference into China's internal affairs."

 

"Taiwan Makes A Major Adjustment In Its Frontline Commanders"

 

Li Runtian commented in official Communist Party-run international Global Times (Huanqiu Shibao) (6/1): "Taiwan's tight embrace of the U.S. is funny, on the one hand accelerating its military deployments and increasing its military expenditures, and at the same time slandering the Mainland's 'threats'.... The 'Evaluation on the Chinese PLA's Strength' issued recently by the Pentagon on the one hand exaggerates the overall advancement in the PLA's strength and at the same time claims that Taiwan's military is influenced by 'diplomatic isolation.' U.S. 'attention' to cross-Straits military strength provides food for thought."

 

"Chen's Words Didn't Disguise Deceit"

 

Wang Jianmin noted in the official English-language China Daily (6/1): "Under huge pressure from the mainland and the international community, re-elected Taiwan 'president' Chen Shui-bian did not say anything radical about independence of the island in his inaugural address on May 20.... But a lack of such words in Chen's speech does not mean that he has abandoned his long-held policy of permanently separating Taiwan from China. To placate the mainland and the U.S., the independence-minded Taiwan leader adopted a less aggressive stance on the independence issue in an attempt to ensure his power on the island for longer and in order to create conditions for its final independence from the mainland at some future date.... The speech also demonstrated Chen's obvious intention of internationalizing the Taiwan question and shifting the main battlefield between the two sides across the Straits to the international community.... But all these words were Chen's tactics to gain an advantageous position for the DPP in its struggle with the pan-blue camp for power of the island, to enlist support from Taiwanese siding with the pan-blue camp, and to make it difficult for his political adversary to find a suitable line and position to attack him.... Chen's inaugural address also ushered in an unoptimistic prospect for cross-Straits relations.... Chen's past words and actions show he is a person who has lost faith in the people of both the island and the mainland. And thus no one can guarantee he will not take more dangerous steps to separate Taiwan from China. The prospects for cross-Straits relations are not optimistic and the mainland still faces an arduous task in fighting the Taiwan independence conspiracy."

 

"The U.S. Simulates A Taiwan Straits war"

 

Zou Dejie and Ji Xiaoqi commented in official Communist Party-run international Global Times (Huanqiu Shibao) (5/28): "The U.S. military report on a possible Taiwan Strait war is the first step of the U.S. military's interference into the Taiwan Straits affair.... The U.S. military basically determined two potential problems in its military analysis. First, there is a worry about the Taiwanese military's morale. The ideological conflicts between the Green Camp and the Blue Camp have already started to influence the military. Second, the U.S. is concerned about its allies' attitude; South Korea and Japan may not allow U.S. access to their air force bases or naval ports during a conflict. It is well known that one of the reasons why the Taiwan issue hasn't been solved is U.S. interference. President Bush said earlier that the U.S. would 'assist with Taiwan's defense' if the Mainland attacks Taiwan.' Under this policy, U.S.-Taiwan military relations have improved. The Bush administration's Taiwan policy has developed from 'strategic vagueness' to 'strategic clearness.' One question that the Americans in various fields are discussing without result is whether or not the U.S. should interfere when the Taiwan crisis breaks out. There are many factors to consider: the comparison of the U.S. and China's strength, U.S. domestic politics, economics and the fact that many Americans are not willing to sacrifice their lives far from home. The U.S. government also doesn't want to fall into the war quagmire, and Taiwan is just a small step in the U.S. big plan."

 

The U.S. One-China Policy Is Sounding Hollow"

 

Zhu Liqun held in official Xinhua News Agency-run International Herald Leader (Guoji Xianqu Daobao) (5/27): "The U.S. and the Mainland had totally different responses to Chen Shuibian's 'inaugural speech' on May 20. The White House spokesman said the speech was 'responsible and constructive.' However, China's Taiwan Affairs Office Spokesman said, Chen Shuibian had no 'sincerity' at all. From the two totally different reactions, one can see the U.S. and China are growing apart over the interpretation of the one-China policy. The U.S. government still confirms to China that it adheres to the one-China policy. However, we believe that the one-China policy is hollow. The phrase still exists but the content no longer exists. This is the direct reason that the U.S. and China disagree over the Taiwan issue.... The U.S. is complaining that Chen Shuibian is not obedient, and at the same time it reiterated its 'six guarantees' to Taiwan while Chen is promoting Taiwan independence. In such a case, China has to doubt the honesty of the U.S. policy and its ability to control the situation. It is also doubtful that U.S. deterrence will work on China.... The U.S. dual deterrence policy merits doubt. It is also to a certain extent dangerous: if it is ineffective, it will trigger a great risk. China should, to the greatest extent, strive for a new understanding based on the one-China principle with the U.S. As long as a new understanding and consensus have been reached between the U.S. and China, the risk of a Taiwan crisis will be greatly decreased."

 

"Taiwan Straits Sinking Into A New Round Of Tension"

Nie Chuanqing, Zhu Xianlong and Li Runtian said in official Communist Party-run international Global Times (Huanqiu Shibao) (5/26): "Analysts point out that the press statement issued by the State Council's Taiwan Affairs Office conveys many important points worthy of attention: first, Zhang Mingqing, the spokesman, said, the Taiwan Affairs Office clearly defines Chen Shuibian's performance in the past four years as: breaking his own vows with no reputation for sincerity at all. Second, Zhang points out Chen's 'May 20th' speech shows that he has not given up his 'Taiwan independence' stance. Third, Zhang says that 'the possibility of a war breaking out in the Taiwan Strait depends on Chen's attitude. Fourth, Zhang says that we don't welcome Taiwanese coming to the Mainland to make money and then returning to Taiwan to support 'Taiwan independence. Taiwan's media has placed much emphasis on Zhang's proclamation that 'the current state of cross-Strait relations is very serious', one reason is that they consider this to be a stern warning issued by the Mainland to the Taiwan authorities; another reason is that Chen has again begun to play 'a dangerous game' so soon after 'taking office.' Experts think that the Taiwan authorities assiduously exaggerate the 'military threat' by the Mainland because they want to create a tense situation and take this opportunity to expand their military installations.... The Taiwan authorities, who cry every day to 'ease the tense situation across the Taiwan Strait', actually purposely increase the tension."

"Beijing Will Deter 'Taiwan Independence' In A Comprehensive Way"

Huang Zhihui contended in official Communist Party-run international Global Times (Huanqiu Shibao) (5/26): "Xu Bodong, the Director of Beijing United University's Taiwan Research Institute, says that the U.S. and Japan are both satisfied with and even grateful for Chen's not directly formulating 'independence'; it's not that they want seriously to deter 'Taiwan independence,' but rather hope for calm in the Taiwan Strait. Taiwan will still be supported by the U.S. and Japan and the battles between Taiwan and the Mainland will become even more complicated. Li Yihu, Professor of International Politics at Beijing University says...the Mainland will soon adopt comprehensive measures for the Taiwan Strait situation.... The comprehensive measures will include, based on my understanding, economic measures, political, military, legal and surely diplomatic measures."

