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February 5, 2004
CHINA-TAIWAN: PRC WARNS CHEN AGAINST 'PLAYING WITH FIRE'

February 5, 2004

CHINA-TAIWAN: PRC WARNS CHEN AGAINST 'PLAYING WITH FIRE'

KEY FINDINGS

** President Chen's referendum threatens to create a "serious crisis" with the U.S.

** Chinese dailies label Chen an "irritant to all peace-loving people."

** Pro-Chen outlets assail Beijing's attempts to suppress "democracy and human rights."

** Chen critics allege the referendum seeks to "bolster his chances" in upcoming elections.

MAJOR THEMES

The U.S. response to the referendum is Taipei's 'most serious crisis'-- Chen supporters and opponents warned his referendum on relations with China is causing "constant criticism" from the U.S., which has "fundamental doubts" about Chen. Taiwan's centrist China Post held that Taiwan's "welfare and regional stability" depend on the U.S.' ability to "rein in the provocateurs in Taipei and the provoked in Beijing." Chinese papers stressed that "common interests" between the U.S. and China mean they can "quash misunderstandings" and settle problems like Taiwan through "senior-level communication." French dailies rebuked President Chirac for his "Chinese kowtow" during President Hu's trip to Paris, saying his "ill-chosen reprimands" of Taiwan were "dictated by trade interests."

No talks with 'illegal and unconstitutional Taiwan authorities'-- Chinese papers blasted Chen's goal of "confronting the Mainland," urging Beijing to "safeguard our nation's sovereignty...at all costs." The official China Daily backed "pragmatic" negotiations with Taiwan as long as they are "consistent with the one-China principle"; Hong Kong's pro-PRC Ta Kung Pao branded Chen's referendum "a dangerous step" toward Taiwan's independence. Responding to the referendum's question on China's missiles, one writer claimed they are "not aimed at Taiwan compatriots, but rather Taiwan independence forces."

The referendum is a 'loud objection to what is unfair in the status quo'-- Pro-independence Taiwanese analysts likened the status quo to "accepting China's missile threat and military intimidation." Other Chen supporters termed the referendum a "manifestation of the collective will of the people," with Canada's left-of-center Vancouver Sun backing any such "free expressions of public opinion." Pro-independence Taipei Times promoted "direct negotiation" with Beijing, but only on "the basis of equality and mutual benefit."

The referendum is just a 'hoax aimed at wooing votes'-- Chen opponents in and out of Taiwan accused him of using the referendum as a "gambit" in the upcoming presidential election to divert attention from Taiwan's "tumultuous" political and economic situation. A Chinese writer demanded that Chen instead "answer public concerns about the island's economic woes and worsening cross-Straits relations," while Taiwan's pro-unification United Daily News expressed hope that Chen's comments turn out to be just "campaign rhetoric."

EDITOR: Ben Goldberg

EDITOR'S NOTE: This analysis is based on 35 reports from 6 political entities over 13 January - 5 February 2004. Editorial excerpts from each entity are listed from the most recent date.

EAST ASIA

CHINA: "Taiwan Authorities' Dissembling Continues"

Lin Hai and Li Yongjing remarked in China Radio International-sponsored World News Journal (Shijie Xinwenbao) (2/5): "The Taiwan authorities still dissemble and continue to adopt obscurantist policies.... But domestic public opinion on the Island is not so easily fooled. Taiwan analysts think there were two meanings in Armitage's [recent] words: first, although Chen Shuibian claimed that they have conducted 'broad communication' with the U.S. and have gained the U.S.' 'understanding' on 'referendum' issue, but actually U.S. dissatisfaction about the Taiwan 'referendum' has not yet ceased. Second, the U.S. may undertake new moves to oppose the 'referendum.' The U.S. words show that the U.S. not only thinks that the 'referendum' is wrong, but also that it is studying Chen Shuibian's intentions and the harm they may bring."

"Experts Rebuke Chen's 'Peace Moves' as Mere Hoax"

Xing Zhigang commented in the official English-language China Daily (2/4): "Leading mainland experts on Taiwan studies yesterday criticized Taiwan leader Chen Shui-bian's latest peace overtures as 'nothing new' and "a hoax aimed at wooing votes'.... Beijing, however, has stood firm on the one-China principle that both Taiwan and the mainland are parts of China.... Chen's proposals will amount to nothing if he still refuses to embrace the one-China principle and continues his push for Taiwan independence.... Chen's moves are an attempt to woo votes in the upcoming 'presidential' elections on March 20.... Along with his recent provocative actions towards Beijing...Chen was now trying hard to create a false impression that he wants to improve relations with the mainland.... Chen's new overture is nothing but an election gambit aimed at covering up his pro-independence conspiracy and winning votes in the elections.... Beijing condemned it as 'one-sided provocation' to peace and stability in bilateral ties. Even some foreign governments have questioned the plan. U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage said on Friday that the wording of the referendum raised questions about Taiwan's motives.... Armitage's statement reiterated the recent US stance on the Taiwan issue including adhering to the one-China policy, abiding by the three Sino-US joint communiques, opposing Taiwan independence and any word or activity of the Taiwan authority to change the status quo of Taiwan."

"Alarm Over Chen's Independence Moves"

Luo Yuan commented in the official English-language China Daily (2/3): "Taiwan leader Chen Shui-bian's decision to hold a referendum on March 20 is a serious incident, in that it overtly provokes the Chinese mainland by spelling out an issue that has hitherto been unspecific and murky. It is an indication of Chen's determination to set the chariots rolling on the dangerous path of 'Taiwan independence.' This has exerted a severe negative effect on the cross-Straits relationship, and will bring about graver consequences as the situation evolves.... But Chen has miscalculated. He has mistaken restraint and patience on the part of the mainland as weakness and helplessness. He is pushing the mainland into a corner, where we will have to safeguard our nation's sovereignty and territorial integrity at all costs if all efforts for peace fail.... Chen Shui-bian is behaving even more oddly by asking the mainland to withdraw missiles. As we all know, military deployment is part of a sovereign nation's internal affairs, which only the central government has the right to determine, and it is a decision that the highest authority of a nation will make depending on the threat it faces. If the Taiwan authorities give up on their independence agenda, the mainland will no longer have the threat of Taiwan being torn away from the motherland and the central government will certainly readjust its military deployment based on the needs of national defence.... Moreover, there is no peace treaty in place between the two sides of the Taiwan Straits, so the state of military hostility will continue. Why should the mainland unilaterally withdraw its missiles? Of course, our missiles are not aimed at Taiwan compatriots, but rather towards "Taiwan independence" forces. We will never go to war lightly.... The fuse of war or peace is in Chen's hands. It's not that the mainland does not want peace, but Chen is pushing us towards war. He is playing with fire again. Taiwan compatriots should be on the alert."

