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Major Factors Affecting the Cross-Strait Developments

  • Date:1999-01-28

Presented to
Conference on
America and Taiwan, How to Contribute to Peace and Prosperity
in Asia and the World

By MAC Chairman Su Chi
June 21, 1999

        Ladies and Gentlemen, first of all, on behalf of the Mainland Affairs Council (MAC), I would like to welcome all the distinguished guests coming from afar as well as local scholars for participating in this meeting despite your tight schedules. Your valuable input will certainly enrich this conference, which will serve as a major reference for MAC in formulating our Mainland policy.

        I am very honored to be invited to be here for the "America and Taiwan: How to Contribute to Peace and Prosperity in Asia and the World," which is sponsored by the Institute of International Relations, National Chengchi University, and American Assembly of the United States. I was asked to make some remarks on the development of current cross-strait relations. I wish to first express my gratitude to the sponsors for their endeavors to make this big event possible.

        This conference has received great attention here in Taipei, for the reason that previous seminars held by American Assembly were highly successful. The Institute of International Relations is also a heavyweight thinktank in Taiwan. So, an international conference jointly sponsored by the two institutes is naturally a centerpiece of attention.

        Cross-strait issues have come to occupy an increasingly important place in the world. For one, the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait (ARATS) Chairman Wang Daohan's visit to Taiwan this fall is a matter of significance. The ROC government treats it with seriousness, and so does the general public. In view of the cross-strait developments in the long run, if the two sides can move toward peace and stability, it will not only benefit people on both sides of the Taiwan Straits, but also contribute to the security and prosperity in the entire Asian Pacific area.

        I think that the future cross-strait relations depend on three elements: the international factor, the Mainland factor and the ROC factor. Among the three, the Mainland factor outweighs the other two.

        With respect to the international factor, the world is undergoing great transformation brought about by globalization, democratization and information revolution. It is clear that the world economy is developing regionalism and integration. Other than having contacts under the Asian Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), the two sides will have closer ties for sure after acceding to the World Trade Organization (WTO). It is foreseeable that to resolve the Taiwan Strait issues by means of force will produce more disadvantages than advantages. In the future, the cross-strait relations may tilt toward more practical issues, such as economy, environmental protection, fishery and joint fight against crime. Any issues related to the welfare and interests of the people on the two sides will move high on the agenda of cross-strait negotiations. Caught amid the strong globalization trend, the two sides must cooperate under the principle of mutual respect in order to elevate their competitiveness. We believe that Mainland China should not isolate Taiwan in the international community. There is wide space in the international arena for the two sides to cooperate with each other.

        With regard to the Mainland factor, the Mainland's influence on cross-strait relations is enormous and direct. There exists a serious structural imbalance in Mainland China. There is an imbalance between political and economic development; an imbalance between the development of coastal areas and inland areas; an imbalance of the development between urban and rural areas. Information flow on the Mainland tracks far behind the world, and deviates from international trends. These structural imbalances make the Mainland's developments something like riding a bicycle, supported by two wheels -- economic growth and nationalism (patriotism). Once the wheel of economic growth slows down, the bicycle will shake and falter, and many problems will erupt, which might result in social instability.

        To restore stability, Beijing may choose to lean on the wheel of "economic development." This will benefit cross-strait relations. Currently, the trade, investments and economic relations among Taiwan, Hong Kong and the Mainland have been closing the gap between the two sides. Economic development will be a driving force for the two sides to move toward integration. In the late 1990s, practical cooperation in economic and technological areas has provided enormous chances for the people of the two sides to work together. On the contrary, if the Mainland leans more on nationalism or patriotism, this may work against cross-strait developments.

        The ROC's development is also a factor in cross-strait relations. Taiwan has a stable structure, with an open society developing close and strong ties with the international community. Keeping abreast of the information age, globalization, internationalism, and democratization has been an established goal for the country.

        Since Taiwan has become fully democratized, the government's Mainland policies must follow public opinion closely. MAC has studied the 52 public opinion polls conducted by the government and private institutions over the past years. More than 60% of interviewees believe that the two sides should not enter into unification talks until the Mainland becomes democratic. After the Koo-Wang Meeting last October, more than 80% of the people polled support the status quo for cross-strait relations. The ROC government's policies toward the Mainland are in line with public opinion. Our policy will remain consistent in seeking to establish mutual trust and promote friendly interactions between the two sides. This policy is expected to benefit cross-strait relations over the long run.

        Viewing from the long-term development, democratization is a universally accepted value. Only when democracy prevails on the Mainland, will its political, economic and social development become stable. An authoritarian regime without internal check and balance system can hardly be expected to live up to its commitment. Beijing's post record in this regard is quite flawed. So in Taipei's perspective, only a democratically based government in the Mainland can ensure that any agreements to be signed by the two sides of the Taiwan Strait will be faithfully implemented.

        The ROC's successful experiences of democratic development may be a useful model for the Mainland's future development. The future of China is dependent on democratic reforms on the Mainland. To paraphrase what Deng Xiaoping said before: "let some people get rich first." In my opinion, Mainland authorities should first "let some people enjoy democracy first," particularly those in urban areas. This will lead Mainland China onto a path for full democratization in the long run. Although the Mainland authorities have promoted grass-roots elections recently, these elections were small-scale and limited to rural areas. People on the Mainland still have no freedom of speech or the right to form political parties. This is far from real democracy. For the time being, many coastal cities on the Mainland have enjoyed rapid economic expansion and citizens are better educated and have a higher living standard. The Mainland authorities should introduce democracy to these cities first and later to rural areas. Once democracy prevails on the entire Mainland, its political, economic and social development will become stable and cross-straits relations may reach a higher plateau in the next century.

        Ladies and Gentlemen, a rapprochement in cross-strait relations and a thawing in the Taiwan Strait areas are long awaited in the international community. Any provocative move will be rejected by the world. Improvement in the cross-strait relations and the reunification of China in the new millenium will depend on whether the Mainland will introduce democracy. Therefore, the two sides must build on mutual respect to conduct practical exchanges and bridge the economic, political, social and living-standard gaps between two sides. Only by doing so can the two sides march toward the goals of democracy, freedom and equal prosperity, which will be in the best interests of the people of the two sides.

        Finally, I wish everyone great health and best luck. May this conference be a great success. Again, I welcome all the participants from aboard and at home. Thank you.