"Chen Plays Tricks In Seeking Independence"

The official English-language China Daily asserted (5/26): "Chen Shui-bian's conciliatory remarks in his May 20 inauguration address show the independence-minded Chen still poses a big threat to cross-Straits peace and stability despite the Taiwan leader's rhetoric cloaking his aims for independence.... Chen refused to accept the one-China principle that both the mainland and Taiwan are part of China. Rather, the content of his speech implied that Taiwan is an independent country although he made no reference to the words of "one country on each side of the Straits. Facts prove that Chen has neither abandoned his pro-independence stance nor demonstrated real sincerity to improve cross-Straits relations.... All this has demonstrated Chen's secret intention of stubbornly sticking to his stance of 'one country on each side.' Chen has no credit to trust in. What he says has become insignificant and the key is what he does.... These are nothing but smokescreens to disguise his wishful thinking to seek 'peaceful separation' across the Straits and realize the Taiwan independence conspiracy. By no means can people have any fantasy about the fine-sounding rhetoric.... Nothing is more important and sacred to the Chinese people than safeguarding the nation's sovereignty and territorial integrity. A democratic, prosperous and civilized China must be a unified China. We will struggle towards an outlook of peaceful reunification with utmost sincerity and efforts. There is no hope of peace for Taiwan independence and no stability with separation. If pro-independent forces take reckless moves to create major separatist incidents, we will crush their attempts resolutely, thoroughly and at all costs."

 

"Chen Shuibian Enters Office Amid Protest"

 

Li Chunming and Run Tian commented in official Communist Party-run international Global Times (Huanqiu Shibao) (5/21): "Whether or not Chen Shuibian will reiterate the 'Four Nots and One No' is the focus of people's attention.... His insidious avoidance of the 'Four Nots and One No' and adoption of vague words like 'principles and promises' fully reveals his perfunctory attitude and true motivations. Li Jiaquan, researcher of Taiwan issues at the Chinese Academy Of Social Sciences' Taiwan Research Institute, pointed out that Chen Shuibian did not change his 'independence' direction at all even though he used many mild and vague words. Yan Xuetong, Director of Qinghua University's International Affairs Institute said, Chen Shuibian's speech is a 'declaration of Taiwan independence' with an obscure attitude and words as issued under U.S. pressure. Yan thinks that 90 percent of Chen Shuibian's 'inaugural speech' was intended for Americans and 10 percent for Taiwanese. He never planned the speech for Mainland people's ears because he knows that the Mainland won't believe him when he talks about giving up 'Taiwan independence.' His speech simply was intended to trick the U.S. Yan said that for 12 years, Lee Teng-hui and Chen Shuibian have adopted the trick of 'wordplay plus gradualism' to trick the outside world, and in the future this trick will be used on the Americans.... Chen Shuibian did not provoke the Mainland with tough words and the status quo can be maintained in the Taiwan Strait; this suits the U.S. strategy to use Taiwan to contain the Mainland, and so Americans therefore have faith in Chen Shuibian's words."

 

"Experts: Chen On Road To Instability"

 

Xing Zhigang observed in the official English-language China Daily (5/21): "Taiwan leader Chen Shui-bian's 'inaugural speech' was described yesterday as a meticulously-designed "separatism roadmap" that fully testifies his obstinate insistence on pursuing independence for the island.... 'Chen has seemingly tried hard to present his policies on almost all key issues in vague and ambiguous terms and in a low profile way,' said Professor Fan Xizhou of the Taiwan Research Institute of Xiamen University.... 'Behind all the soft words is his hard will to cling to a separatist stance and forge ahead with his pro-independence agenda'.... In a strongly worded statement issued on May 17, the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council warned Chen against moving the island towards independence in any form. The statement drew more support from overseas Chinese yesterday. As a major sign for Chen's lack of sincerity, the Taiwan leader did not even bother to reiterate the 'four nos' pledge he made in his 2000 'inaugural speech'.... Chen just noted that the commitments he made at that time have not changed over the past four years nor will they change in the next four years. 'It is again a big lie and all empty talk because he himself has never put his words into action in the past four years in office,' said Li Jiaquan, a senior researcher with the Institute of Taiwan Studies under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.... 'All in all, Chen is managing to feed an illusion about bright cross-Straits prospects based only on his deceitful remarks,' Li said. Both Li and Fan predicted that cross-Straits relations face more uncertainty and instability in the coming years as Chen is expected to phase in his pro-independence moves. 'The potential danger and crisis are always there because 'Taiwan independence' leads to no peace and stability,' Fan said. Chen's inauguration ceremony was held amid a shadow over the legitimacy of his victory in the hotly disputed March 'presidential elections', which were marred by numerous voting irregularities and an unexplained election-eve shooting."

 

"Rhetoric Can't Hide Chen's True Intent"

 

The official English-language China Daily noted (5/21): "Chen Shui-bian's latest offer of "goodwill" turns out to be another sham.... Was he talking about the promises that 'had never existed?' Many wonder whether his domestic audience was the main target of Chen's speech. What most of the overseas audience heard, however, were the very latest, and the most beguiling words of a slippery politician.... Chen knows the value of overseas sympathy in his attempts to internationalize his case. He also knows the lack of legal grounds for his independence pursuit under the framework of current international law and norms. So he attempts to lead his audience into his future world free of international law and codes of conduct.... No valid international law can lend legitimacy to his fantasy of defining Taiwan as a sovereign state independent of China.... 'President' Chen is an expert at preconditions. His game of words on the 'five nos' is made up entirely of tricks with preconditions.... His 'five nos' is first, and officially, based on the condition that the mainland 'does not militarily attack' Taiwan. By last December, however, the precondition became 'if the Chinese communists have no intention to use force against Taiwan.'"

 

CHINA (HONG KONG AND MACAU SARS): "Don't Play Politics With Cross-strait Trade"

 

The independent English-language South China Morning Post said (6/1): "Mr. Chen offered renewed cross-strait negotiations and softened his stance on holding a referendum on constitutional reforms; mainland officials, however, insisted that Mr. Chen lacked credibility and harbored unreformed independence leanings. Yet the assumption remains that business ties will continue to grow--despite Beijing's attacks on Mr. Chen's independence leanings and the mainland's consideration of a reunification law authorizing the use of force on Taiwan. But official remarks...have now cast doubt on these optimistic views. They raise questions about whether the main avenue for cross-strait reconciliation could be put in jeopardy.... The level of trust between Beijing and Mr. Chen may be as low as it has ever been, but he is an elected leader who will be in office for the next four years. It can hardly be in anyone's interests for Beijing to play hardball with Taiwan for all that time. The failure to respond warmly to Mr. Chen's olive branches immediately after the inauguration was a missed opportunity. The possibility that the deepening--and so far imperturbable--business ties between the two sides might fall victim to political posturing is even more worrying."