"Taiwan Separatists A Nuisance To Peace"

Li Jiaquan maintained in the official English-language China Daily (2/2): "Cross-Straits political relations have been icy, without any sign of a thaw since Taiwan's pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) came into power on the island in 2000.... To gain an advantage in the forthcoming "presidential election" over the pan-blue camp - its main political rival, consisting of the alliance of Kuomintang Chairman Lien Chan and People First Party Chairman James Soong - the ruling DPP has again and again used cross-Straits relations as its political card.... Such moves are serious contradictions of the fact that both Taiwan and the mainland have been part of China since ancient times, and have plunged cross-Straits ties into a deteriorating situation.... The successful application of "one country, two systems" in Hong Kong and Macao tells people that the great formula is also workable in Taiwan. And this has put heavy pressure upon a handful of diehard Taiwan authorities who continue to dream of a Taiwan independent from the mainland. Thus, it is natural that they have tried their utmost to lash out at the "one country, two systems" policy by making a fuss about the demonstration in Hong Kong in July 2003. But Hong Kong people's free parade to express their own opinions exactly demonstrated that the central government keeps its distance from Hong Kong affairs. In fact, the reason why Taiwan authorities have so far not accepted the workable concept should be attributed to the trouble caused by Taiwan pro-independence forces. It has gradually become clear that Taiwan pro-independence forces are now nothing more than troublemakers for the Taiwan people, cross-Straits relations, and healthy Sino-US relations, as well as an irritant to all peace-loving people around the world."

"Whom Will Taiwan Businessmen Vote For? They Are The 'Trump Card' And Being Fought Over"

Liu Aicheng, Zhang Yiyao and Cheng Gang noted in official Communist Party-run international Global Times (Huanqiu Shibao) (1/30): "There are four kinds of Taiwan businessmen on the Mainland: first, those who advocate for developing a cross-Strait economy, and who are very dissatisfied with Chen Shuibian and Li Denghu; second, the businessmen in traditional manufacturing business who are ambivalent; third, those who don't have a good impression of the Mainland but complain about the Taiwan Authorities as well, and they only want to make money; fourth, those who want to make money from the Mainland but support Chen Shuibian in opinion and action. These four kinds of businessmen have two commonalities: first, they pay attention to their own interests; second, they will vote according to the election situation, hoping always to be able to do deals with whichever is the ruling party. Therefore, the media on the island believes that it is likely that there will be a few votes for 'Taiwan independence,' but more votes are for 'interests.'"

"Taiwan Authorities Going Crazy"

Li Runtian held in official intellectual Guangming Daily (Guangming Ribao) (1/28): "The Spring Festival seems to have become a turning point for Chen Shuibian. His path to 'Taiwan independence' has narrowed considerably.... His support rate has been sliding.... Senior DPP officials are changing sides and internal conflicts have appeared within the party.... His trump card, the 'referendum,' has been rendered ineffective and Chen Shuibian is in a corner.... To respond, Chen Shuibian has launched a 'spring festival counterattack.... But Chen's moves can't reverse the situation.... Analysts think that Chen Shuibian has even gone to the extent of exposing military secrets to 'comfort people's feelings,' a fact that further proves his desperation and his nature of confronting the Mainland.... Analysts remind people that they should be even more vigilant at this crucial time. The more cornered the 'pro-independence' forces feel, the more likely they will make dangerous moves to provoke the Mainland."

"Chen Has Emerged As His Own Worst Enemy"

The official English-language China Daily reported (1/20): "One cannot but observe with trepidation Taiwan leader Chen Shui-bian's call, on January 16, for a referendum regarding the island's relations with the Chinese mainland. What he is attempting to do is to use the referendum issues to bolster his chances in his uphill battle in Taiwan's upcoming 'presidential' elections. In the first place, Chen points his finger to mainland missiles that are meant, as proclaimed by the government of the People's Republic, to deter any attempt for Taiwan independence. At the same time he asks the public to support his periodic efforts to place orders with overseas suppliers for the purchase of military equipment. This is a blatant attempt to utilize the U.S., the islands' biggest arms supplier, as a chessman in Chen's own game. Secondly, Chen asks the public to allow him to work towards building a 'framework of peace' to cover both sides of the Taiwan Straits--even though he has never demonstrated sincerity in achieving that aim.... Lastly, the call for the referendum, in the form of a top-to-bottom presidential proposal...is an insult to Chen's own constituency. For its aim is basically to affirm the 'president' himself to carry on the game that he's been playing all along.... The point is to mobilize all resources to support the 'holy war' for Chen's own power. He is his own mandate. All the rhetoric that he uses, whether calling for democracy or peace, and all the things he does, whether clamoring for a referendum or making military purchases, are but carefully orchestrated stunts, staged at a time when nothing practical is being done to answer public concerns about the island's economic woes and worsening cross-Straits relations.... Chen's habit of heart never seems to change, however. He is always ready to grasp every opportunity to hijack all-important relations--those between Chinese mainland and the U.S., those between the mainland and Taiwan, and even those between the United States and Taiwan--to serve his own agenda.... But the Chinese mainland and the U.S. are co-operating on so many issues, and their relationship is far more important than can be overshadowed by his military purchases. After bearing witness to so many of Chen's flip-flops, the U.S. sees increasingly clear evidence about who is making trouble in the Taiwan Straits. In the meantime, the mainland will continue to grow in political and economic importance in the world. For Taiwan, there is nothing Chen can do to replace its internal politics with Beijing-baiting. He will achieve even less by disconnecting its myriad of peaceful and mutually beneficial ties with the mainland."

