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China uses investors as chips in the Strait game
Paul Lin
1/14/2004

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Chinese President Hu Jintao's high-profile reception for the leaders of Taiwanese business associations in China on Dec. 25 has given rise to much discussion.

Some Taiwanese media even interviewed these businesspeople. Such interviews helped Beijing manufacture favorable impressions of itself.

Taiwanese businesspeople in China do not have freedom of speech, so it is impossible for them to risk their fortunes and lives by criticizing the Chinese government. These business-

people have been claimed as bargaining chips by Beijing, which is eager to change the status quo in the Taiwan Strait and promote unification.

Four major points deserve to be made.

First, the reception was aimed at reducing the negative impact of China's major crackdown on an alleged Taiwanese spy ring. China made arrests that were aimed at helping the pan-blue camp against President Chen Shui-bian in the presidential election campaign. Since some Taiwanese businesspeople have also been arrested, Hu arranged the reception in order to comfort the business community. Nevertheless, his guests may become victims of some other crackdown in the future. Those who have escaped through good luck this time still must be very careful.

Second, the reception was obviously a political act. Some Chinese academics have glorified it as "a separation of politics from economics." Such an opinion also exists in Taiwan. In fact, it was a step that was taken to accomplish political pacification from an economic angle, as well as to attract other Taiwanese businesspeople to invest. But Beijing clearly told them that they must stand by the the idea of unification. Taiwanese businesspeople should never become Beijing's bargaining chips.

Third, we have to realize the brutal ideas behind the new Chinese leaders' approach to "humanity and sympathy."

During Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao's US visit, he talked about his nostalgia for Taiwan by citing a line from a famous poem by Yu Kuang-chung. Hu also cited the old Chinese saying, "Harmony in the family is the basis for any undertaking", when he talked about cross-strait relations.

Not long ago, some Chinese academics actually suggested that China "smash and rebuild Taiwan". Some even proposed that Beijing fire most of its missiles against southern Taiwan, where more Democratic Progressive Party supporters live. Since its missiles have not been destroyed, isn't it disgusting and hypocritical to talk about "a shared homeland" now?

Fourth, businesspeople in China need to have a strong sense of risk. Since China's policies change constantly, these business-

people have to prepare themselves for emergencies. Besides, China's nationalistic propaganda has long distorted the reality of Taiwan, misleading the Chinese people about the nation while creating the impression that China can bully Taiwan.

Businesspeople should be careful to not be attacked by both the Chinese government and its people.

On the eve of his US visit, in an interview with the Washington Post, Wen vowed that he would achieve unification at all costs.

This means that China will do whatever it takes to change the status quo.

The US should tell China's leaders to learn from Taiwan by giving up its one-party dictatorship and moving toward democracy.

The Communist Party of China is merely a political hoodlum if it remains unwilling to give up its privileged interests while pushing the people on either side of the Strait to a bloody war.

*Paul Lin is a commentator based in New York.

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