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The Rise of China and the Role of Taiwan in the East Asian Region

  • Date:2004-12-26

Jaushieh Joseph Wu Chairman, Mainland Affairs Council I feel very honored to be here today at the Third Forum on Taiwan-Japan Exchanges with all of you, experts here and from abroad, to discuss together related issues concerning security and economic integration in the East Asian Region under the trend of regional integration around the world. Today I would like to talk about the contemporary political and economic situation in China and the role that Taiwan can play in the cross-strait and regional peace and stability relations. Since the end of the 20th century, China has been one of the international focal points. A huge autocratic nation whose politics and economy have gradually enhanced its overall national strength, China appears to be interested in dominating the general affairs in the region. At the same time, its military has gradually become one of the threats to regional stability. For the international community, China represents several entirely different kinds of complicated features: a collaborator in international politics and strategy, but at the same time also a potential threat to regional security; a huge market teeming with commercial opportunities, but at the same time a neophyte with systematic and legislative instability. These contradictions are in fact reflected to a significant degree in its engagements with major countries. In fact, for many experts researching on Chinese studies, there is also a different aspect in China’s present stage of development. On the surface of its internal political situation, its “fourth generation” leaders seem to have fully transferred the power after the Fourth Plenum of the 16th CPC Central Committee this autumn, and have also shown to have a strong sense of ambition in policy implementation. But in reality, the competition for power within the internal ranks of the Communist Party is not over yet. Compromises have been made in their policy-making process and personnel arrangements. The cry for reform that everyone was concerned about has gradually weakened to the extent that only the “Enhancement of the Party’s Governance Capability”, and not “Political Reform”, can be heard. For example, freedom of speech is the most basic of all foundations for political reform conducted by all authoritarian regimes. Without freedom of speech, no one would dare to speak of political reform. But most recently, we have seen high-level CPC officials ordering to repress freedom of speech. Evidently, the Communist Party does not have the intention at present to undertake major projects on political reforms. In the economic and social aspects of China, we can indeed see rising economic figures, massive development of economic construction projects, as well as the prosperous side of urban residents. But in reality, the serious problems in its economy and society are often exposed. For example, administrative inefficiency, the lack of a legal system, imbalance of power, increasing unemployment and deteriorating social order, worsening graft and corruption, widening poverty gap, energy shortage, banks’ non-performing loans, overheating investments, and plunging government finances, are all eroding the foundations of its economic development. Recently, there have been a series of successive mass protests within its territory, which have highlighted potentially unstable elements lurking in its society and are now starting to take effect. We can predict that there will be a constant increase in the frequency and intensity of these protests in the future. The truth behind these phenomena is in fact the decisive factor that is the key to maintaining China’s future political and economic development stability. This issue is worth the attention of all of us present here. China seems to be actively involved in international affairs with a high profile in its promotion of “big-nation diplomacy.” In fact, the outward expansion of its military strength has reshaped the boundaries of regional powers. Its modernized fourth generation military jet fighters including the SU-27, SU-30, J-10, and J-11 have continually been integrated into or are being introduced into its military equipment. Right now it has also commenced work on research and development of its fifth generation jet fighters. Its navy has acquired the Sovremenny Class destroyers and new missile destroyers dubbed “China Aegis”, as well as self-manufactured Ming-, Song-, Yuan-, 093-, and 094-class submarines and Kilo-class submarines purchased from Russia. It has every kind of modern warships that is increasing rapidly in number. As for its deployment of missiles, aside from the more than 600 mid- and short-range ballistic missiles aimed at Taiwan, it has also started to deploy mid- and long-range cruise missiles, and has started to deploy multiple warhead ballistic missiles and submarine-launched ballistic missiles. To integrate the strength of its armed forces, China has recently announced that it will start to deploy radar planes that can command and control the battlefield. We believe that a passive Japan after the Second World War will feel increasingly uneasy over these developments, since the several aforementioned deployments appear not to be targeted only at Taiwan, but also at Japan. Our Japanese friends in the forum should be very well aware of this, especially since there is a strong anti-Japanese sentiment inside China. Facing with the rise of China, how Taiwan is going to maintain peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait, and play a more active role in the development of regional cooperation are the current tasks of the Taiwan Government. On February 3 of this year, President Chen Shui-bian issued a major declaration on a Peace and Stability Framework for Cross-Strait Interactions. In his inaugural address on May 20, 2004, he proposed a cross-strait policy centered on “peace and development.” In his National Day address, he announced the foundation of peaceful cross-strait dialogues as well as concrete and feasible policy measures. In his concluding remarks at the national security meeting on November 10, he further declared our determination to pursue dialogues and to maintain peace and stability. In the aforementioned four major policy declarations, President Chen has on the one hand expressed our determination to defend the status quo across the Taiwan Strait. On the other hand, he has made known to the international community that although faced with serious military threats, Taiwan has the courage and determination to pursue peace. Within these four policy declarations, the concrete proposals that we have put forth, namely, the improvement of relations, the elimination of animosity, the avoidance of conflicts, measures to continue relaxing and expanding cross-strait exchanges, the formulation of a negotiations mechanism, the creation of political relations, and the establishment of a cross-strait confidence building mechanism, are the objectives that the Government is trying hard to accomplish. However, the Chinese Government has deliberately ignored these important matters, resulting in a seemingly significant difficulty in establishing normalized cross-strait relations, so much so that they have sometimes obstructed academic exchanges in every conceivable way. They have recently cut off all Taiwanese cyber information systems, preventing their people from comprehensively and properly understanding Taiwan, and it is therefore difficult to eliminate any misunderstandings about Taiwan, let alone to formulate appropriate policies toward Taiwan. Coming from an academic background, I am fully aware of the roles that the academia on both sides of the Strait can play in cross-strait relations, especially the fields of law and politics and international relations. I would like to take this opportunity to present a proposal on Academic Confidence Building Mechanism (ACBM), hoping that this would serve as a new starting point for improving cross-strait relations after the 2004 year-end legislative election in Taiwan, and would create favorable conditions for our promotion of normalized cross-strait interactions. The concrete steps in the Academic Confidence Building Mechanism include the following: 1. Both governments appoint on each side an outstanding scholar of law and politics or on international relations to station on a long-term basis on the other side, after notifying the other side through the existing channels. The appointed scholars shall engage in an in-depth investigation and study, as well as write a report which could be confidentially transmitted back to serve as a reference to each government’s administration. 2. After a regular period of time, for example two or three years, each government may appoint another scholar in place of the previous one, after notifying the other government of the replacement. 3. The scholars appointed by each government may, upon authorization, act as a bridge for the exchange of information between both governments. 4. The scholars appointed by each government shall be recognized by the government on the other side, and whose conduct of research and interviews and public engagement in academic activities shall be protected. They shall enjoy as well certain privileges of diplomatic personnel. 5. The scholars appointed by each government shall be allowed to bring along some doctoral students for joint conduct of research. 6. Both governments shall mutually inform each other of major international conferences through these scholars. An invitation shall be extended to the other side for participation in public forums. 7. Upon the appointment of these scholars, the academic circles of each side shall immediately avail of this channel to restrain from engaging in any public commentaries that may cause embarrassment to the other side or contain strong feelings of hostility. I believe that the academic circle has always been teemed with open-minded thinking and creativity. Through the cooperation of the academic circle, I believe that we should be able to open up a new era of cooperation and mutual trust in cross-strait relations. Moreover, since Taiwan and Japan are the two major democratic countries in Asia, I would also like to take this opportunity to recommend that both countries engage in important cooperation programs to jointly assist China in promoting political reforms and smoothly tiding over the turbulent period in the course of reform. For example, the Taiwan Foundation for Democracy and the eminent Japan Foundation can cooperate on this matter and make a joint proposal consisting of feasible steps for the Chinese Government’s reference. This action should be able to bring about long-term stability in the East Asian Region. My recommendation shows that Taiwan will not only take positive and active measures to maintain stable cross-strait relations, but we are also willing to play a critical and positive role in China’s progression towards development. I look forward to the enthusiastic discussions that will follow. Thank you very much!