"U.S. Will Not Necessarily Give Taiwan Military Protection"

Guan Juanjuan commented in China Radio International-sponsored World News Journal (Shijie Xinwenbao) (1/20): "The U.S. 'Taiwan Relations Act'...doesn't stipulate that the U.S. will necessarily intervene if there should occur any incident in the Taiwan Strait; but it does hint that if U.S. interests are threatened, the U.S. can intervene as necessary. Firstly, this law violates the basic norms of international relations because Taiwan is a part of China and the U.S. has no right to interfere into China's internal affairs.... Second, if the 'Taiwan independence forces'' actions spur the Mainland's military action, then the U.S. might or might not intervene militarily.... Automatic military intervention will not necessarily be the choice of the U.S. government.... The U.S. at present still sells arms to Taiwan, which the Chinese government sternly opposes.... The U.S. could take several measures to ensure that it does not trap itself into a situation that 'Taiwan independence' causes and in which it has to confront China.... The U.S. government needs to be very vigilant against Chen Shuibian's irresponsible acts and publicly and clearly announce that it opposes Chen Shuibian's 'independence' stance.... By now both the Chinese government and U.S. government realize the importance of maintaining stability in the Taiwan Strait. This has formed a firm common strategic interest base.... China and the U.S. should continue their cooperation and seek more methods of cooperation to contain 'Taiwan independence' activities."

"Chen's Policies Endanger Peace Across Straits"

Sun Shangwu declared in official English-language China Daily (1/20): "Taipei's referendum is a 'provocative act' that will increase confrontation and animosity with the mainland.... We reiterate Beijing's 'most sincere' commitment to peaceful reunification and promised to better protect interests of Taiwan compatriots.... The real threat to Taiwan's security does not come from the mainland, but from the unbridled activities towards Taiwan's split from the motherland whipped up by authorities there.... It is the 'Taiwan splittists forces' that threaten to unravel the status quo in the cross-Straits relations and put peace in danger.... Taiwan authorities have twisted the mainland's justified efforts to oppose the Taiwan's split with the motherland and maintain stability in the Straits 'as a suppression of Taiwan's democracy and freedom'.... Though the leaders of the Taiwan authorities called the referendums 'defensive' and 'peaceful', these provocations, no matter how they were packaged, can only cause confrontation and animosity between the two sides, aggravate the already strained relations and push them further to the brink of danger.... We stand for resolving the political differences between the two sides of the Taiwan Straits in a spirit of equality and accommodation, and we are ready to push the cross-Straits dialogue and negotiations in a pragmatic and equal-footed manner consistent with the one-China principle'.... Given Taiwan's stance on 'no pre-conditions for cross-Straits talks and negotiations'...authorities there are trying to renege on the consensus reached by the two sides on the adherence to the one-China principle. That stance...fundamentally negates the fact that the two sides belong to one and the same country.... The mainland still 'place hope (of reunification) on the Taiwan people' and treats all Taiwan compatriots equally, regardless of their provincial origins.... We do not discriminate against those who are adopting a wait-and-see, a suspicious, or even a negative or antagonistic attitude towards closer cross-Straits relations, as we are ready to have contact and interaction with them for increased understanding and greater identity of views."

"Chen Shuibian Tosses Around New 'Referendum' Topics: Mainland Reacts Sternly, U.S. Still Researching"

Peng Ming maintained in official Communist Party-run international Global Times (Huanqiu Shibao) (1/19): "The new referendum topics announced by Chen Shuibian are very tricky. Hearing them, people might think that he has softened his stance and backed off.... Chen Shuibian's referendum has been stuck in a dilemma. Under pressure from both outside and inside the island, he thought he had discerned a good strategy of 'feeding four needs': first, waving the banner of 'Cross-Strait Peace' to remove the doubts of the international community, especially of the U.S. Second, with the 'referendum,' he is able to realize his 'referendum promise' to the 'dogmatic independence faction.' Third, he is trying to shift the responsibility for the cross-Strait political impasse, having achieved no breakthroughs. Fourth, he is cultivating 'the mainland threat' to accumulate 'public feelings' hostile toward the Mainland. Thus we can conclude Chen Shuibian's so-called 'peaceful referendum' is a self-deceiving trick. It is actually still a test for the future 'independence referendum'.... If this 'referendum' is able to break through, then he can gradually make further breakthroughs in the future. Therefore this calls for people's heightened vigilance."

"U.S. Highest-Ranking General Comes To China For Talks: Visits Beijing At A Sensitive Time"

Song Nianshen and Cheng Gang observed in official Communist Party-run international Global Times (Huanqiu Shibao) (1/16): "Public opinion holds that Myers' visit to China indicates that China-U.S. military exchanges will begin to increase.... Myers was cautious in his response to the Taiwan issue in the press round-table interview... Analysts believe that his mild statements in front of Chinese mainland journalists conveyed in fact conveyed an important meaning...and this shows that the U.S. more and more clearly realizes the urgency of the Taiwan issue and is treating the problem more and more rationally.... China invited Myers to visit the highly confidential Beijing Aeropace Center, which indicates the improvement in both sides' mutual trust.... Myers' meeting with so many top Chinese military leaders indicates that China-U.S. relations are in a quite stable phase.... Top U.S. military officials usually choose to visit China under two circumstances: first, when there is a turning point in the two countries' military relations, and second, when both sides hunger for mutual coordination and to discuss countermeasures in the face of a crisis. Myers's visit this time belongs to the former circumstance.... China-U.S. military exchanges are the most special, sensitive and confidential aspect of the two countries' relations.... Almost all of China's military leaders met [Myers] and clearly expressed China's firm opposition to Taiwan independence. This is totally different from the situation in 1996 when no open channels or emergency management mechanisms existed between the two countries, and in the face of the Taiwan Strait crisis, the U.S. sent aircraft carrier fleets; this time the U.S. just sent a General. This huge change indicates that China and the U.S. are utterly able to quash misunderstandings and settle problems through senior-level communication."

