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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Cross-strait ties face politically sensitive future

ROC Central News Agency

2008-03-25 15:24:00

    Taipei, March 25 (CNA) With the political rancor and bitterness of the presidential campaign coming to an end with President-elect Ma Ying-jeou's victory on Saturday, the focus now is whether he can realize his vision of more cordial cross-Taiwan Strait relations.

    It comes as no surprise that Beijing breathed a sigh of relief with the defeat of the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party's candidate Frank Hsieh in Saturday's poll. For eight years, the Beijing regime refused to have any contact with the DPP administration in Taiwan.

    Because of Ma's advocacy of encouraging closer ties with China, especially at the economic level, Beijing is widely expected to assume an attitude of more active engagement with Taiwan.

    After Ma assumes the presidency in May, relations between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait are expected to warm up significantly in several areas, according to many leading scholars.

    During the presidential campaign, Ma advocated the implementation of regular weekend direct cross-strait charter flights and the opening of Taiwan to Chinese tourists, both of which are likely to receive Beijing's endorsement.

    This, coupled with the approaching summer vacation and Beijing's hosting of the Olympic Games in August, is likely to lead to a significant increase in the number of tourists traveling across the Taiwan Strait. That should increase the chances that Ma's goal of implementing the cross-strait charter flights by July 1 becomes reality.

    But do such positive trends mean that spring has arrived for cross-strait relations?

    Issues related to economic and cultural exchanges between the two sides are easy to discuss, but as sensitive political issues enter into the dialogue, Beijing is likely to turn its back on Taiwan's good will.

    Regardless of whether one supports the KMT's endorsement of the "'92 consensus" or the DPP's pro-independence stance, everyone must confront Beijing's unrelenting insistence on the "one-China" principle.

    According to the Chinese leadership's position, no controversy exists over the cross-strait political situation because Taiwan is not an independent, sovereign entity and cross-strait affairs are an internal issue.

    Beijing is willing to talk with Taiwan's representatives on any issue as long as the "one China" principle is accepted, but it will not tolerate any challenges to that basic principle.

    Under this framework, regardless of whether it is discussing the highly politically sensitive issue of a cross-strait peace agreement or less sensitive economic exchanges, Beijing will never compromise on its "one-China" principle.

    Talks on opening Taiwan up to Chinese tourists is a clear example of the problem. All the technical issues have been worked out, but an agreement has yet to be signed because of political factors -- namely Beijing's insistence on using wording in the agreement that would undermine Taiwan's status by defining it as a local region of China.

    With talks on tourism exchanges involving sensitive political considerations, it goes without saying that discussions on setting up cross-strait tax and financial settlement mechanisms or on establishing the "three direct links" will be heavily influenced by political factors.

    How to avoid allowing sensitive "high politics" issues from influencing or blocking progress on less controversial "low politics" issues, such as economic exchanges, and how to make cross-strait cooperation on "low politics" issues lead to more understanding and greater consensus between the two sides on "high politics" issues are questions that the new Taiwan administration under Ma's leadership will have to think deeply about.

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