 

"Storm In A Teacup? We'll Probably Never Know"

 

The independent English-language South China Morning Post editorialized (6/1): "According to Mr. Cheng, the call was entirely innocent and not intended to apply pressure to the veteran politician and Teacup in a Storm host. It was simply an attempt to look up an old friend. The former official expressed amazement at the controversy his action caused. Mr. Lee, as revealed in his statement to lawmakers last week, views the call very differently. It is easy to understand why. The call was unexpected and made late in the evening. It came--as has now been confirmed--from a former official of some seniority. The caller made references to Mr. Lee's virtuous wife and beautiful daughter. And, according to Mr. Lee, he wanted to talk about the radio show.... We will never know precisely where the truth lies. Mr. Lee may have been feeling so much stress that he misinterpreted the motives behind the call. He may have mistaken an innocent inquiry from a long-forgotten acquaintance for a sinister attempt to suppress his freedom of expression. It would be surprising if a politician of Mr. Lee's experience made such a mistake but it is possible. However, even if we accept Mr. Cheng's version of events, the incident serves to underline the need to rigorously protect freedom of expression in our city. If a political heavyweight such as Mr. Lee feels intimidated by what the former official maintains was a well-intentioned call to his home, it says much about the unhealthy climate existing in Hong Kong."

 

"Storm Caused By Allen Lee"

 

Independent Chinese-language Hong Kong Economic Times commented (6/1): "Yesterday, the incident of Allen Lee quitting the radio show 'Teacup in the Storm' took an abrupt turn. The key person, the former deputy director of Foreign Ministry's Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, Cheng Shousan, clarified that he called Allen Lee purely to greet an old friend and had no intention of threatening him. The incident may just have been a misunderstanding.... If Hong Kong cannot establish mutual trust with the central government, it may be marginalized politically and economically. This will be bad for Hong Kong's development. Now, the central government and the Hong Kong people should be patient and tolerant in building mutual trust. Allen Lee's crisis gave the Hong Kong people and the central government a better understanding of the need to get along with each other. They have to make an effort to establish better central government-Hong Kong relations."

 

"Cheng Shousan Reveals The Lie Of 'The Midnight Call'"

 

Pro-PRC Chinese-language Ta Kung Pao opined (6/1): "The whole truth about Allen Lee receiving a secret call which threatened the safety of his wife and daughter has finally come out. The so-called 'former central official Mr. Chen' is Professor Cheng Shousan, the former deputy director of the Foreign Ministry's Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office. Cheng and Allen Lee both worked in the preparatory committee a few years ago. This time, Professor Cheng extended greetings to Lee by calling him. However, this friendly call was twisted into a 'horrifying midnight call'.... Allen Lee is an experienced politician and a NPC representative. How can he be ignorant of the serious consequences of such a 'political accusation?' He knew it was not the truth but continued to create vicious rumors accusing the central government of 'exerting pressure' on him and 'threatening his wife and daughter'? What is his real intention? What does he hope to achieve?.... Allen Lee should be condemned for his irresponsibility. The accusation of 'the central government tightening the freedom of speech' is not the truth. Hong Kong's freedom of speech is protected by the Basic Law and is respected by the central government. The Hong Kong people should safeguard the true freedom of speech and not let others take advantage of it."

 

"What's Behind 'Allen Lee's Phenomenon'"

 

Pro-PRC Chinese-language paper Wen Wei Po contended (6/1): "The whole truth of the so-called 'secret call' by Allen Lee has finally come out. The former deputy director of the Foreign Ministry's Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, Cheng Shousan, clarified yesterday that he called Allen Lee only to extend his greetings. He had no intention of pressuring him to quit hosting the radio program. He said the so-called 'exerting of pressure' was just imaginary and that an ordinary call triggered a political storm accusing 'the central government of intervening in Hong Kong's freedom of speech.' However, the reason and motive behind this reaction should be noted.... 'The Allen Lee phenomenon', a normal social call triggering a political storm, can spread in Hong Kong because the society is extremely political. Hong Kong is a mature commercial society that traditionally values credibility and responsibility. However, as the society becomes more highly politicized, it has gone to an extreme. In order to achieve political goals, people will do anything to get ahead. They may even betray their own friend."

 

"Turning Blind Eyes"

 

Albert Cheng noted in the independent English-language South China Morning Post (5/31): "Some anti-democracy legislators thought that a public hearing could discredit the former senior Legco member and talk-show hosts. To quote Mao Zedong, however, they have lifted a stone, only to drop it on their feet.... While in Hong Kong, Liu Yandong, head of the Communist Party's United Front Work Department, stressed the importance of harmony and unity. But these are just empty slogans. In the pretext of patriotism, a small circle of ultra-leftists has been slinging mud at the democrats. Such tactics are divisive, and contradictory to Ms Liu's appeal. Neither Beijing nor the Hong Kong government has done anything to stop this."

 

"U.S. Is Fanning The Flames In The Strait"

 

Pro-PRC Chinese-language Macau Daily News remarked (5/30): "The Permanent Council of the Organization of American States reached a consensus on May 26, to accept China as a permanent observer. U.S. Secretary of State Richard Boucher read a written statement supporting China. In the meantime, he also said that the U.S. as a member 'will strongly support Taiwan in joining the Organization of American States as an observer'.... This is tantamount to fanning the flames in the Strait for profit.... The U.S. has always suggested that both sides engage in peaceful dialogue to reduce the tense atmosphere. But now, the U.S. is creating problems and pushing 'Taiwan independence.' This shows that the U.S. does not want peaceful unification of China. Only a unified China can stop the international hegemonic country from blackmailing it."

 

"Why Blackening The Central Government?"

 

Pro-PRC Chinese-language Wen Wei Po observed (5/29): "The SAR government is very concerned about radio hosts quitting their shows because of freedom of speech limitations. Yesterday, Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa stressed that he would safeguard Hong Kong's freedom of speech. He even revealed that he had consulted the central government and got a clear reply: they would resolutely safeguard 'one country, two systems', 'Hong Kong people governing Hong Kong' and Hong Kong's high degree of autonomy. The central government would not do anything to jeopardize Hong Kong interests and will support the SAR government when it takes any action to safeguard freedom of press and speech.... Some groundless speculations can go very far in triggering a crisis in society. Is Hong Kong society too sensitive? Or are some people intentionally trying to create confrontation in order to secure more votes for the September Legislative Council election? People should be alert."

 

"Freedom Of Speech Must Be Defended"

 

The independent English-language South China Morning Post editorialized (5/28): "The veteran politician gave a long account to lawmakers when he appeared before the Legco home affairs panel. He described a series of incidents in which mainland officials applied various forms of pressure in a bid to persuade him to tone down his criticism of the Hong Kong and central governments.... We can take Mr. Lee's account at face value. He is an experienced politician with a reputation for honesty and sticking to his principles. It must have taken courage for him to speak out. But the statement does leave many questions unanswered. We do not know how widespread the problem might be. And it is still hard to work out precisely what is going on.... Then there is the question of whether the central government is involved. Mr. Lee says middle-ranking cadres are responsible. Beijing is clearly worried about the outcome of September's elections. It might well be that certain officials are second-guessing the leadership's wishes--and taking matters into their own hands.... The central government has also said little so far, beyond pointing out that free speech is protected by law. A robust defense of Hong Kong's separate system would be very helpful. In particular, a clear signal from Beijing that it disapproves of any intimidation tactics could be sufficient to bring them to an end."