"Myers' Visit Shows Sino-U.S. Military Exchanges Are Warming"

Shi Hongtao reported in official Communist Youth League-run China Youth Daily (Zhongguo Qingnianbao) (1/16): "Myers' visit to China and China's Defense Minister Cao Gangchuan's visit to the U.S. last year indicate that China and the U.S. have started positive interaction between the two countries' top military sectors, which effects an improvement in the security environment in the Asia-Pacific region.... If Myers could reach a kind of systematic arrangement and a common view with China on the Taiwan Strait issue, this will help to maintain stability across the Strait and to exert more pressure on Chen Shuibian.... The U.S. is changing its attitude toward China and adjusting its military strategy toward China.... The decisive factor in handling relations between countries is interests, not diplomacy. The fundamental challenge is to effectively expand two countries' common interests.... The security interests between China and the U.S. are more important to the nations' strategic relations than are economic interests. After 9/11, Bush needs China's cooperation in the War on Terror, prevention of proliferation and the DPRK nuclear issue, and the two countries' common interests on security issues have grown rapidly."

CHINA (HONG KONG SAR): "The Referendum Question"

Henry Liu stated in the leftist, English-language Asia Times (1/31): "'Reunification' is a misnomer, since the country itself has never been divided to begin with.... The national goal of all Chinese is a single Chinese state under a single government that regains all territorial integrity of China. As Hong Kong and Macau are now again under the sovereignty of China, the immediate outstanding issue is now Taiwan. The government of the PRC under the leadership of CCP, and to varying degrees the GMD and the PFP on Taiwan, all support peaceful political inter-party accommodation toward national reconstruction. In Taiwan politics, this group is known as the pan-blue coalition. It is opposed by supporters of Taiwan independence, such as the DPP and the Taiwan Solidarity Union, which are known as the pan-green coalition.... Taiwan is already Chinese territory.... Unless and until the GMD regains political control of Taiwan and restores the Republic of China (ROC) government to its legitimate status as a pretender government of China, there is no basis for any political negotiation between the PRC and the current illegal and unconstitutional Taiwan authorities.... With a sizable standing military backed by the U.S., the Taiwan authorities in fact established a new warlord regime on Taiwan.... The referendum scheduled for March does not specifically ask about independence. Voters would be asked, among other things, whether the PRC should be requested to redirect nearly 500 missiles currently aimed at the ROC from the mainland, and if Beijing refuses, whether the ROC should improve its own defensive missile capabilities.... The US has an implied obligation to help Taiwan defend itself, as stated somewhat ambiguously in the Taiwan Relations Act, a US domestic law that infringes on the internal affairs of China in the name of defending democracy. Yet democracy on Taiwan is not the issue. The issue is Taiwan independence. The US is unwilling to confront China in East Asia especially while it is bogged down in an Iraq quagmire, with no end in sight.... Despite vocal US reservations, however, Chen continues to insist that a referendum will be held on March 20, as well as the presidential vote."

"Join France To Contain The U.S. And Isolate Taiwanese Independence Elements"

Center-left Chinese-language Sing Pao Daily News editorialized (1/28): "Hu Jintao's visit to France has been successful.... Since France is the most important country in Europe and has sold quite a number of advanced weapons to Taiwan in the past, the French government's clear opposition to Taiwanese independence is significant. France's opposition not only isolates Taiwan independence elements, but also 'contains' the U.S. In the past, Beijing has relied on the U.S. to put pressure on Taiwan. Although this strategy had benefits, it meant the U.S. had the say on whether to pressure Taiwan or not. The U.S. never wholeheartedly pressures Taiwan to give up independence. Instead, the U.S. uses double-faced tactics to satisfy its own self-interests. After Beijing wins France and the European Union countries' support on the Taiwan issue, it will no longer let the U.S. lead it by the nose."

"Taiwan's Referendum Will Aggravate Cross-strait Tensions"

Pro-PRC Chinese-language Ta Kung Pao remarked (1/20): "Chen Shui-bian tied the referendum with reelection. His objectives are to increase his opportunity of being reelected and then hold a 'Taiwan independence referendum' after his reelection. After the U.S. clearly stated that it does not support a referendum that changes the status quo of Taiwan, Chen Shui-bian was unable to extricate himself from the difficult situation but he still refused to let the matter drop. He concocted two topics for the referendum. The first one is: 'if China does not remove the missiles targeting Taiwan or give up deploying forces against Taiwan, do you agree that the government should purchase more anti-missile facilities to strengthen the self-defense capability of Taiwan?' The second topic is: 'do you agree that the government and the Chinese Communist Party should start consultations to establish an interactive framework that advances cross-strait peace and stability and brings about a cross-strait consensus and happiness to the people?'.... China has expressed its firm objection to Taiwan's referendum. If the international community, including the U.S. administration, does not want to see cross-strait relations move to a dangerous point, they should clearly declare their opposition to Taiwan's referendum."

"Using A Referendum To Promote Taiwan's Independence Will Hurt Public Interests"

Pro-PRC Chinese-language Hong Kong Commercial Daily editorialized (1/19): "Taiwan's leader Chen Shui-bian, ignoring the Taiwanese people's interests and objections from the international community, announced the two topics for the so-called '320' referendum last Friday. He insisted on having his own way and moved a dangerous step toward his long premeditated goal of Taiwan's independence. He has cast a huge shadow over peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait.... 'Taiwan independence' means war and the fuse of 'referendum' has been set. Thus, there is the danger of explosion if irresponsible politicians ignite it at any time."

