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Promoting Cross-Strait Relations : The Conscious Efforts of the Republic of China Government 2. The ROC's Efforts to Improve Cross-Strait Relations

  • Date:1996-07-29

The ROC government's efforts have often played a key role in easing the fierce antagonism in cross-Strait relations and taking the two sides from a state of total isolation to frequent people-to-people contacts. Our contribution to political interaction, people-to-people exchanges, and cross-Strait talks is as follows:

1. Political Interaction

Since martial law was lifted in July 1987, the ROC government has implemented an open policy toward mainland China. In July 1988, the Thriteenth Congress of the ruling Kuomintang (KMT, Nationalist Party of China) passed a mianland policy document which proposed the establishment of a new China that will be democratic, free, equitably prosperous, peaceful, and united, and introduced some important measures connected with the government's mainland work. In September 1990, President Lee Teng-hui invited prominent individuals from inside and outside the ruling party to sit on a National Unification Council (NUC) established under the Presidential Office.

By February 1991, the NUC had drafted the "Guidelines for National Unification" which specified how the goals of democracy, freedom, equitable prosperity, and national unification were to be pursued through peaceful, democratic means. On May 1 that year, the government ended the "period of national mobilization for suppresion of Communist rebellion," thus acknowledging on a constitutional level the fact that the two sides of the Strait were under separate rule. In September 1992, the Statute Governing Relations between Peoples of the Taiwan Area and the Mainland Area came into effect and a legal basis and legal norms were provided for cross-Strait interaction. We not only laid a firm foundation for the development of relations between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait through these concrete actions, but actively demonstrated our sincerity and goodwill in the following ways:

-- We abandoned the ideological struggle of the past and adopted a new pragmatic attitude.

-- We demonstrated our determination to pursue democracy, freedom, equitable prosperity, and unification.

-- We renouned military force as a means for achieving national unification.

-- We recognized the Beijing authorities as a political entity ruling mainland China.

-- We proposed the formula "one country, two equal political entities," a reasonable definition which is not only consistent

with reality but is also based on the premise that there is only "one China." It indicates that division is only a temporary,

transitional state of affairs, and through the joint efforts of  the two sides, the country will eventually get back on the road to unification.

-- We have shelved the dispute with Beijing over which side has the right to represent China in the internaitonal arena, replacing it with a more practical proposal that the two sides should enjoy parallel rights of representation.

2.People-to-people Exchanges

Over the past eight years, the government has adopted a gradual attitude toward the opening of people-to-people exchanges in an effort to protect the security of Taiwan. As of today more than 140 measures to expand exchanges have been passed, covering the entire range of activities, and each measure represents another step forward in cross-Strait relations. Little by little, these measures have brought the two sides of the Taiwan Strait closer together, as anyone can see.

-- The scope of cultural and educational exchanges has gradually expanded from academic exchanges to exchanges in the arts, science and technology, sport, and the mass media, so that it now includes almost all categories of activities. Beginning with visits by individuals and academic conferences, cultural and educational exchanges now include exchanges of publications, joint research, study tours, and training and coaching sessions.

-- In 1995, cross-Strait trade was worth US$22.5 billion. The number of Taiwan firms investing in mainland China already exceeds the thirty thousand mark, and their contracted investments are worth US$30 billion.

-- More than 900,000 visits have been made between the two sides, and almost everything possible has been done to open up humanitarian exchanges on a priority basis. The two sides have also exchanged approximately one hundred million letters and telephone calls.

-- These figures on personal contacts, trade, investment, posts and telecommunications indicates how people-to-people exchanges between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait have outpaced our ties with other countries around the world over this same eight-year period.

Last year, in line with Premier Lien Chan's instruciton to make economic and trade ties the hub of cross-Strait relations, government agencies greatly increased the scope of imports from mainland China, gradually shifting to a negative listing system under which imports are permitted in principle and prohibited only in exceptional circumstances. We also greatly relaxed restrictions on visits by mainland business specialists, including even government officials. In May 1995, we proposed the establishment of an offshore transshipment center. We did not suspend people-to-people exchanges when Beijing launched its campaign of verbal attacks and armed intimidation in June. Instead, we have continued to revise and formulate the relevant laws and regulations, and have permitted environmental and financial specialists to visit Taiwan, amended regulations governing the import of mainland Chinese industrial technology, expanded the scope of financial contacts, further relaxed restricitons on the import of semi-finished goods, permitted mianland television programs to be broadcast in Taiwan, and provided financial support for mainland graduate students to carry out research here. Concrete measures such as these have made a great contribution to sustaining and promoting relations between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait.

3.Cross-Strait Talks

The increasing frequency of cross-Strait exchanges has inevitably given rise to many practical problems, all of which have a direct or indirect impact on people's rights and interests. While expanding the scope of people-to-people exchanges, we must simultaneously take steps to resolve these problems as quickly as possible through cross-Strait talks. The first talks between Koo Chen-fu, chairman of the Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF), and Wang Dao-han, chairman of the Association for Relations across the Taiwan Straits (ARATS), took place in April 1993. Four agreements were signed and an institutionalized channel of communication and consultation was established that allowed the two sides to grow accustomed to resolving their problems through consultation. Since then, the SEF and ARATS have conducted ten rounds of talks at different levels to address issues raised in the Koo-Wang agreements, and considerable progress has been achieved in communicating ideas and building a consensus.

In February 1995, Premier Lien Chan said that the two sides of the Strait were about to enter the "era of consultation," and he proposed consultation in place of confrontation. Then in April, the government took the initiative and proposed that the two  sides should hold a second round of Koo-Wang talks, and that such cross-Strait talks should in future be held on a regular, institutionalized basis. At the end of May, the framework of consultations was adjusted slightly when government officials took part in the first preparatory meeting for the Koo-Wang talks. The talks themselves, originally scheduled for July, were unilaterally suspended by Beijing on June 16 because of President Lee's visit to the United States.

The problem between the two sides of the Strait is essentially a matter of different systems and ways of life; it is a political problem that cannot be solved by military means. Therefore, we have left open the door to consultations and are continuously calling on Beijing to restore communication and consultation at all levels as soon as possible. Apart from wishing to speed up the solution of problems arising from cross-Strait exchanges, we can, if both sides are willing, exchange ideas on policy-rel ated issues. All of this demonstrates our goodwill and sincerity.