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Mainland Affairs Council


Remarks at the Meeting with Mr. Jiang Zemin

Koo Chen-fu
Straits Exchange Foundation , Republic of China
October 18, 1998

I would like to begin by thanking Mr. Jiang Zemin for taking time out of a busy schedule to meet with us. Although we have met several times at APEC meetings in the past, we unfortunately did not have the time on those occasions to attempt any sort of serious dialogue. Thus, I hope that at today's meeting we will be able to freely exchange views on a wide range of subjects and enhance mutual understanding. By so doing, we can set a constructive direction for the long-term, stable development of bilateral relations.

Mr. Jiang has spared no effort in carrying out reforms and liberalization on the Chinese mainland where he has contributed to economic development and improvement of living standards. As they march together into the 21st century, countries are dedicating themselves to the creation of a society with loftier values and the pursuit of better living conditions for the people. At a time like this, we are especially happy to see the Chinese mainland heading in the direction of stable development and continued prosperity.

Although cross-strait relations have witnessed noticeable progress since exchanges started ten years ago, they have also suffered setbacks. In the final analysis, however, these setbacks can be attributed to a cognitive problem with regard to certain facts: that the Republic of China was founded in 1912, and that starting in 1949, the two sides of the Taiwan Strait have been separated and under divided rule with neither side ever exercising jurisdiction over the other. This "divided China" is a fact that cannot be denied.

Under the leadership of President Lee Teng-hui, the ROC gave cross-strait relations a new standing as early as 1991. A series of goodwill measures were adopted, including the termination of the Period of National Mobilization for Suppression of the Communist Rebellion and renouncing the use of military force to resolve cross-strait issues. In addition, pragmatic adjustments were made in the political, economic, military, and legal fields. Unfortunately, our efforts did not receive any goodwill response from the Chinese mainland. On the contrary, they were intentionally distorted by the Peking authorities, creating tensions in bilateral relations.

Each side of the strait has its own interpretation of the "one China" principle. However, such a principle should be used only when it is favorable to both parties. If the "one China" principle is distorted and used as a tool to squeeze, pressure, or even annex the other side--as the Peking authorities apparently have been attempting--then it is only natural for the people on Taiwan to have second thoughts about such a principle. Indeed, public opinion polls taken in Taiwan have continued to show that the people have expressed negative reactions or even a strong aversion to the "one China" principle due to the way the Peking authorities have twisted it.

In April 1995, President Lee Teng-hui issued a six-point proposal to lay down a foundation for the development of cross-strait relations. We hope that the two sides can respect each other, find common ground while resolving our differences, increase cooperation and enhance consensus on shared points of view. At the same time, we need to demonstrate full tolerance and sympathetic understanding as to issues both sides disagree on. In the past few years we have made quite a number of concrete and well-intentioned proposals, such as strengthening cross-strait cultural exchanges, developing complementary economic and trade contacts, assisting the Chinese mainland in improving agriculture, meetings in international settings between top leaders from both sides of the strait, a "journey of peace" to the mainland by President Lee Teng-hui, exchanging experiences in reforming state-owned enterprises, and jointly inviting nations in Southeast Asia to discuss measures to reduce the impact of the Asian financial crisis. These proposals can be used as a foundation for strengthening cooperation and sharing experiences, thereby creating a "win-win" situation for both sides. In recent years especially, the number of problems that have arisen in the international arena has been too numerous to count. Under these circumstances, both sides of the strait should seek a formula and opportunities for cooperation with each other to jointly enhance the development and prosperity of the entire Asia-Pacific region.

In recent years, the Peking authorities have tried to promote grass-roots democracy. We believe that this is a very good start. Further, we would be glad to see the Chinese mainland advance its political reforms and expand the scope and depth of its democracy. This would reduce the differences between the two sides of the strait and help establish an open and pluralistic modern society on the mainland. On democracy, Taiwan has already accumulated more than 40 years of experience; henceforth, the two sides of the strait may exchange their respective experiences on democratic development. I have already extended an invitation to Chairman Wang Daohan to come at an opportune time to Taiwan for a visit. If he could come during an election time in Taiwan and see with his own eyes the entire process as it unfolds, I am certain that it would be of great benefit to the exchange of experiences in the development of democracy between the Chinese mainland and Taiwan.

We are confident that by using the wisdom possessed by the Chinese people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait, pragmatically facing up to the reality of the situation, and earnestly working together with each other, we will definitely be able to map out the path towards the greatest well-being for all Chinese people.