"Parading Of Suspects Looks Set To Backfire"

The independent English-language South China Morning Post said (1/19): "The parading of seven alleged Taiwanese spies before members of the international media last week marks a depressing twist in the mainland's propaganda campaign ahead of presidential elections on the island in March. Suspects were called upon to perform before reporters and were pictured on television dutifully trotting out confessions. Significantly, they also took the opportunity to blame the island's pro-independence president, Chen Shui-bian, for their fate. The public approach adopted by the mainland to the breaking of this alleged spy ring is unprecedented and appears to have been carefully calculated. But, just like other ham fisted attempts to influence Taiwanese voters in the past, it seems destined to backfire.... Indeed, the public quizzing of the suspects evoked memories of cold war show trials and the notorious self-criticism sessions of the Cultural Revolution. It is difficult to believe that such a strategy will sway Taiwanese voters and make them more favorably disposed towards reunification.... China has made great strides on the international stage in recent years. That reputation can only be undermined by the parading of prisoners for political purposes. A more sophisticated approach, involving restraint and reliance upon the undoubted economic advantages the mainland has to offer Taiwan, is more likely to further the nation's interests."

"Prepare For Both Eventualities"

Pro-PRC Chinese-language Ta Kung Pao commented (1/15): "The Chen Shui-bian government claimed that it would hold a referendum during Taiwanese election in March, which has aggravated the tense cross-strait relations. The situation in the Taiwan Strait from March to May will be dangerous and difficult to anticipate. Some people think that no one will be able to tell until the last minute whether there will be peace or war in the Taiwan Strait. Some people also warn that cross-strait relations have been approaching a critical point. Taiwan-strait war may break out at any time.... The position declaration by the U.S. recently on Taiwan's referendum is very positive. It should be welcomed. When President Bush met with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao last year, he openly opposed any acts and deeds of Taiwanese leaders to alter the status quo in the Taiwan Strait unilaterally. Recently, U.S. State Department also reiterated its objection to Taiwan on holding any referendum to change the status quo in the Taiwan Strait. In the past, the U.S. always sent out wrong message to Taiwan, including 'assisting the defense of Taiwan,' which had abetted the power of splittists who advocated 'Taiwan independence'. Now the U.S. administration finally recognizes that 'Taiwan independence' does not match with U.S. interests. It also recognizes that if it does not want to see 'Taiwanese independence,' it should not encourage and support 'Taiwan independence.' The U.S. is the one who set the 'Taiwan independence' stone rolling, it should, therefore, be the one to end the trouble. After the U.S. clearly declared its position on Taiwan's referendum, the number of voters who has doubts about the referendum increased. A recent survey shows that if the U.S. objects to Taiwan's referendum, more than half of Taiwanese voters will also object to it. Under such a situation, it is not unlikely that the Chen Shui-bian government may dilute the referendum."

TAIWAN: "Is Democracy Scarier Than Missiles?"

Pro-independence, English-language Taipei Times editorialized (2/5): "President Chen Shui-bian on Tuesday outlined 'one principle and four major issues' to demonstrate the Democratic Progressive Party's determination to fulfill its historic mission. The legitimacy and public support for his 'one principle and four major issues' will be decided by the expression of the people's desire, in the form of a referendum, to negotiate with China on an equal basis. In this election, Chen obviously has the initiative in terms of cross-strait relations.... The two sides of the Taiwan Strait can seek a mutually acceptable consensus in these exchanges. Of course, direct negotiation--not hollering at each other from afar--is the best approach.... Chen's cross-strait policy does not follow the self-limitations imposed by the former Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) government.... Chen is not blindly waiting for the distant possibility of unification, China's democratization, or the baptism of a new Chinese leadership willing to implement democratic reforms... The KMT and the People First Party (PFP) can only chant the slogan 'maintain the status quo,' which of course means accepting China's missile threat and military intimidation as permissible.... Why do the KMT and the PFP believe that Taiwan should be held hostage by Beijing's tyranical despots? Referendums are a manifestation of the collective will of the people. China will not remove its missiles because of a referendum in Taiwan.... It would appear they have inherited the reactionary genes of Chinese imperial politics. It is no wonder that the two parties echo China's stance on the referendum issue. Half a century of hostility and diplomatic tussles between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait is a historical tragedy that resulted from the Chinese Civil War. Antagonism to China is not something chosen by the people of Taiwan.... Neither 'one China' nor 'unification' is a persuasive policy. It is more practical for the two sides to interact with each other on the basis of equality and mutual benefit. We hope the Chinese leadership can come out of their 'great unification' ideological cocoon and accept the reality of Taiwan's independent existence. The leaders of the two sides should seek a creative framework for bilateral relations."

"Why So Mercilessly Pushing The Taiwan People To The Front Line?"

Centrist, pro-status quo China Times commented (2/4): "We do not approve of President Chen Shui-bian's repeated emphasis on 'the will of the [Taiwan] people' [in his address Tuesday]. Is it not the government's unavoidable responsibility to strengthen its anti-missile capabilities to guarantee the safety of its people? Does [Chen] mean to say that [according to the first question of the referendum], that only when Taiwan demonstrates the will of its people can it purchase all the anti-missile equipment it needs? Wouldn't it be the mission of a responsible government to start negotiations with Beijing? Does [Chen] mean to tell us [according to the second question of the referendum] that Beijing will be willing to sit down to talk with Taiwan once the island demonstrates the will of its people? Even people with little common sense realize that arms deals and cross-Strait talks have nothing to do with the demonstration of the people's will. To use the Taiwan people as his reason [to push for a referendum] is tantamount to putting the 'Taiwan people' on the front line of the cross-Strait conflict. We want to ask [Chen]: Will there be any more room for the two sides of the Taiwan Strait to negotiate or turn around if Beijing ceases to place its hope in the Taiwan people? The cross-Strait framework for peace and stability proposed by Chen has indeed shown considerable goodwill and constructive thinking. But the question is: how can such a beautifully constructed framework work when both sides don't even have a confidence mechanism for starting a dialogue?.... Will he change his position again in the future? Will he be able to clarify and remove the doubts by the international community [over the referendum]? Chen gave his answers in the language of what is ideal, in the same way that he elaborated on the March 20 referendum.... But the truth is, at the very moment when Chen spoke, Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage had just criticized Taiwan in Beijing.... What we see now is not the dawning of a time when the cross-Strait dispute may be resolved, but the fact that both sides of the Taiwan Strait are facing a showdown in their conflict."