 

"Political And Economic Environments Have Changed; Freedom Of Speech Is Distorted"

 

Independent Chinese-language Hong Kong Economic Journal observed (5/28): "Some legislators coerced popular radio hosts into explaining their reasons for quitting the radio shows publicly. On the surface, the legislators have justice on their side. However, we think that by 'coercing' somebody into telling the truth to prove that the threats mentioned by popular radio hosts are exaggerated will not help the current situation. There are usually two reasons that freedom of speech is threatened. One is government censorship. The other is that in certain political environments, people speak insincerely because they want to be 'politically correct' or they dare not express their true thoughts.... In Hong Kong, there is no law restricting freedom of speech and expression. In fact, the Basic Law protects it. However, the political and economic environment in Hong Kong has changed. The ownerships of many media groups have changed. With the economic interests 'working' behind the scenes, even though freedom of speech has not been reduced, it may have been distorted."

 

"Deep Rift Between The Central Government And The Democracy Camp"

 

Independent Chinese-language Hong Kong Economic Times commented (5/28): "Is the call from a former Chinese official just a polite greeting and Allen Lee is over sensitive or is it real pressure by the central government? Outsiders have different opinions. Objectively speaking, the serious social divisions that Allen Lee worried about have become more acute. His explanation points at the central government, which has deepened the distrust between the central government and the Hong Kong people.... Although the central government and the democracy camp are calling on people to reconcile their differences, both sides have not given up their hostile and defensive stances. They each look at the other with conspiracy theories in mind. Sometimes they even speak or act on hearsay.... The problem is getting worse and worse. The political situation is becoming a vicious cycle."

 

"'Midnight Call' Makes People Tremble With Fear"

 

Mass-circulation Chinese-language Apple Daily News remarked (5/28): "A powerful person rings you in the middle of the night to ask about your family. And then this person wants to 'discuss' with you issues about your radio program and your job. Who can treat such a 'midnight' call lightly? Who can fail to see the threat?.... Under such a threat, in an atmosphere of fear, even Mr. Allen Lee, who is quite strong and has a great deal of experience in politics, had to quit the show 'Teacup in the Storm.' Looking at Mr. Lee's experience, how can people say that Hong Kong's freedom of speech has not been affected? How can they say Hong Kong's freedom of expression has not been compromised?"

 

"The Truth Of 'Going Off The Air' Has Not Been Uncovered"

 

Independent Chinese-language Ming Pao Daily News maintained (5/28): "No matter whether Allen Lee will 'expose more information,' in the future, what he said in the Legislative Council conference room yesterday amounted to a strong accusation of the central government and the SAR government. The central government and the SAR government should respond quickly. Otherwise, the public will think they admit to the accusation and they will believe that Hong Kong's freedom of speech has been seriously undermined.... The entire truth has not been uncovered. Allen Lee mentioned that the central government has adopted the wrong policy toward Hong Kong, based on the idea that 'if you are not a friend, you are an enemy.' Such a policy has deprived many legislators of their home return permit. They cannot go to the mainland. This has divided Hong Kong society.... The central government should face the facts squarely and correct its mistakes. It should come up with new policies that incorporate different opinions and different groups. Only in this way can Hong Kong's freedom of speech find the room to grow."

 

"Disputes Will Hamper Stability And Economic Development"

 

Pro-PRC Chinese-language Hong Kong Commercial Daily opined (5/28): "Hong Kong is a small place. If the whole society is dragged into endless disputes over certain issues, disputes may turn into confrontations, and confrontations may turn into conflicts. By that time, Hong Kong society will be in turmoil. If this happens, not only will economic development be hampered, but also people's daily lives and individual safety may be affected.... Renowned businessman Li Ka-shing once again stressed that Hong Kong could not handle any large-scale social disturbance. The business community's hopes for stability, harmony and prosperity represent the hopes of the majority of Hong Kong people."

 

"How Can Freedom Of Speech Be Affected?"

 

Pro-PRC Chinese-language Wen Wei Po observed (5/28): "Judging from what Allen Lee said, his resignation as radio host had nothing to do with freedom of speech. Allen Lee admitted that he tried to seek the opinions of the NPC about hosting the 'phone-in' program. The NPC clearly replied that there was no conflict or contradiction. This shows that central government officials respect Allen Lee's freedom to be the host of a radio program.... Even if an article criticized Allen Lee, he received the clear message that the criticism did not represent the opinions of the senior level of government officials.... All this indicates that central government officials did not interfere in Allen Lee's freedom to host a radio program."

 

"The Political Environment Is Still Overcast"

 

Mass-circulation Chinese-language Oriental Daily News stated (5/28): "The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) said after the NPC rejected the possibility for universal suffrage in 2007 and 2008, the chances of the democracy camp winning more than half of the seats in the Legislative Council increased. This will hinder the SAR government when it tries to implement its policies. The EIU did not rule out the possibility that Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa would resign. The future of Hong Kong is not in the hands of one person. As long as the Hong Kong people can forget their differences and stand together, Hong Kong can survive anything with the support of the central government. The democratic system needs development. However, the pressing task for Hong Kong people is to boost the economy. Otherwise, Hong Kong will not be as prosperous as before."

 

"Laying Fears To Rest"

 

Michael DeGolyer said in the independent English-language Standard (5/27): "Two fundamental misconceptions fog thinking about constitutional reform in Hong Kong. One holds that given power to directly elect all members of Legco, the masses will opt for socialism like that of Sweden. Next, stop, a tax burden akin to Sweden's 50.6 per cent of GDP. The second links to the first. Hong Kong's wealthy classes believe themselves unable to protect their interests in open political competitions for election like those in the U.S. They need special functional constituencies with severely limited franchises and democracy-proof voting rules in the legislature to stop a mass stampede towards socialism...apparently they have sold their belief the only choices are favor the rich or favor the poor so well that the once egalitarian Communist Party says it cannot allow us full democracy lest we turn, as they did, to socialism. We must avoid the deceit of those who advocate democracy, they intone; their real aims are welfarism and independence. To make sure the democratic Trojan Horse stays outside the walls, they not only forbid direct elections in 2007-08, they also contemplate new security legislation to apply in Hong Kong against secessionism.... There is no evidence our poor craftily plan to achieve socialism or independence once granted democracy, nor grounds to believe Hong Kong's rich are any less able to defend their interests at the ballot box."

 

"Mere Talk Cannot Unite The Hong Kong People"

 

Mass-circulation Chinese-language Apple Daily News concluded (5/27): "'We seek harmony in one country and allow differences in the two systems to exist. No matter which sectors or which parties, they should be united.' Madam Liu Yandong's remarks are very pleasant to listen to. It is just a pity that very few Beijing officials speak like Madam Liu and the officials who will actually take action to unite the different parties in Hong Kong are even less like her.... More regrettable is that even Madam Liu Yandong herself cannot live up to what she suggests. This time, she will stay in Hong Kong for five days to meet with different groups and sectors. However, she is avoiding some important groups and party representatives such as the Democratic Party."

 

"Hope To Remove The Hong Kong People's Doubts"

 

Independent Chinese-language Ming Pao Daily News editorialized (5/27): "Rumors about officials from the mainland trying to interfere in Hong Kong's election and the resignations of several popular radio hosts have affected the Hong Kong people's views of the political situation. They feel uneasy. If the central government wants to maintain stability in Hong Kong society and make the Hong Kong people trust in 'one country two systems,' it should declare its stance. The central government should stress that it will not allow people from the mainland to interfere in Hong Kong's election, nor will it interfere with Hong Kong's freedom of speech. The Hong Kong people will then know that the recent political pressure does not come from the central government.... Liu Yandong urged the Hong Kong people to maintain a 'peaceful co-existence' and to 'work together with one accord.' This is also the wish of most Hong Kong people. They believe that through rational dialogue, differences can be reduced and consensus can be reached."

