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MAC Chairman Su Chi at the February 25, 2000 Press Conference

  • Date:2000-02-25

Subjects: Chairman Su commenting on PRC’s White Paper.



MAC Chairman Su Chi

at the February 25, 2000 Press Conference



Questions and Answers:

No Contradiction between Our two Phrases on Cross-Strait Status.

Q.   Are there any similarities or conflicting points between the “special state-to-state relationship” proposed by President Lee Teng-hui and that “one China interpreted respectively by each side?” What is the relationship between the two phrases? Are they equal or contradictory? Or one includes the other?


A.          We spoke about this last year. The “special state-to-state relationship” is our version presented pursuant to what was agreed that “one China interpreted respectively by each side.” In our view, the two sides of the Taiwan Strait are yet to be unified, with the People’s Republic of China on one side (of the Strait) and the Republic of China on the other side. It is hoped that through dialogue, exchanges, and a process of assimilation the two sides can become a democratic, liberal, and equitably prosperous new China. The “special state-to-state relationship” is our description of the cross-strait status at present period of time.

Two Wishes for Cross-Strait TalksPeace Without War & Bypass Sovereignty Dispute

Q.         What is your hope for the world to read Taiwan’s reaction (to the PRC White Paper)? What is the international framework that you wish to have for cross-strait talks as equals?


A.     It is a common wish for countries in the world to bury the hatchet for peace. While advancing into the 21st century, the two sides should avoid conflicts, remove the potential for war, foster peaceful relations, and pursue mutual benefit, which will be welcome by the world and which is also in the interest of Mainland China. We are moving along this line.


         The consensus that “one China interpreted respectively by each side” is not something that came out of the blue. It was adopted in 1992. The agreement successfully gave rise to the subsequent talks between the two associations (the Straits Exchange Foundation and the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits) in the following three years -- 1993, 1994, and 1995. So, we believe that the two sides should follow the (1992) consensus so as to by-pass the differences regarding sovereignty and the definition of “one China,” and to deal with practical issues. Be it three direct links (mail, transportation, commerce), diplomatic affairs, cultural exchanges, or other issues, they can all be discussed. These are our wishes. We hope, first, that we can bury the hatchet, second, that each side can define the cross-strait status at its own discretion so that we can by-pass the sovereignty dispute. These two wishes, I believe, can be widely accepted by other countries. This will meet the expectation of the majority of people and serve the interests of Mainland Chinese as well.

Yes, "One China" Is in the Future

Q.         You said before that “one China” should be in the future tense, not the present tense, therefore requiring “respective interpretations.” In other words, “one China” does not exist now. So for the time being, there are two Chinas, right?


A.          Yes, “one China” should be in the future tense. In our view, if China is one (entity) already, why does “one China” remain an issue? China is not unified today. It is very clear. So, “one China” is not for today. We hope that there will be one China in the future. Since unification is not here today, Mainland China calls itself the People’s Republic of China. And, we are the Republic of China. If the two sides want to talk, the talks must be conducted on parity as such.


Q.         The U.S. State Department made a quick reaction. What is your view on this? Did the State Department contact Taipei before issuing its statement?


A.         As far as I know, there was no contact at all. I think the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) already reacted to the U.S. State Department’s comment. Some statements in the PRC’s White Paper have caused strong reactions from the world, which we are not surprised to see. The negative views in the Republic of China which the White Paper triggered are very strong as well.

Beijing White Paper's Obvious Motive

Q.         After Beijing released the White Paper, you said publicly that the release was obviously intended to influence Taiwan’s (presidential) election and beguile international community. You also said that it clearly demonstrates the PRC’s militaristic nature, conviction of military force and inclination to resolve issues by force. This marks the first time that MAC mentioned that the release (of the White Paper) has affected the presidential election in the Republic of China. My question is should Mainland China use force against Taiwan, will the presidential election be called off? Will the process of presidential election be affected?


A.         This is a hypothetical question. I cannot answer that. We said that Mainland authorities are attempting to affect our election, which is very clear, because the timing (of the release) must have been made in consideration of the election. What will be the influence? Who have been under the influence? To what degree has it affected? I am not an expert on these issues. MAC is unable to make such analysis. However, the PRC’s motive is more than clear. Whether it will use force against Taiwan is a hypothetical question.


Q.         Other than reacting with statements, are there any preparations the government has made regarding national security? Can you give some indications so that the 23 million people on Taiwan can be assured?