"Pondering Taiwan After The Presidential Election"

Yang Yu-wen said in conservative, pro-unification United Daily News (2/3): "President Chen Shui-bian's attempt to tie the referendum issue with the framework for cross-Strait peace and stability together does not mean that he will not push for a new Constitution and a new nation after he gets re-elected. Also, even though the topic for the referendum is not directly related to unification or independence, it does not guarantee that the DPP will not change the status quo in the future through a public vote. All of the above are the great doubts Chen's administration faces as it seeks to justify its stand on holding such a referendum. If Chen should fail to clarify and remove these doubts, Taiwan people must then ponder the following questions: Will the cross-Strait situation remain calm, as before, after the referendum, regardless of whether Chen wins the re-election or not? What will happen to the triangular relationship between Washington, Beijing and Taipei after the referendum? Also, will the political and economic situation in Taiwan become more tumultuous after the election than before it? Facing the constant criticism and pressure from Washington, Chen was forced to paint the [beautiful] picture of the framework for peaceful cross-Strait interaction after May 20 in an attempt to assure the U.S. that a defensive referendum will not cause any trouble. The U.S. has already taken precautions against Taiwan's presidential election. Beijing, on the other hand, has deeper thoughts. In addition to using Washington's hand to block the referendum, Beijing has pointed out in a gathering to mark the ninth anniversary of former Chinese President Jiang Zemin's eight-point reunification proposal, that it will strengthen its united front tactics among the Taiwanese and will mobilize Taiwanese businessmen on the Mainland systematically to form a pressure group to influence Taiwan policy. Beijing wants to show that its aggressiveness will not change regardless of whether the Pan-Blue or Pan-Green camp wins the March 20 election. Both Beijing and Washington have come up with their countermeasures with regard to the next step Taiwan will take. But does Taiwan really know what its next step will be in terms of its own national security?"

"The Pandora's Box Has Been Opened"

Chen Chia-hung commented in centrist, pro-status quo China Times (2/3): "Like it or not, on the day when the Referendum Law was passed in the Legislative Yuan under the joint efforts of the KMT and PFP caucuses, and on the day when Chen, exercising the power granted to him by Article 17 of the Referendum Law, let the Taiwan people cast their votes in the island's first-ever referendum, the Pandora's box of determining Taiwan's national status and by means of a public vote, where it should stand on unification or independence has been opened. In the name of democracy, such power, once bestowed on the people, is easy to give but difficult to retrieve. The belief of determining Taiwan's future with a public vote will perhaps be an irreversible future trend. So far, Taiwan has undergone two direct popular elections in choosing its president. But given its unique history of complicated unification and the independence issue, the democratic mechanism of referenda actually carries more political significance than the direct popular elections. The idea of 'referenda equal a democratic taboo' has finally and thoroughly been deconstructed in this upcoming presidential election. From Chen's call for a referendum on a new Constitution to the doubts of the international community on Chen's preventive referendum; from the Pan-Blue camp's decision to switch its position on the legislation of the Referendum Law and to cease to play the role of a gatekeeper in the cross-Strait relations, to regain its influence on the referendum issue; all such developments have actually marked the most important transformation of referenda in Taiwan's democratic development process."

"Is Taiwan-bashing A Fad?"

Conservative, pro-unification, English-language China Post observed (2/3): "Undoubtedly President Chen's 'comments and actions' as well as his 'motives' have aroused deep suspicion in both Beijing and Washington, who view the proposed Taiwan referendum, on whatever issue, as nothing more than a thinly veiled attempt to break the ground for the island's independence from China through a vote by the people.... The U.S., Japan, France and China do not make the world. But together they are more than half of the world, and their individual economic, political and military might is strong enough to affect Taiwan's life in every respect. As Taiwan's presidential election is less than seven weeks away, voters must ask themselves: Should the incumbent president and his minority government be allowed to stay on and to pitch Taiwan against the world?"

"China Loses The Ace In Its Sleeve"

Pro-independence, English-language Taipei Times argued (2/3): "The cross-Strait row over the referendum has allowed China and the rest of the world to see that the dispute is not domestic. It is now a full-blown international problem. However effective China's diplomatic maneuvers may be in the short term, it has lost the ace up its sleeve in terms of long-term strategy, because the cross-Strait dispute long ago ceased to be a 'domestic issue.' Beijing itself was complicit in this process, hyping the issue in the international community by ranting over the referendum and mobilizing other countries to get involved. 'One China' is no longer defined by what Beijing says, but by international consensus. By internationalizing the referendum controversy, Beijing has allowed the international media and the global community to better understand Taiwan's plight--the fact that, in this country, democracy and human rights are being suppressed by the Chinese government and now by other countries, too. So the referendum issue may be detrimental to the government in the short term, but diplomatically the country does not stand to lose so much in the long term. A great deal will depend however on how much Chen can transform unfavorable circumstances into his favor prior to the election."

"What's Up The PRC's Sleeve?"

Conservative, pro-unification, English-language China Post held (2/2): "Washington is 'studying the language' of Chen's 'suspicious' plan and calculating Beijing's possible reactions. At the same time, the two powers are collaborating to 'find ways' to stop the referendum, in the same manner as they do in tackling the North Korean nuclear crisis. Suddenly, Taiwan under the Chen-DPP leadership has become an explosive problem that the island's protector and enemy must join hands to solve.... Taiwan's welfare and regional stability now depend upon Washington's skills to reign in the provocateurs in Taipei and the provoked in Beijing before March 20."

