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Peace must be accepted as both means and end

Taiwan Journal

Story Type:Commentary;
Byline:TJ editor
        At the same time the people of Taiwan vote for their next president March 20, through referendum they will also voice their hopes regarding future interactions between their nation and China. The scheduled referendum has commonly been characterized as one focusing on national security, with the purpose of urging the Chinese authorities to dismantle the hundreds of missiles targeted at Taiwan and renounce the use of force. In a Feb.3 news conference, however, President Chen Shui-bian stressed that it is much more far-reaching and positive in scope: It is a proposal to establish a comprehensive "peace and stability framework" for communication and cooperation between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait.

        In summarizing the rationale for that proposal and conditions conducive to its realization, the president first put his finger on the crux of cross-strait animus: "Beijing unilaterally denies the sovereignty of our nation and conspires to force us to accept the so-called 'one China' and 'one country, two systems' formulae" for annexing Taiwan. Since 1991, he noted, Chinese authorities have continually insisted that Taiwan concede it is part of China as the precondition for, rather than as a possible outcome of, a stable peace.

        Treating their "one China" as a foregone conclusion rather than as a topic for discussion, the Chinese authorities have thereby shut the door to peaceful dialogue, resorting instead to ultimatums and military threats. This situation, as the president pointed out, "creates countless impediments to furthering the breadth and depth of interaction." Therefore, the greater purpose of the referendum, indicated the president, is to emphasize the imperative to develop direct channels of trust-building communication between Taiwan and China. To that end, he outlined "one principle and four major issues" of fruitful interaction. Inasmuch as his suggestions on practical issues are predicated on a single principle, it is essential to understand that "principle of peace." The principle of peace in Taiwan-China relations boils down to this: To achieve a peace that is lasting, peace must not be treated as an abstract future goal, to be dangled like a carrot obtainable only by sacrificing one's dignity; rather, it must be recognized as the concrete modus of interaction to which both sides fully commit themselves at every step in the ups and downs of their relationship. For only through such mutual dedication to non-violence--both as means and end--can practical areas of concern be negotiated in faith that something beautiful will come of it. It is such a commitment to compassion and renunciation of violence that the people of Taiwan offer, and seek in return, from China.


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