 

"Laying Fears To Rest"

 

Michael DeGolyer said in the independent English-language Standard (5/27): "Two fundamental misconceptions fog thinking about constitutional reform in Hong Kong. One holds that given power to directly elect all members of Legco, the masses will opt for socialism like that of Sweden. Next, stop, a tax burden akin to Sweden's 50.6 per cent of GDP. The second links to the first. Hong Kong's wealthy classes believe themselves unable to protect their interests in open political competitions for election like those in the U.S. They need special functional constituencies with severely limited franchises and democracy-proof voting rules in the legislature to stop a mass stampede towards socialism...apparently they have sold their belief the only choices are favor the rich or favor the poor so well that the once egalitarian Communist Party says it cannot allow us full democracy lest we turn, as they did, to socialism. We must avoid the deceit of those who advocate democracy, they intone; their real aims are welfarism and independence. To make sure the democratic Trojan Horse stays outside the walls, they not only forbid direct elections in 2007-08, they also contemplate new security legislation to apply in Hong Kong against secessionism.... There is no evidence our poor craftily plan to achieve socialism or independence once granted democracy, nor grounds to believe Hong Kong's rich are any less able to defend their interests at the ballot box."

 

"Mere Talk Cannot Unite The Hong Kong People"

 

Mass-circulation Chinese-language Apple Daily News concluded (5/27): "'We seek harmony in one country and allow differences in the two systems to exist. No matter which sectors or which parties, they should be united.' Madam Liu Yandong's remarks are very pleasant to listen to. It is just a pity that very few Beijing officials speak like Madam Liu and the officials who will actually take action to unite the different parties in Hong Kong are even less like her.... More regrettable is that even Madam Liu Yandong herself cannot live up to what she suggests. This time, she will stay in Hong Kong for five days to meet with different groups and sectors. However, she is avoiding some important groups and party representatives such as the Democratic Party."

 

"Hope To Remove The Hong Kong People's Doubts"

 

Independent Chinese-language Ming Pao Daily News editorialized (5/27): "Rumors about officials from the mainland trying to interfere in Hong Kong's election and the resignations of several popular radio hosts have affected the Hong Kong people's views of the political situation. They feel uneasy. If the central government wants to maintain stability in Hong Kong society and make the Hong Kong people trust in 'one country two systems,' it should declare its stance. The central government should stress that it will not allow people from the mainland to interfere in Hong Kong's election, nor will it interfere with Hong Kong's freedom of speech. The Hong Kong people will then know that the recent political pressure does not come from the central government.... Liu Yandong urged the Hong Kong people to maintain a 'peaceful co-existence' and to 'work together with one accord.' This is also the wish of most Hong Kong people. They believe that through rational dialogue, differences can be reduced and consensus can be reached."

 

"Chen Shui-bian Has To Take Action To Improve Cross-strait Relations"

 

Pro-PRC Chinese-language Macau Daily News argued (5/26): "Zhang Mingqing, spokesperson of the Taiwan Affairs Office under the State Council, hit the nail on the head when he pointed out the vital parts of Chen Shui-bian's remarks. He said that Chen's 'May 20 speech' still refused to acknowledge 'one China'.... This indicates that Chen has not given up his 'Taiwan independence' stance, nor is he sincere about improving cross-strait relations.... Even though at present cross-strait relations are tense, the Taiwan Affairs Office still hopes to foster cross-strait economic cooperation. Zhang Mingqing said, 'if both sides across the strait can realize a direct, comprehensive and two-way 'three links', the related sectors can immediately begin consultation on establishing closer economic partnerships.' This is another constructive suggestion by the Taiwan Affairs Office. We hope that the Taiwan authority will respond in a positive way. Otherwise, it will miss the chance to improve cross-strait relations."

 

"Chen Shui-bian Has To Take Action To Improve Cross-strait Relations"

 

Pro-PRC Chinese-language Macau Daily News argued (5/26): "Zhang Mingqing, spokesperson of the Taiwan Affairs Office under the State Council, hit the nail on the head when he pointed out the vital parts of Chen Shui-bian's remarks. He said that Chen's 'May 20 speech' still refused to acknowledge 'one China'.... This indicates that Chen has not given up his 'Taiwan independence' stance, nor is he sincere about improving cross-strait relations.... Even though at present cross-strait relations are tense, the Taiwan Affairs Office still hopes to foster cross-strait economic cooperation. Zhang Mingqing said, 'if both sides across the strait can realize a direct, comprehensive and two-way 'three links', the related sectors can immediately begin consultation on establishing closer economic partnerships.' This is another constructive suggestion by the Taiwan Affairs Office. We hope that the Taiwan authority will respond in a positive way. Otherwise, it will miss the chance to improve cross-strait relations."

 

"Who Should The Director Of The United Front Unite?"

 

Independent Chinese-language Ming Pao Daily News declared (5/26): "Looking at the preliminary information released by officials, the director of the United Front, Liu Yandong, will meet with people from the pan-democracy camp such as Bishop Joseph Zen and Leung Ka-kit. However, the most important party not in office, the Democratic Party, is not included in the meeting list.... It is really a pity.... Although the situation in the Taiwan Strait is quite tense, Beijing still wants to use Hong Kong as an example for realizing national unification and moving toward a powerful and prosperous nation. In order to achieve this target, Beijing needs a united Hong Kong. Hence, Liu Yandong's Hong Kong visit should actually serve to unite people.... But if Liu does not contact the democracy camp in Hong Kong, she will miss the chance to better understand public opinion in Hong Kong."

 

"A Change In The Game Plan"

 

Editor-at-Large Chris Yeung remarked in the independent English-language South China Morning Post (5/26): "With tension between the mainland and Taiwan rising, Beijing and Hong Kong officials have been quick to assuage fears that the national unification law being drafted to avoid separatism on the island would also be applied to the special administrative region.... In view of the growing uncertainty in cross-strait relations, it looks likely that Beijing will speed up the formulation of the law. Given the tense mainland-Hong Kong relations and the problems over the Article 23 legislation, there may be strong calls for Beijing to apply the proposed law to Hong Kong. This is because even though most Hong Kong people do not see an urgent need for anti-separatist laws, the central government may think otherwise. It will be potentially damaging to 'one country, two systems,' however, if the proposed unification law is applied to Hong Kong via the back door as a harsher replacement for the shelved national security bill."