"U.S. Is Clearly Aware Of Its Interests And Will Not Be Manipulated"

Nadia Tsao opined in pro-independence Liberty Times (2/1): "Over the past few months, the Taipei authorities have tried very hard to clarify their position to remove Washington's doubts about Taiwan's holding a referendum on March 20. Some observers in Washington believe that Taiwan's holding a referendum on March 20 does not matter that much any more. However, they believe that the Bush administration's distrust of Chen's administration has not completely disappeared. The Taipei-Washington ties will remain gloomy for a certain period in the future and will require continual efforts to repair.... Armitage's remarks have in fact reflected a tilt in Washington-Beijing-Taipei ties. Taipei needs to pay close attention to such a development especially when there is no channel for dialogue between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait. In addition, when asked why the U.S. wants to get involved in the cross-Strait dispute, Armitage emphasized that the U.S. is the master of its own fate. It is not caught in collars and will do its utmost to prevent any kind of conflict from happening. [Armitage's] remarks sent a strong warning to both sides of the Taiwan Strait. They indicate that the U.S. is very clear about its own national interests and that it will not, like the Clinton administration, be subject to any handling or pressure by either side of the Taiwan Strait."

"U.S. Doubts"

Liu Pao-chieh commented in conservative, pro-unification United Daily News (2/1): "Ever since the start of [Taiwan's] presidential election campaign, the only issue that has curbed the approval ratings for the ruling DPP was the news report that U.S. President George W. Bush criticized Taiwan's holding a referendum. Thus, the U.S. attitude [on the referendum] will be a crucial factor in determining whether the DPP can win the upcoming election. As a result, the DPP is on high alert about any U.S. response to the referendum plan and tries its best to prevent the situation from developing in a way that is unfavorable to itself.... [Chen's referendum plan] has sparked backlashes from the U.S. government, and the incessant doubts cast by Washington against Taiwan's holding a referendum have seriously disrupted Chen's plan to join hands with the U.S. in fighting against China. Chen has tried his utmost to appease the U.S. but has, instead, been slashed in the face by Washington. Such a development has not only produced an impact on Taiwan's domestic situation, but has also created ripples in the cross-Strait situation, a result that cannot be offset simply by mudsling between the ruling and opposition parties. Thus, Chen's administration must look at and treat Washington's reactions toward the referendum as the most serious crisis. For Chen's administration, it is already too late to turn back on its push for a referendum. What it can only do is to compromise on the content of the referendum, with a hope that the U.S. will 'not oppose' the referendum to that Chen can get a green light to go. But Armitage's comments in Beijing two days ago did not indicate such an optimistic sign. Whether the arrangement of 'joining hands with the U.S. in fighting against China', that Chen's successful campaign hinges on, will dismantle before the election" is certainly a latent crisis."

"The U.S. Government Is Trying To Dialogue With Taiwan Voters"

Conservative, pro-unification United Daily News observed (1/14): "Signs revealed by the U.S. government show that the discord between Washington and President Chen Shui-bian over the referendum issue is not just about the language of the referendum itself, nor it is only about whether or not Taiwan should hold such a referendum. Rather, the U.S. government has fundamental doubts about Chen's future 'political tendency.' The issue of whether the U.S. government wants to see Chen get re-elected has evidently developed to a higher level. That is why we saw remarks such as 'urging Taiwan voters to pay attention [to Chen's words and actions.]' Now Chen must make a precise judgment of the real intentions of the U.S. government and an objective assessment of how strong Washington's 'follow-up moves' might be before he knows how to respond to them properly.... The U.S. government has obviously taken Chen's recent remarks as coming 'from his heart,' so it thinks Chen is 'escalating his speech to push for Taiwan independence.' Chen of course knows that his recent statements were related to Taiwan independence explicitly or implicitly, but still he hopes that the U.S. government will not take them too seriously and will just look at them as 'campaign rhetoric.' Chen has even assured [us] that such 'rhetoric' will become invalid right after the elections. In other words, Chen hopes that the U.S. government will just take his words as 'fake remarks.'"

"[Chen's] Achilles' Heel Incurable?"

Lin Chen-po noted in centrist, pro-status quo China Times (1/13): "The reason that a defensive referendum has developed into an international issue is not because China has deployed missiles aimed at Taiwan.... The key lies in Chen Shui-bian's decision-making style. For any democracy, a government normally enters a caretaker status during the campaign period. It is questionable whether a state leader should make a major policy announcement at this time, especially when such a policy is closely related to sensitive Washington-Beijing-Taipei ties. The current development, nonetheless, shows that Chen has miscalculated the situation.... No one believes that Taiwan should follow whatever the U.S. says. But current Taipei-Washington ties are already on the brink of a precipice, and it still remains to be seen whether Chen's manipulation can further strengthen Taiwan's democracy. In order to win the presidential election, Chen and the DPP have spent a lot of time and energy in elaborating cross-Strait ties, hoping that they can remove voters' doubts. But the voters did not expect that cross-Strait relations would again return to their beginning after four years of DPP rule. To convince his voters, Chen needs to make a greater effort, other than [just] writing a new book, to repair the trust between Taiwan and the U.S. The referendum plan has turned the DPP's big victory into a small one, and now it looks like a small defeat for the ruling party. This will become a big defeat for the DPP if it fails to do something about the matter right away."

"Status Quo Has Gone Out Of Balance"

Pro-independence, English-language Taipei Times declared (1/13): "The U.S. hopes the two sides will move toward dialogue, but Beijing has set a 'one China' condition for any dialogue--basically demanding Taiwan's surrender before sitting down at the negotiation table. This is not fair. The U.S. demands that Chen keep his 'five noes' promise but pays no heed to the premise of his promise--that China must not threaten Taiwan militarily. Now China is not only making such threats, but is also viewing any referendum or rewriting of Taiwan's Constitution as provocative. Even a Taiwanese complaint about Chinese missiles has become provocative. This is even more unfair. China has every reason to maintain a status quo that contains so many things that are absurd and unfair to Taiwan. Under this status quo, China can increase its missile deployments against Taiwan, block Taiwan's entry into international organizations and force other countries to accept Beijing's unilateral definition of provocation. Taiwan's March 20 referendum is not going to change the status quo. It is merely a loud objection to what is unfair in the status quo [and is made] so that people at home and abroad may pay heed."

