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Democracy and peace to answer China's war authorization law

  • Date:2005-03-24

Jaushieh Joseph Wu Mainland Affairs Council With the international community calling for reconsideration, the Chinese National People’s Congress passed the anti-separation law (so called anti-secession law, ASL) on March 14, 2005 by 2896 to 0, with PLA officers cheering on the floor. The law requires Taiwan to follow only one political belief—unification with China, and it authorizes the military to use “non-peaceful means and other necessary measures” against Taiwan. This is conceivably the most disgraceful act committed by any government in the 21st century. Taiwan started its peaceful transition to democracy in the 1980’s, had the first popular parliamentary election in 1991 and the first popular presidential election in 1996. After three popular presidential elections and with profoundly active media and opposition parties, Taiwan has been admired as a genuine liberal democracy. In Taiwan, political belief is a freedom guaranteed and protected by the constitution. The people of Taiwan may not always agree with each other on Taiwan’s future relations with China, but are determined to safeguard their hard-won freedom and democracy—including the right to freely elect their national leader, the right to decide their future, and the right to disagree. While a minority believes in unification with China and some believe that a formal declaration of full independence from China is necessary, the majority of the Taiwan people want to maintain the status quo, with Taiwan having popularly elected president and parliament and a government which exercises exclusive jurisdiction over the territory under its control. The essence of the status quo in the mind of the absolute majority of the people in Taiwan is that Taiwan, bearing the national moniker of the Republic of China according to its constitution, is a sovereign country and the sovereignty rests solely in the hands of the Taiwan people. Any change to Taiwan’s current status must come with the assent of the 23 million people in Taiwan, for the obvious reason that it is already a democracy. The Chinese government said that the ASL is designed as a check against advocates of Taiwan independence. But for China to claim that it has the right to use non-peaceful means against Taiwan because of different political beliefs in a democracy, is like a trouble-making bully claiming that he has the right to brutalize someone because of a certain look in a person’s appearance. What exacerbates the situation is that this trouble-making bully is armed and unpredictable. China’s military spending is expected to increase by 12.6% this year, making it the eleventh consecutive year of rapid expansion. The deployment specifically targeting Taiwan has also expanded to an alarming degree. More than 700 short-range ballistic missiles together with a huge fleet of modern submarines and advanced jetfighters are ready for deployment, and with more to be added, the area is extremely volatile. Even though China has increased its military threat against Taiwan, Taiwan considers the only solution to reducing tension is through goodwill gestures, dialogue and negotiation, on issues political or otherwise, without any preconditions. The Taiwan government firmly believes that peace is the only answer to any dispute. Precisely for the above reason the Taiwan government issued many goodwill gestures to China and worked hard on the Lunar New Year chartered flight. Meanwhile, Taiwan also continues to call for more negotiations on other issues, such as cargo flights, currency exchange, investment protection, tourism, repatriation of illegal immigrants, and a joint effort against cross-strait crime. Peace and positive relations between Taiwan and China can be brought closer if China agrees to negotiate. But the effort by Taiwan in this regard has suffered a severe blow by the China’s adoption of the ASL, under which the PLA is authorized to launch a war under illusive conditions that the Chinese government has the sole right to interpret. In other words, it is a blank check delivered to the PLA. A new element of danger has obviously been added into the already unstable cross-strait situation. Peace and stability, the common aspiration of the international community for East Asia, seem more remote than ever. Even though the ASL has complicated the cross-strait situation, war does not yet seem imminent. There are still chances for the international community to tell China firmly: do not resort to any non-peaceful means, and peace is the only answer. At least the United Nations Charter says so. We should not forget the price we all paid because we did not say no to Saddam Hussein when he claimed the Iraqi historical rights over the “Province of Kuwait.” The sad history that silence is an accomplice to aggression should not be repeated, and the international community should act on behalf of peace and democracy. At a time when China enacts the ASL authorizing non-peaceful means against Taiwan, it will be a terrible mistake for the EU to lift its arms embargo against China, for it signals to China that the EU encourages China to bully and attack Taiwan. What the EU should do, rather than lifting the arms embargo, is to tell China to fully respect and follow the common values of mankind: peace and democracy. China has many domestic problems, political, economic, and social. Taiwan understands quite well that China needs a peaceful environment to engage in development. For that purpose, Taiwan would like the international community to know that it is perfectly willing to co-exist peacefully with China. Taiwan would also like to work with other democracies to share its own experience of development with China, particularly in the area of freedom, human rights, and democracy. (This article was originally published in Taiwan Perspective e-Paper Issue No. 69, March 24, 2005, by the Institute for National Policy Research.) National Policy Research