 

"How To Find Common Ground"

 

Frank Ching wrote in the independent English-language South China Morning Post (5/26): "The conciliatory inaugural address by President Chen Shui-bian, together with a major statement earlier by Beijing, show that both Taiwan and the mainland are eager to avoid a confrontation. It is now conceivable that, given goodwill and flexibility on both sides, they may be able to edge away from a looming conflict.... Although Beijing's May 17 statement has been widely described as tough, it actually contains many conciliatory offers. For example, it says that a cross-strait dialogue can be resumed, the state of hostility can be formally ended, and a mechanism of mutual trust in the military field can be set up. Moreover, a close economic relationship, similar to that which Beijing has offered Hong Kong, can be established. Most important, the issue of 'international living space' for Taiwan can be addressed.... Clearly, both Taipei and Beijing do not want war. Now is the time for both sides to exercise maximum flexibility.... If Beijing accepts that a new Taiwan constitution that continued to claim the mainland as part of the 'Republic of China' is, in fact, acknowledgement of 'one China,' that may be one way of bridging the enormous gulf between the two sides. All Beijing has to do is say that Taiwan has indicated its support for 'one China,' and the two sides could discuss the practical issues of peace, the economy and international space."

 

"The Same Stance And Principle: No Breakthrough"

 

Independent Chinese-language Hong Kong Economic Journal editorialized (5/25): "The Taiwan Affairs Office held a press conference yesterday to respond to Taiwan president Chen Shui-bian's May 20 inaugural speech. By looking at spokesperson Zhang Mingqing's remarks and Q&A, we don't see any sign of a new Taiwan policy. Given the present situation, the chances of peaceful unification are slim. The Taiwan Affairs Office reiterated that 'Taiwan independence will bring no peace, separation will bring no stability.' Beijing will not make any concessions on its one China principle.... As for Chen Shui-bian, the Taiwan Affairs Office concluded that 'he goes back on his word' and 'he acts in bad faith.' In other words, in the next four years, unless Chen Shui-bian unconditionally accepts Beijing's terms for unification, there will be no mutual trust established across the strait, nor will there be any foundation for dialogue. Forget about negotiations, even normal cross-strait exchanges may not be maintained."

 

"Declaration Is Directed Against Chen"

 

Pro-PRC Chinese-language Wen Wei Po declared (5/25): "The Taiwan Affairs Office held a press conference yesterday, which pointed out the deceptiveness of Chen Shui-bian's May 20 speech, and echoed the May 17 'declaration.' The Taiwan Affairs Office's May 17 'declaration' aroused concern. First of all, the declaration pointed out the severe situation of cross-strait relations and issued a warning. Under pressure from all sides, Chen Shui-bian did not reiterate the timetable for 'Taiwan independence' in his May 20 speech. However, when he talked about whether to include sovereignty, territory and independence in 'constitutional reform,' he left some space for 'Taiwan independence.' The situation in the Taiwan Strait is still tense and has the potential to affect peace and stability in the greater Asia-Pacific area."

 

"Beijing Spurns Chance For A Cross-strait Thaw"

 

The independent English-language South China Morning Post remarked (5/23): "The conciliatory tone adopted by Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian in his inauguration speech offered some hope of an improvement in cross-strait relations. A similarly constructive response from the mainland might have paved the way for some progress. The Foreign Ministry's dismissal of the speech as 'deceptive' and its depiction of Mr. Chen as 'obstinate' is, therefore, disappointing. An opportunity to build bridges might well have been missed.... If Beijing had been prepared to focus on the positive rather than the negative aspects, it might have encouraged Mr. Chen to develop his conciliatory line. Rejecting it out of hand, however, is more likely to make him wonder why he bothered. It is clear that the mainland does not trust Mr. Chen. If progress is to be made, he will have to back his words with actions. But this will be all the more likely if Beijing is prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt. This is a time when both the mainland and Taiwan need to tread carefully. Confidence-building measures are required.... The reunification law being prepared by Beijing will not help ease tensions. It is expected to provide a legal basis for an attack on Taiwan should certain circumstances arise."

 

"Despise His Words And Regulate His Deeds"

 

Pro-PRC Chinese-language Wen Wei Po opined (5/22): "To manage strong pressure against 'Taiwan independence' coming from both across the strait and the international community, Chen's May 20 speech was carefully packaged. Chen's stubborn nature regarding Taiwanese independence, however, has not changed. Chen Shui-bian dared not to be arrogant, and he showed some restraint. This reflects the deterrent force of the new mentality behind China's Taiwan policy. This also illustrates the rapid surge of China's power in curbing Taiwanese independence.... China's declaration of May 17 declaration noted that Taiwan's leader had two roads to choose: To play with fire; or two pull back from the brink of the precipice. This shows that the mainland has turned from evolved from the practice of listening to Chen's words and watching his deeds to one of despising Chen's words and regulating his deeds. The mainland will no longer look at the words of the Taiwan leader; it will look at his behavior. The mainland has stipulated that the Taiwanese leader must admit that the mainland and Taiwan belong to one China; and has asked him to abandon any activities promoting Taiwanese independence."

 

"Chen Shui-bian's Speech Has Not Removed Doubts About Taiwanese Independence"

 

Pro-PRC Chinese-language Macau Daily News stated (5/21): "Chen Shui-bian used milder wordings to package his inaugural speech. He clearly avoided such topics as sovereignty and independence in the scope of 'constitutional reform.' This showed that, under pressure from all sides, Chen tried to use his inaugural speech to alleviate tense relations across the strait. Chen Shui-bian nevertheless refused to recognize the 'one China' principle. His speech also did not show that he had abandoned intentions for Taiwanese independence. On the contrary, one could read between the lines many substantial suggestions regarding independence. Chen's speech could therefore not dispel other's concerns. In the next four years, cross-strait relations will not be clear, and people are not optimistic.... People should pay attention to Chen's wish for Taiwan to join the WTO, a mission he hoped to accomplish in two years. His intention is to show that Taiwan is a 'political entity,' and he will continue to engage in activities that provoke China and divide the country."

 

TAIWAN: "Differing PRC, U.S. Positions On Taiwan Come To The Fore"

 

The conservative, pro-unification, English-language China Post editorialized (5/26): "The sharply different reactions from Washington and Beijing [toward President Chen's May 20 inaugural speech] portrayed their basic discrepancies in addressing relations with Taiwan. For the U.S., so long as President Chen pledges not to take moves to unilaterally change the status quo of Taiwan, it will be in line with its strategic interests. The U.S., though, does not support Taiwan independence, but only to the extent of wanting to preserve the status quo. As for whether or not Chen is willing to embrace the 'one China' concept, it is not a matter of vital importance to the U.S. Similarly, Washington might not feel greatly concerned by a Taiwan continuing to drift toward independence, driven by a government pressing ahead with policies advancing a separate Taiwan identity and by an increasingly rampart independence movement at the civil level.... In fact, U.S. cross-strait policy is also encountering challenges in another important aspect--arms sales to Taiwan--with changing circumstances on both sides of the strait. Here in Taiwan, America's supply of sophisticated weapons has traditionally won unanimous gratitude in that it has helped to curb Communist aggression, making it possible for Taiwan to develop its economy and pursue democracy in a stable environment. But with the change of the political circumstances in recent years, U.S. arms sales to Taiwan are no longer something widely welcomed by the people on this island. This can be seen by the increasing difficulty for big-ticket procurement projects to gain approval by the Legislature. This is because the people disagreeing with Chen and his party's policy tend to believe that the availability of more advanced weapons would work more to protect the independence movement than it is necessary to safeguard freedom and democracy.... U.S. arms sales, however, are not a pressing subject of contention facing Washington at the moment. The urgency for it is to find a way to help Beijing and Taipei to break the sovereignty impasse so as to defuse the danger of war, using its influence with the two parties. Persuading President Chen to accept the so-called '1992 consensus' with Beijing is perhaps the best possible solution for Taiwan at this point, as that agreement allows Taipei to maintain its legal standing as the Republic of China."