A.          The Ministry of National Defense has never slackened its preparations. I think there shouldn’t be any problem in this regard. I do not see any major military maneuver.


Q.         U.S. President Bill Clinton made an announcement yesterday noon that Washington is against the use of any military means to resolve the Taiwan issue. Also, it should be the first time that a U.S. president said that the way to resolve the Taiwan issue could take effect only with the assent of the people of Taiwan. Does this mark a shift in U.S. policy? What will be the impact of this statement on the ROC’s Mainland policy or future development?


A.    In my view, the statement is not a shift in U.S. policy, because similar statements have been made elsewhere, though I cannot recall any examples right now. I think President Clinton simply re-stated the U.S. policy.

The Unification Issue Remains Discussible

Q.         You said just now that the “special state-to-state relationship” is one version pursuant to what was agreed that “one China interpreted respectively by each side.” Will the "confederation model" become one version under the “respective interpretations” in the future?


A.          This may be an issue in the future. The "confederation model" still remains theoretical, and is not a government policy. To my knowledge, none of the presidential candidates have made it a campaign statement. It is still a classroom subject. How to unify the two sides is an issue for the future. The Republic of China, as a democracy, is open to a full spectrum of opinions. I said at the press conference last week that the process of opinion-articulation is wide open, but the process of decision-making is very thorough.

Beijing One-China Principle Signifies Center-Periphery Mentality

Q.          The White Paper mentioned that in future cross-strait talks, the two parties are not necessarily “the central vs. the local.” Can you accept this? After five days of intensive discussions (on the reaction to the White Paper), can you briefly describe the policy-making process?


A.     It is a routine practice not to disclose the policy-making process. The government has a certain operation process. The White Paper, which is so lengthy, must be the product of a long-time study on the PRC side. We must react to that with caution. Being reckless is irresponsible. How we handled this is an internal matter, and, as usual, we will not disclose the details.


         To your first question, I must make some clarification. The PRC did not say that talks will not be “the central vs. the local.” In the White Paper, the PRC said that it proposed political party-to-political party talks before, and under that circumstance the talks might not be “the central vs. the local.” However, for all kinds of talks, no matter whether discussions about the agenda, the venue, or the talks per se, the PRC always insists they be held under the "one-China principle". This position is crystal clear throughout the entire context of the White Paper. MAC has not counted how many times references to the "one-China principle" appear in the paper. Among the five chapters, the first chapter was completely devoted to the "one-China principle", making its position crystal clear. The PRC’s "one-China principle" is that “Taiwan is a local authority, and the Republic of China no longer exists.” These points are contained in the second, third, and fourth chapters. So, I think that focusing on the phrase “(talks) not necessarily to be the central vs. the local” is an erroneous stretching of explanation. If you read the White Paper a second time based on my suggestions, you will have a different answer.

The Key to Resolve "One China" DefinitionMutual Respect & Respective Interpretations

Q.         Differences in defining “one China” between the two sides have created a stalemate, and both have been very firm. How can you continue promoting cross-strait relations under such a situation? If Vice President Lien Chan is elected the next president, how will MAC carry out his 10-point proposal (on cross-strait relations)?


A.          We understand that such differences do exist, which is not a surprise. The views on this matter have been different for the past 50 years. The difference does not begin to show today. For the past five decades, the PRC has treated us as a local area. We used to treat Mainland China as a rebel group. However, nine years ago, under President Lee’s instruction, the ROC government made a pragmatic revision. We no longer treat them as a rebel group, which is a goodwill gesture. Now, we hope the two sides will not be mired in this issue any longer. Since this issue could not be resolved in the past 50 years, why must it be resolved this moment? In the 21st century, respective interpretations can serve us all. You respect my view, and we do likewise. You don’t like my opinions, nor do I like yours. But, the two can still extend mutual respect and allow respective interpretations, so that we can put this issue aside and move on to others. This arrangement was successfully tested during 1992-1995. In the 21st century, let’s give it a second try to see whether the issue can be resolved. Of course, this cannot be done ex parte; it requires cooperation from the Mainland side. If Mainland China still insists on us accepting its “one-China principle”, the cross-strait issues will be difficult to be resolved. On our side, Vice President Lien is the only person whose proposal presents clear steps to resolve the issues.


Q.          What is your evaluation of the impact of the White Paper on the three leading presidential candidates?


A.     I should not comment on that. I am responsible for Mainland policy as the chairman of the Mainland Affairs Council. Elections are not my expertise. You have to ask those in the three camps.

