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Taipei Seeks Peace and Parity

  • Date:1998-06-29

Su Chi A "special state-to-state relationship" is that between the Republic of China (ROC) and the People's Republic of China (PRC). President Lee Tenghui's July 9 remarks have caused an international stir. The reaction is reminiscent of Plato's metaphor. Accustomed to life in the cave, one finds the light outside disturbing. The reaction also belies an internationally suppressed story where the goodwill of the small has given way to the encroachment of the big. Has Taipei unnecessarily and recklessly abandoned its previously held policy of "one China"? Has Taipei changed its policy of promoting cross-strait exchanges and dialogue? Has Taipei forsaken the goal of a peacefully and democratically unified China? The answer to all the above is no. Elaboration follows. Beijing and Taipei had once agreed to disagree on "one China", but Beijing later unilaterally retracted that consensus. On November 16, 1992, Beijing's Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits sent to Taipei's Straits Exchange Foundation a letter stating: "Your November 3 letter addressed to us has indicated that… on the notion of one China 'each side may through verbal announcement define it respectively as it chooses to' (yi koutou shengming fangshi gezi biaoda). We will fully respect and accept your proposal". Therefore, Beijing called itself the capital of the PRC, and Taipei called itself the capital of the ROC. Both agreed to seek unification in the future. And each allowed the other the right to define the idea of "one China". It was based on this consensus--"respective definition of one China"-- that cross-strait dialogue progressed. In April 1993, the historic meeting between the heads of ARATS and SEF took place in Singapore with four agreements signed. Thereafter, more than ten ARATS-SEF meetings were held. After September 1996, however, Beijing has insisted that Taiwan is a renegade province of the PRC in all international and cross-strait forums. Beijing's exclusive definition of one China contains three parts: there is only one China in the world; Taiwan is part of China; and the sole legitimate government of China is the PRC. Thus, Beijing discontinued the spirit of agreeing to disagree, leaving Taipei the lone partner hanging on to the previous consensus to "define and let define" one China. The result has pushed the people on Taiwan into a corner of international predicament and cross-strait quandary. As the 21st largest economy, we have little presence in international organizations, which restricts not only our own development but also our opportunity to contribute to the needs of the world community. Solving people's (humanitarian) problems across the Taiwan Straits has been postponed indefinitely. For instance, illegal mainland immigrants who have stayed more than four years in detention centers in Taiwan cannot go home because Beijing does not pick them up for lack of cross-strait agreements. For negotiations on these issues, Beijing's precondition is that Taipei accept Beijing's definition of "one China". ARATS Chairman Wang Daohan reportedly interpreted "one China" in the future tense, a more lenient version. It failed to receive authoritative blessing from PRC Vice Premier Qian Qichen in October 1998 in Beijing when SEF Chairman Koo Chen-fu asked him in person for verification. Since 1949, Beijing has never collected one cent of tax, or recruited one young man for military service from Taiwan. Neither has Taipei, the mainland. Are there not two states ruling China separately? Why is stating the reality unsettling? It is because Beijing's "one China" has monopolized the global audience. Accommodating might has undercut upholding right. If we do not make us heard, no one else will. In fact, unchecked promotion of status quo has crept toward an unhealthy imbalance of power favoring one on the advance. In 1991, we started referring to both the PRC and the ROC as "political entities". Our goodwill through this "creative ambiguity" has not been reciprocated. Beijing has continued calling itself sovereignty. If an unambiguous sovereign and an ambiguous "political entity" enter political negotiation, the outcome is annexation, not integration. The ambiguity is not "creative" but "disastrous". President Lee's clarification of the cross-strait reality was meant to make future talks between Beijing and Taipei more productive, and their relations more cooperative. He described the relationship "special". It has three meanings. First, we share the cultural and historical heritage with the mainland. Second, our current mainland policy of promoting cross-strait exchanges and dialogue remain intact, which includes our sincere welcome for Mr. Wang Daohan to visit Taiwan as previously scheduled for the fall. Third, the unification goal in the future is unchanged. Peace, we seek. Parity, we need. Su Chi is Chairman of the cabinet-level Mainland Affairs Council in the Republic of China on Taiwan