 

"Strait Dispute Unlikely To Spark War"

 

The pro-independence, English-language Taiwan News noted (5/26): "It is evident that China will become an increasingly important player in the region and the world as the pace of globalization accelerates and trends toward regional integration rise. As the PRC now receives more overseas investment than any other country in the world and has moved into a role as the 'workshop of the world,' it would seem obvious that Beijing should continue to promote economic development and openness and as a long-term strategy endeavor to shake off the stereotype of an aggressive military power and instead focus on promoting herself as a benign regional hegemon. With this strategy in place, it is hard to imagine that the PRC authorities would seriously contemplate triggering a war in the Taiwan Strait, especially after the head of the Taiwan government has offered a responsible and constructive position on future bilateral relations. Furthermore, the present would not seem to be a suitable time for even hardliners in Beijing to spark a conflict that could invite the U.S., the world's sole superpower, into the Taiwan Strait. In this light, the harsh rhetoric from Beijing may just be a two-faced 'carrot and stick' tactic aimed at securing more concessions from Taiwan through the application of even more threats.... A cross-strait conflict will obviously not match the main thrust of regional development. At the same time, peace, stability, prosperity will be in accordance with U.S. interests and Washington has reiterated very clearly that it will not look favorably on any unilateral change of the cross-strait status quo and hence neither supports a 'formal declaration' of Taiwan independence nor an attack on Taiwan by Beijing. In this overarching context, Beijing's threat of war is clearly reasserted for psychological purposes but is far from becoming a reality."

 

"The Necessity Of Strategic Ambiguity"

 

Wu Tien-jung held in centrist, pro-status quo China Times (5/22): "Over the past four years, President Chen's mainland policy has shifted from ambiguity to clarity; namely, he has moved from the original 'Five No's' pledge, to 'one country on each side of the Taiwan Strait,' and to [the promotion of] 'a referendum on the new constitution.' To be more precise, in addition to the political developments inside Taiwan, the United States has actually been a major force behind this increasingly clear strategy. U.S. President George W. Bush said in public in 2001 that [Washington] would take whatever means were needed to help Taiwan defend itself. Then he started to enhance both the quality and quantity of U.S. arms sales to Taiwan. Bush's moving away from the previous [policy of] strategic ambiguity has greatly encouraged the pro-independence forces in Taiwan. When Chen started to use the Taiwan people's consciousness of the island as an entity as part of his campaign strategy, the United States had of course become a major strength that he could rely on. By the same token, Washington tried to use another form of strategic clarity to prevent any possible tension across the Taiwan Strait.... To respond to Washington's request, Chen's inaugural speech not only clearly placed the national sovereignty issue outside of the scope of constitutional reforms, but also plainly stated what procedures were to be used in constitutional re-engineering. Such an approach may be very clear in terms of tactics, but to a certain extent, it still maintains a certain strategic ambiguity. Although Chen no longer talks about [Taiwan's] independent sovereignty, both pro-unification and pro-independence supporters could still grasp what they need from his May 20 speech. Chen has to maintain his ambiguity because, besides U.S. pressure, he also has to face public views in Taiwan.... First, the post-election disputes show that Taiwan people have yet to reach a consensus on their future. Second, even if there is a consensus, do the Taiwan people have the determination to pay the price for independence? How can we ask the United States to sacrifice for us if we do not want to pay such a price ourselves? [Chen's] return to strategic ambiguity can be seen as a new beginning.... What's more important is that over the past four years, Beijing has never regarded the DPP as a government with a solid foundation. Now that Chen has been re-elected, Beijing must look into the necessity of dealing with the DPP. In the wake of May 20, both sides know each other's bottom line...and Chen's strategic ambiguity should be viewed as a beginning that either side can at least accept."

 

"Meeting Threats With Candy Floss"

 

The pro-independence, English-language Taipei Times argued (5/22): "We are immensely gratified therefore by the U.S. House of Representatives' passage on Thursday of legislation to broaden military contacts with Taiwan. We can only hope that the Senate version of the bill also passes and that the White House has the wisdom to sign the measure into law.... The U.S. action is, we understand, a Defense Department-inspired measure brought about by concerns that Taiwan's armed forces have declined in recent years in their ability to fend off an attack by China. It is not just the Defense Department that thinks this; it has become received wisdom overseas while being curiously little talked about here. Of course it might be that the vastly increased cooperation between Taiwan and the US military that has already occurred during the George W. Bush administration has simply revealed Taiwan's forces to be by no means as good as the Americans had previously thought them to be. But US concerns are also cause for our concern.... Chen's [inaugural] address was about 'paving the way for a sustainable Taiwan,' but to be sustainable Taiwan has to be able to defend itself from its enemies, or rather enemy, since really there is only one. If Chen wants to talk about sustainability he has to face the unpleasant fact that Taiwan, like anywhere else, has to make the choice between guns and (more) butter."

 

"Chen Speech Tries To Avoid Provoking Mainland China"

 

Conservative, pro-unification China Post editorialized (5/21): "The speech, mild in tone, was clearly designed to placate all those who had doubts about his [i.e. Chen's] intentions. Above all, Chen made an attempt to pacify the rulers in Beijing, who had been highly distrustful of him although he once promised not to declare independence. But it's questionable whether Beijing will place much trust in Chen's conciliatory message. The president, known for his capriciousness, often makes self-contradictory statements.... If the president really wants to accomplish the goals he declared - enhancing government efficiency and unify the people - he must live up to his promise not to seek Taiwan independence. He should also stop employing divisive measures to achieve political gains."

 

"The Train Of A New Constitution May Detour Or Decelerate"

 

Deputy Editor-in-Chief Tsou Jiing-wen asserted in pro-independence Liberty Times (5/21): "A-bien's personal suggestion to exclude national sovereignty, territory and unification-independence issues from the scope for constitutional reform, and his decision to proceed with constitutional re-engineering according to the system laid down in the Constitution, can be viewed as a major concession by Chen, who has adjusted his role from being a campaign candidate to that of a president. Reliable sources said the aforementioned position is the key [with which] Taipei was able to obtain Washington's understanding [regarding Chen's inaugural speech]. This position could help remove [Beijing's] charges in the international community that the institution of a new constitution equals Taiwan independence.... [We can therefore simply] call it a product of U.S.-Taiwan negotiations.... The birth of a new constitution is of course closely linked to cross-Strait relations. Chen first extended a goodwill gesture [in his speech], but he also said 'in the future, the Republic of China and the People's Republic of China--or Taiwan and China--can seek to establish relations in any form whatsoever. We would not exclude any possibility, so long as there is the consent of the 23 million people of Taiwan.' In this critical paragraph, meant to address Beijing, [Chen] juxtaposed the ROC and the PRC, a way of indicating the status quo of 'two nations.' Also, the juxtaposition of Taiwan and China is a synonym for 'one country on each side of the Taiwan Strait,' with the underlying premise that that [the two

sides] have equal sovereignty."

