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Mainland Affairs Council

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International Press Conference Speech

Dr. Chen Ming-tong, Chairman
Mainland Affairs Council, Executive Yuan
March 20, 2008

Ladies and Gentlemen, Friends from the International Media, Good Morning!

In two days, Taiwan will be holding a presidential election and two referendums on joining the United Nations (UN). This election and the referendums will not only have a major influence on the future political development in Taiwan, but also profound impact on cross-strait relations. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the international community and our friends for jointly witnessing the development of democracy in Taiwan. I would also like to brief you all on the recent development of cross-strait relations.

1. Cross-strait relations in the current phase

Last year, various political parties in Taiwan began promoting to hold a referendum on joining the UN. Since then, the Chinese government has exerted extraordinary political, diplomatic and military pressure against Taiwan. It has used legal and propaganda warfare tactics to denigrate and distort the quest of Taiwan’s 23 million people to join the international community and their pursuit of the basic human right to collective security safeguards. On international arena, the Beijing authorities have also deliberately fabricated that Taiwan is the root source of conflict and tensions in cross-strait relations. They have used this issue to declare to the world its sovereignty over Taiwan in a further attempt to change the national status of Taiwan and the cross-strait status quo. They have, moreover, denied the fact that the Republic of China is an independent sovereign country and that Taiwan and China have no jurisdiction over each other. This is the main reason why cross-strait relations have been unable to develop in a normal fashion.

Unfavorable as always has been, Taiwan lacks international recognition and confronts international political apartheid and squeezing out. In facing up to China’s intensive pressure and grim international realities, the Taiwanese people can only rely on their collective will to show the world their determination, and to seek support and assistance in their pursuit of justice. The international community should deeply understand that Taiwan has long been unreasonably isolated and suppressed by China. It should also recognize the violent nature of China in its use of “autocratic military power” to oppose “democracy and peace.”

Taiwan is a democratic society, and the people of Taiwan have the right to make their own judgements and choices. The establishment of a referendum system is conducive to realizing the true significance of “sovereignty residing in the people.” It is also an important development and asset in Taiwan’s democratic process. Despite pressure from China and the international community, numerous public opinion surveys in Taiwan indicated that over 80 percent of the people favored that Taiwan should join the UN. This indicates a national consensus across political party lines, irrespective of their positions on either pro-unification or independence. Furthermore, the petition for the two referendums on joining or returning to the United Nations has been signed by over millions of citizens, leaving no question over the legitimacy of the issues of the “referendum system” and “UN membership for Taiwan.” Furthermore, these two referendums, “joining the UN” and “returning to the UN” do not constitute any changes to the status quo or instigate provocative actions. The international community should refuse to succumb to China’s wishes. They should recognize the fact that Taiwan is deepening its democratic development; and respect the due political human rights and dignity of the Taiwanese people.

Since the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) took the reins of government in 2000, Taiwan has been facing up the complicated situations internationally and domestically. Cross-strait relations have also been full of challenges. China not only has steadily intensified military and diplomatic suppression against Taiwan; as usual, it also has refused to engage in official dialogue with Taiwanese government. Despite this, our government has never wavered in its adherence to “democracy and peace” as the main principles for the development of cross-strait relations. It also has never deviated from the pursuit of establishing a peaceful and stable framework for cross-strait interactions.

Recently, Taiwan has proactively demonstrated its sincerity in improving cross-strait relations. The Taiwanese government has promoted established policies and measures, including appeals for both sides of the Strait to hold talks on important issues. It also has promoted negotiations on the three following issues: opening Taiwan to Chinese tourists, establishing cargo and passenger charter flights. In order to facilitate personnel exchanges, and based on humanitarian considerations, the government furthermore has been studying the feasibility of expanding the “Mini Three-Links,” relaxing restrictions on mainlanders visiting Taiwan for medical treatment, and easing conditions for Chinese spouses applying for permanent or temporary residency in Taiwan. The government has also strengthened management of personnel exchange mechanisms. Under the premise of considering overall national interests and the interests of individual industries, it has encouraged Taiwanese businesses which already invested in China to redirect their investment in Taiwan, while also studying and assessing the further easing of restrictions on China-bound investments. In addition, Taiwan has actively promoted reciprocal cross-strait exchanges and interactions to provide an opportunity for cross-strait relations to continue developing in a positive direction, thus maintaining peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait to a certain degree. However, since cross-strait relations have not yet been normalized and due to incessant pressure from China, the government must not only seriously consider Chinese political intentions toward Taiwan, but must also uphold Taiwan-centric consciousness and democratic and free values. Though small in size, Taiwan is more open in its policy toward China; while, in contrast, Chinese policy toward Taiwan is steeped in political considerations.

