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Jiang's eight acupuncture points
Paul Lin

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`Hu isn't willing to support Jiang's line because Jiang's policy of verbal attacks and military threats has already been proven a failure.'

On Jan. 24, Beijing held a meeting to commemorate the eighth anniversary of the promulgation of President Jiang Zemin's "Eight Points." Every year at this time Beijing announces new policy in the name of commemorating that landmark speech.

Last year, Vice Premier Qian Qichen expounded on policy toward Taipei by saying Beijing was willing to have contact with the DPP. Vice President Hu Jintao appeared to show support for Qian by being present for his speech. In the end, however, the media was not allowed to report on Qian's speech and the authorities had to clarify the new policy.

At this year's commemorative meeting, which took place after the conclusion of the Chinese Communist Party's 16th National Congress, Hu replaced Jiang in the role of secretary general. Naturally, people were interested in what policy changes might be made.

On Jan. 18, news sources in Beijing claimed the authorities considered the meeting of the utmost importance. Not only would Qian make a speech, but also Hu and Politburo Standing Committee member Zeng Qinghong would attend.

When the meeting convened, however, Hu did not appear. This can be interpreted as as evidence of unwillingness on Hu's part to fully reveal his own policy on Taiwan. Only after Jiang's influence has gradually faded will Hu be able to have his Taiwan policy. In other words, Beijing's policy toward Taipei is now at a crossroads.

The softening of Beijing's policy toward Taipei that was evident at the same event last year included suggestions made by Hu, who did attend on that occasion. But afterwards, Qian's speech was "clarified." Who had the authority to refute the words of Hu and Qian? Jiang, of course.

Because of the obvious change in policy, the outside world concluded that Jiang's policy had failed. Naturally, Jiang was very unhappy and wanted to clarify or refute the new line. Under these circumstances, Hu would have faced a dilemma if he had tried to make an appearance this year.

Hu isn't willing to support Jiang's line because Jiang's policy of verbal attacks and military threats has already been proven a failure. But if he expounds his own suggestions, which are different from those of Jiang, the president will be unhappy. Avoiding the matter altogether was therefore probably the best solution.

Precisely because China's political climate is still so murky, with two separate focal points around Jiang and Hu, policy toward Taipei has appeared rather incoherent.

In mid-January, Beijing convened a meeting of all directors of Taiwan Affairs Offices nationwide. According to reports in the Taiwanese media, many of the officials at the meeting reviewed their work over the last decade and wondered why the harder they work toward unification, the farther away Taiwan seems to slip. They concluded that future work on cross-strait relations should be conducted according to better models if the "three new principles concerning `one China'" and the "three negotiable topics" are to be realized.

Attendees at the meeting also formulated a "20-year plan for Taiwan-affairs work" to guide Beijing's actions in the future. Key points include shelving cross-strait political disputes, vigorously promoting direct links, expanding cross-strait economic and trade relations, and continuing to deepen cross-strait economic interdependence.

At that meeting, Qian's speech reflected precisely this spirit. But shelving disputes is not the same as abandoning plans to swallow up Taiwan. Recent efforts to put diplomatic pressure on Taipei in the international arena have made this point clear.

The Taiwanese media has also reported that in the middle of last month the US intercepted a classified report from the People's Liberation Army's General Staff Headquarters stating that low level PLA officers are now shouting a slogan calling for "Unification of the Motherland on the Centenary of the Xinhai Revolution!" This indicates that China's timetable for unification is set for the centenary of that incident -- 2011. The Jan. 23 issue of the People's Liberation Army Daily also ran an article saying that "in practical terms, for the military to carry out the demands listed in the report issued by the 16th National Congress will require promotion of those cadres who are both eager and able to wage war to the ranks of leadership at all levels."

If the 20-year plan for peace can be ascribed to Hu, then the military under the influence of Jiang has an eight-year plan for war. It remains to be seen which plan will prevail.

Maybe the former will provide cover for the latter by causing the people of Taiwan to drop their guard. Taiwan must maintain its sense of enmity toward China. As far as direct links are concerned, due consideration must be given to security and "advancing west" for business purposes must be done with the utmost caution.

Paul Lin is a political commentator based in New York.

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