Dealing with Mainland Needs an Experienced Leader

Q.         You can comment on the Mainland policies of the three leading candidates. Which one’s policies are more acceptable to the Mainland side in view of the White Paper?


A.     I don’t think campaign policies are the point we should concentrate on. I would only highlight a fact that the release of the White Paper shows the cross-strait issues to be very complicated, very difficult. Mainland China is very rigid and steadfast in its position. Dealing with that is very difficult. I believe that most people handling this issue tend to think that dealing with these matters must rely on someone who is very experienced, very capable, and having a strong team. Leaving such matters to new hands or unstable teams might make the situation more difficult. Detailed campaign rhetorics are not crucial.


Q.          Among the five presidential candidates, only (independent candidate) Hsu Hsin-liang noted that the cross-strait situation has become dangerous. Do you think his view is realistic? Hsu said the three leading presidential candidates have underestimated the tension between the two sides. Do you feel that the release of the White Paper indicates that cross-strait relations are reaching a critical point?


A.    I did not read the part you just mentioned. However, I don't think that cross-strait relations are reaching the point of military engagement. We have not reached that point yet. However, the PRC's rigidity and the difficulty in handling cross-strait relations are forcing the Republic of China not to show timidity. We can neither allow submission or defeatism to show. We have to stand firm. The PRC calls us a province, a local authority. Are we going to swallow that? If we do, we spent the past 50 years for nothing.


         Nevertheless, while being firm, we must have flexibility. In handling the situation our policy can be flexible, but our position must be firm. I think the PRC's White Paper made it more necessary about this. Only in a firm position can we safeguard our interests. Only when there is flexibility in policy can problems be resolved. If Mainland China is rigid, and we are too, no problem can be resolved. So, we introduced "respective interpretations" in a pragmatic manner. This was not introduced today. We talked about this last year, the year before last, not in July or August, but right from the beginning. We have noticed for a long time that the sovereignty dispute would lead us to a dead end; it is a dead-end issue. Right from the time when I just assumed the position as chairman of the Mainland Affairs Council, I mentioned that if the PRC sticks to (its position on) the (sovereignty) issue, we cannot but stick to ours. It would be better not to focus on the dead-end issue. Both should leave it aside, and face the real problems for solutions.

"Respective Interpretations" Is most Effective for Ice-Thawing

Q.    In the White Paper, the PRC said that the two sides reached an oral agreement in 1992 that each side should state respectively that "the two sides insist that there is only one China." Does this create another gray area for reading "one China interpreted respectively by each side?" When all countries in the world recognize there is only one China, what good does it do to maintain "respective interpretations?"


A.          The PRC's views on the 1992 agreement now differ widely from our views. It has created many limitations, such as that respective interpretations should be only for practical matters (excluding political subjects) and only on cross-strait relations (excluding international affairs), etc. I cannot see that the PRC has faithfully accepted the 1992 agreement of "respective interpretations," at least not from the White Paper. I hope that Mainland China, which must be tensed up as it witnesses the presidential election in Taiwan, can relax after our election and be more pragmatic in dealing with this issue. This might be the most effective way for the two sides to jump out of the quagmire today.


Q.          Both sides might accede to World Trade Organization (WTO) late this year. Though the government has defined cross-strait relations as a "special state-to-state relationship," and insisted that "the definition of one China should be subject to respective interpretations," the WTO framework is clearly not for two to have a "special state-to-state relationship." Is MAC’s statement today a change in its position? Why does your statement fail to mention the visit by (ARATS Chairman) Mr. Wang Daohan?


A.          After we accede to the WTO, all matters will be dealt with in accordance with WTO norms. Those issues not regulated (three direct links or investment) will be adjusted flexibly in accordance with the PRC's good will. Regarding Mr. Wang’s trip, we have talked about our position many times. Today, we are discussing the White Paper, other details need not be repeated here.

The Independence Issue Is "Open" for Future Generations

Q.          You just mentioned that the government is open to any outcome (regarding unification). Does "Taiwan independence" or an "independent Taiwan" remain open for decision?


A.          When I say "open" this is to say that the process will include all possibilities for all of the people in Taiwan to decide in the future, not by the person in charge today. The majority in Taiwan as shown in public opinion polls supports the status quo, i.e. neither independence nor unification. The government takes this public opinion into consideration in making policies. The future orientation must be decided by future generations. The government then must also respect public opinion and be accountable to elected assemblies. It is improper to preclude anything. This is what I mean by "open."