 

JAPAN: "We Expect Resumption Of China-Taiwan Dialogue"

 

Top-circulation moderate Yomiuri contended (5/21): "The greatest task facing Taiwanese President Chen is the improvement of Taiwan's relations with China. A stable relationship between the two is critical for peace and stability in the region. We expect both Taiwan and China to resume dialogue to ease tension. Beijing needs to take a careful and flexible approach toward Taipei because Taiwanese feelings toward Beijing could worsen if China maintains its high-handed posture."

 

"We Welcome Chen's 'Restrained' Posture Toward China"

 

Conservative Sankei commented (5/21): "We welcome Taiwanese President Chen's inaugural address delivered on Thursday as a balanced but strong speech expressing his enthusiasm for bringing about peace and stability to China-Taiwan relations. China should respect President Chen's passionate resolve to improve relations between Beijing and Taipei and acknowledge the Taiwan people's growing hope for 'independence.'"

 

"China Should Respond To Taiwan's New Ideas"

 

Liberal Asahi opined (5/21): "Taiwanese President Chen's 'restrained' speech on Thursday may have dispelled Chinese suspicion and U.S. concern about Taiwan's ambition for independence. We welcome his prudent statement on Taiwan's future because members of the international community, including the U.S. and Japan, do not look for a 'drastic change' in China-Taiwan relations. We need to closely monitor how China will react to Chen's call for bilateral dialogue. The international community needs to call on China to employ a flexible policy toward Taiwan in order to build peaceful relations between Beijing and Taiwan."

 

PHILIPPINES: "Taiwan: The Next Flash Point"

 

The moderate Manila Times stated (6/1): "A recent report by the Pentagon showed that Beijing is putting in place 'credible military options' to prevent Taiwan from achieving independence as well as measures to discourage the US from coming to Taipei's aid.... The choice for Taipei in Beijing's eyes is unification or defeat. This raises a very disturbing point for the US. The status quo that both Washington and Beijing were at pains to stress is really based on a 'deliberate ambiguity.' Neither Taiwan nor China knows for sure what America's response would be in case of an armed confrontation. US officials who attended President Chen's inauguration warned that in case of an invasion or attack the United States would 'take the war to the mainland, including hitting [its] cities.' This strong response was provoked by General Peng Guangqian's bellicose declaration that 'China would be willing to sacrifice the 2008 Olympic Games, incur huge casualties, economic recession and international condemnation' to keep Taiwan a province of China. The dangers to the region are real. The US should exert its utmost to dissuade China from crossing the line."

 

SINGAPORE: "Taiwan, Be Careful"

The pro-government Straits Times held (5/26): "For those concerned with peace, security and stability in East Asia, the message is worryingly clear. Taiwan has to be careful to ensure that its word play does not take on a life of its own and lead to actions that bring about a Chinese reaction--going far beyond words. Read in its totality, the speech is a balancing act. President Chen...has underlined the need for peace--which surely must mean the continuation of the status quo--but he cleverly uses peace to replace the element of unification. In not pushing directly for independence, he has kept in mind the sobering realities of China, to which it is anathema, and the U.S., which is against any precipitate moves by Taiwan that would engender a Chinese backlash. But he also seeks to appease his pro-independence supporters, for whom the Taiwanese identity is a reality.... What he must keep in mind is that, unlike pro-independence fundamentalists who can make demands without having to take responsibility for the consequences, he is mandated to ensure the security and prosperity of Taiwan. Nothing could be more important to the Taiwanese. China's annoyed response to the speech was expected. What it will look for now is where Mr. Chen's actions lead. He would do himself and his voters a great disservice if he believed that China would not act if he crossed the line. It is not in China's interests to fight a war that sets back its amazing economic transformation, but it would have no option but to fight if the alternative is the loss of Taiwan. Unlike word play, realities can be horrendously simple."

 

WESTERN HEMISPHERE

 

CANADA: "Hong Kong's Fading Freedom"

 

The conservative National Post opined (5/22): "As Hong Kong inches toward its September 12 elections, China is going full-out with a push for pro-Beijing candidates, trampling any pretense that the region might retain a measure of true political independence.... Now, Beijing has shown its true colours and begun to impose on Hong Kong the intimidation and censorship that is standard fare at home.... It is never pleasant to witness a government exercise dictatorial control over its citizens. But it is particularly sad to watch a once vibrant region such as Hong Kong have the liberty choked out of it by an insecure and heavy-handed administration."

 

"Beijing Won't Bully Taiwan Prez"

 

Paul Jackson argued in the conservative tabloid Calgary Sun (5/21): "Despite its small population, Taiwan is now the world's 15th-largest trading nation and Chen used that point to stress how, despite that, Beijing had prevented it from being accepted into the World Trade Organization for 12 years, and in the past week had prevented it being granted even observer status in the World Health Organization. He condemned Beijing not only for trying to shake Taiwan's confidence with its military build-up, but in trying to isolate it in the world by blackmailing other nations into voting against Taiwan's admittance into many world bodies. He also said his government, with the co-operation of all political parties and all the peoples of Taiwan, would press ahead with plans to develop a new, modern constitution that would decide, amongst other things, whether the nation should have a U.S.-style presidential system of government or a British-style Parliamentary system. Communist China has balked both at the idea of a new constitution and the idea of referendums on major issues--believing both would undermine Beijing's plans to take over or merge Taiwan with mainland China. Chen, though, did offer an olive branch to Beijing. He urged that rather than be antagonists, they accept the existence of each others systems, and even co-operate on making each other's political systems and economies work better.... Even though Communist China, which has never had a free election, has rejected such overtures in the past, many believe as a new generation grows up on the mainland the chances for reconciliation will grow. That, though, could take 10 to 15 years, and with Communist China's military might, some are not so sure Beijing is prepared to let time run out on its own plans for forcibly binding Taiwan to the mainland."

 

"Ultimatum"

 

Paul Jackson wrote in the conservative tabloid Calgary Sun (5/19): "Beijing has threatened to 'crush' Taiwan if Chen openly moves towards official independent status for the island nation of 23 million.... Since, in reality, Taiwan has been an independent state since 1948, Beijing's threat seems ridiculous.... Beijing insists Taiwan is simply a breakaway province of Mainland China and must accept reunification under its terms.... During Taiwan's first real democratic elections in 1996, the Communist government in Beijing actually fired missiles across the Taiwanese Straits and conducted naval manoeuvres just to scare Taipei. Indeed, every time the government on Taiwan--once authoritarian, and almost a dictatorship itself--has instituted more reforms and moved towards a more representative democracy, Beijing has turned up the heat. Taiwan has always shrugged off the threats.... But Joseph Wu, chairman of Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council, warned yesterday of the growing military imbalance between Communist China and democratic Taiwan. Wu pointed out history shows when one of two antagonists gets increasingly militarily stronger it ends up using that force. He said not only does Communist China want to take over Taiwan as a matter of principle, but it now fears growing democracy on Taiwan may Beijing make it fearful that such reforms may spread to the mainland."

 

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Commentary from ...
Europe
Middle East
East Asia
South Asia
Western Hemisphere
June 2, 2004 CHINA ROUNDUP: BEIJING'S 'TENSE' RELATIONS WITH TAIWAN AND HONG KONG



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