JAPAN: "An Evenly Matched Presidential Election"

Business-oriented Nihon Keizai declared (2/1): "Ahead of the 3/20 presidential election in Taiwan...the ruling DPP party has selected President Chen Shui-bian and Vice-President Annete Lu as its presidential and vice-presidential candidates respectively, while the opposition party coalition...backs the head of the KMT party, Lien Chan, and the head of the PFP Party, James Soong, as presidential and vice presidential candidates respectively.... Since President Chen announced that the day of the vote would also include a referendum on China-Taiwan relations, the issue has received great attention both inside and outside the country. But Taiwan's future hangs on the efforts to deepen and develop the first ethnically-Chinese democratic politics and economy, as created by previous president Lee Tong-hui's administration. Both political camps seek to spread a true policy debate.... Last election, at the end of a fierce three-way battle among Lien, Chen and Soong...President Chen won a close race. This time, the opposition coalition has coalesced, and poses a challenge to President Chen. Due to dissatisfaction with such issues as the lack of DPP political experience and economic problems, at one point the opposition coalition was ahead in opinion polls by more than 10%. But Chen appealed to the Taiwan consciousness of the native Taiwanese (who form over 80 percent of the population) who do not seek unification with China, rallying his support to a point where it is again even with the opposition. President Chen says that 'China and Taiwan are different countries respectively,' and declares that 'based on a referendum in 2006 we will create a new Constitution.' First, in this referendum, he declares that he wants to implement a referendum that urges the removal of Chinese missiles targeting Taiwan.' In response, China has violently protested and China-Taiwan relations have become very tense, and Japan and the U.S. have even urged Presidnet Chen to exercise some restraint in his words and deeds.... The opposition parties are blasting the this referendum as illegal. Even as responses and reactions to the referendum are boiling over, there is the view that debates over issues such as how to rebuild problematic relations with the Western world as well as economic, political and social policies are being neglected. As far as the election, most believe it will be decided by the close to 30 percent of voters who are unaffiliated with any party. We hope that there is a true policy debate deveoped that is heard in their hearts."

EUROPE

FRANCE: "Kowtow"

Patrick Sabatier observed in left-of-center Liberation (1/30): "The traditional Chinese Kowtow ceremonial required three prostrations before the Chinese Emperor. Chirac has fully complied with the Kowtow ceremonial during Hu Jintao's visit.... First, he totally paralyzed the city; second, he spoke in favor of lifting the embargo on arms sales to China; third, he endorsed China's position towards Taiwan's referendum.... Chirac acted like the proverbial elephant in a China shop.... Beyond the poor image he has given of France...by interfering in this long-standing quarrel, Chirac takes the risk of upsetting a delicate status quo, which has to date kept both players from slipping into an armed conflict.... The equilibrium of the status quo depends for a large part on the strategic ambivalence adopted by the West, which does not want a reunification through force.... The French President's ill-chosen reprimands have sent the worse possible message to China: that the West might one day let China punish the 'Taiwanese' rebels as it wishes."

"The Chinese Effect"

Yvan Rioufol wrote in right-of-center Le Figaro (1/30): "France's exaggerated good relationship with the communist hyperpower, even if dictated by trade interests, is excessive. Especially when compared to the detestable relationship that has been nurtured by France towards the U.S., the world number one democracy. Is China's unilateralism towards Taiwan and Tibet more acceptable than America's unilateralism in Iraq? Our country is still a singular exception: it mistrusts liberalism while granting Marxism a predominant role."

"Paris Cautions Taiwan"

Jean-Christophe Ploquin opined in Catholic La Croix (1/28): "On Monday, Chirac cautioned Taiwan against a referendum. On Tuesday, President Jintao announced that China Airlines would buy 21 Airbuses.... Some might be tempted to interpret these declarations as the result of an indecent bartering.... But the fact is that Chirac's concerns about Taiwan are shared by the U.S. and Japan.... Tokyo, Washington and Beijing consider that Taiwan's leader is needlessly complicating the situation just when China is trying to become an integral part of the international community.... France is in fact upholding a position it has held since 1994 in favor of Taiwan's status quo. A position that has allowed Taiwan to become an economic world power without having been recognized as an independent state."

WESTERN HEMISPHERE

CANADA: "Chinese Just Don't Get It: Taiwan Won't Be Bullied"

Jonathan Manthorpe stated in the left-of-center Vancouver Sun (1/23): "When they vote in the presidential election Taiwanese will also be asked to cast their ballots on two questions. One asks if they agree to the government strengthening the island's defences, including deployment of an anti-ballistic missiles shield, if China does not withdraw its missile threat and renounce the use of force against Taiwan. The second question asks if the Taiwan government should negotiate with the mainland to establish a framework for peace and stability across the strait. China is apoplectic about the referendum. The Beijing government doesn't like to see free expressions of public opinion to begin with, but on Taiwan it fears referenda will at some point be used to ask the islanders whether they want recognized independence.... It is not only China that is troubled by the possibilities contained in the referendum law. So is the U.S. administration of President George W. Bush. Early in December, Bush expressed public irritation with his Taiwanese counterpart for disturbing the status quo in relations with China. Bush's comments had added punch because he made them with China's new prime minister, Wen Jiabao, standing at his side during a visit to Washington. America is bound by domestic legislation, the Taiwan Relations Act, to aid the island's defence if it is attacked. Bush's military is already overstretched with its commitments in the Balkans, Iraq and Afghanistan. It would be hard to cope with another troublespot. But in the last few weeks, Washington has moderated its view, especially since the publication of the non-provocative referendum questions. Beijing, however, is not mollified and officials continue to insist that any referendum on Taiwan brings the island and its people 'to the brink of danger.'"

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