Q.  There will be a new president after March 18. Will MAC give the new president a briefing (like the National Security Bureau did) so that the current policies can be taken over by the new president in a smooth way?


A.    If it is necessary to do so after the election, MAC will certainly do it. In fact, most of the MAC operations are transparent, without any secret budget. We also have news conferences every week to explain our policy to the general public. If the newly elected president needs briefings, MAC will certainly provide that.

"Time Element" for Cross-Strait Talk : Unfriendly & Disadvantageous

Q.          The PRC White Paper added a time element. Does Taiwan sense any additional pressure? Not long after the release of the White Paper was there a rumor that Beijing set 2007 or 2010 as the deadline for talks. Are you going to draft plans for the next few years in accordance with the PRC timetable?


A.          The so-called "time element" is the third "if" of its three conditions in White Paper, which is very unfriendly in our view. The cross-strait relations cannot be decided by one side. Issues will not be resolved simply by one side setting a timetable. Making a timetable does not help cross-strait relations, but will devastate them. In our written statement, the ROC government has made it clear that it is Beijing that has impeded cross-strait exchanges, rejected talks, and damaged the progress toward peaceful unification. It is now Beijing again that has set conditions for talks, not the Republic of China. The PRC's stalling talks and sabotaging exchanges have certainly slowed down the unification process. Ten years ago, when the exchanges between two sides were not allowed, Taiwan’s public opinion polls showed that more than 60% of Taiwan people supported unification, but less than 10% do so now. Why the wider the exchanges, the fewer people who support unification? Mainland China should reflect on this. So, the more conditions introduced by the Mainland side, the more disadvantageous it is to the goal of unification the Mainland has been longing for. We regret that.


Q.          The White Paper gave three conditions for invading Taiwan. Western observers called them "ultimatums." How do you interpret this signal?


A.    It was so termed by the foreign media. We won't comment on that. We consider the third "if" not very friendly. Certainly, we will read the meanings carefully.


Q.          What is your view about the 2007 deadline?


A.    A timetable (for unification) does not contribute to cross-strait relations. Either the year 2007 or 2010 is a speculation by the media. We won't comment on that.


Q.          Will the introduction of the timetable push the two sides closer to the negotiation table?


A.           Cross-strait talks require cooperation. It is the Mainland side that is stalling the talks. We said last year that we welcomed Mr. Wang to visit Taiwan; that is would be better to visit Taiwan earlier than later; and making a trip is better than skipping it. But Mr. Wang does not want to come. It is clear that the PRC is stalling the talks. Therefore, if the PRC laid down preconditions unacceptable to Taiwan (i.e., Taiwan being a province of China) and at the same time accused Taiwan of stalling the talks, the international community should carefully evaluate which side should be blamed. Now, we are introducing very pragmatic proposals: by-pass those conditions, and do something meaningful.

TSEA IS US's Domestic Affair.

Q.          Beijing stated clearly in its White Paper its position against the "Taiwan Security Enhancement Act" (pending U.S. Senate review). The ROC government has insisted on sovereignty and equal status for talks. If Taiwan's security is supported or enhanced internationally, will this be advantageous or disadvantageous to Taiwan's negotiations (including political talks) with China?


A.          Enhanced security for Taiwan will certainly benefit Taiwan's talks with Mainland China, and will also serve Taiwan's interests and long-term cross-strait relations. But, our government refrains from making any comment on the Taiwan Security Enhancement Act, which is a domestic affair of the United States. However, we pay great attention to strengthening the ROC's security and strive for that. As for the impact on talks, we believe that there are many ways to enhance security. Enhancing security is a dynamic process, involving not only the military hardware. I hope Mainland China can understand the meaning of it. However, an enhancement only in the hardware, and nothing else, will cause others to have a strong sense of insecurity, Which in turn will feed insecurity to itself.


Q.         MAC commented on the White Paper right after its release. Chairman is making a second announcement today. Will MAC issue more policy papers before the election day? Please analyze the White Paper’s influence on the U.S.-China-Taiwan relationship?


A.    It will take some time to reach a conclusion on the change in trilateral relations. I cannot give you an immediate answer. Vice Chairman Chong-Pin Lin's comment on the White Paper (earlier) was the government's initial response. Today is a more official reaction. We shall make more responses when necessary.



The MAC News Briefing is an English transcript of the weekly news conference held by the Mainland Affairs Council. We try our best to provide an accurate English translation. In case of discrepancy, the Chinese text rules.