2. Assessment of the future development of cross-strait relations

Taiwan has never been a part of the People’s Republic of China (PRC); and Taiwan and China have no jurisdiction over each other. This is the status quo between both sides of the Taiwan Strait. Any changes to this status quo must be approved by 23 million Taiwanese people. No one is optimistic that the Chinese authorities will face up to the reality that Taiwan and China have no jurisdiction over each other, and that they will stop exerting military and political pressure against Taiwan. However, looking ahead to the development of cross-strait relations after the presidential election, the MAC’s assessment is that the basic overall situation across the Strait will turn out to be characterized by a political face-off, military confrontation, economic interaction, and cultural interflow. Even the US and China both believe that a new era will begin in the future, regardless of who will win the presidential election.

Personally, I also anticipate that after the election, both sides of the Strait will gradually resume the negotiations and interactions that China unilaterally broke off; and that in the period thereafter, the political confrontation arising from the election will be ameliorated, creating an opportunity for the two sides to reestablish mutual trust. The Chinese side also is likely to respond to the changing situation by gradually releasing and promoting related measures and policies. This will be a critical moment for both sides to seize in developing mutual contact and benign interactions.

However, I must also remind everyone that China has not veered from its ultimate goal of annexing Taiwan. Although the Beijing authorities have placed priority on preventing Taiwan independence, they will not, under any circumstances, stop using military forces to push for unification, nor will they give up exerting coercive diplomatic suppression against Taiwan. The recent turmoil in Tibet gives the world a vivid image how brutal the Chinese government can be. The international community lured by China’s steadily growing economic strength is eager to jump on the bandwagon. Yet, they are also increasingly wary of China’s military expansion. I must emphasize that the international community must treat a rising China and a democratic Taiwan fairly and equally. Otherwise, in the future, the pressure in cross-strait relations will be lopsided to Taiwan. This would be unfair to Taiwan’s survival and development, and detrimental to the basic rights and interests of the Taiwanese people. Moreover, although Taiwan is small, it has highly influential and penetrative power over China. Taiwan’s freedom and democratic development can serve as a paradigm from which China can emulate. China would make contribution to the global village and stability in East Asia only by being more democratic and respectful of human rights as everyone desires. This is what Taiwan has long been making contribution. I think the international community shall not ignore.

For many years, support for the peaceful resolution of cross-strait disputes has been the mainstream of public opinion worldwide. This is a historical responsibility that neither side of the Strait can evade. Facing the future, both sides of the Strait must actively create a new relationship of exchanges and interactions between them under the principles of “reciprocity and mutual benefit.” In order to fulfill this mission, the two governments must conduct substantive dialogues in a meaningful way. Through dialogues, both Taiwan and China can resolve their disputes and create the welfare for the people on both sides. This would not only lay the foundations for normalizing cross-strait relations, but will also live up to the universal expectation by the international community for the cross-strait situations.

Facing the new developments in cross-strait relations after the presidential election, we would like to make the following five appeals to China:

1. We appeal to China to eliminate the political obstacle established under the “one China framework,” acknowledge the fact of the existence of the Republic of China, jointly promote cross-strait peace and development, and join hands with Taiwan in promoting the normalization of cross-strait relations.

2. We appeal to China to treat and accept the democratic results of Taiwan’s upcoming presidential election and referendums in a rational and calm attitude, and to change its rigid mindset and tactics toward Taiwan.

3. We appeal to China to withdraw its missiles targeting at Taiwan, to cease diplomatic suppression against Taiwan, to abolish the “anti-separation law,” to give up provocative actions that are aimed at unilaterally changing the status quo in the Taiwan Strait, and to eliminate the risk factors that might bring about cross-strait confrontation and regional instability.

4. We appeal to China to stop making political considerations, to return to normal interactions in a pragmatic and systematical fashion; and without setting any preconditions, to promptly resume negotiations and talks with the Taiwanese government on issues of mutual concern.

5. We appeal to the international community to squarely face up to the fact that China’s non-peaceful rise will possibly produce crisis and cause impact on the balance of power and stability in the world and in Asia-Pacific region. The international community should demand that China should not only renounce the use of force to obstruct the democratic development in Taiwan, but it should also assist Taiwan in  participating in the international community.

In closing, I welcome people from all walks of life in China and the international community to jointly witness Taiwan’s democratic elections and the deepening process of referendums; and to bear testimony to the fact that Taiwan’s future is not decided by one person, one party, or any foreign country. Rather, it is decided by all of the people living in Taiwan. We are confident that due to its own achievements in the implementation of democratic system, Taiwan will be able to effectively provide new thinking on promoting democratization in China. This will not only have critical significance for actively promoting cross-strait relations in the future, but will also have deep meanings for establishing normalized relations across the Strait. Regardless of which party’s candidate will win the presidential election in the next two days, their objectives should be the same: to create a more peaceful, more active, and more broad space for the future development of cross-strait relations.  

Thank you!