Arts & Culture 
 Human Rights 
 U.S. Asian Policy 

Home > East Asia > 

Anti-secession bill makes no sense
Paul Lin

China has again aroused the attention of Taiwan and the rest of the world by announcing it will enact an "anti-secession law." People in Taiwan have become somewhat immune to the incident since President Chen Shui-bian previously brought up China's intention to enact unification legislation. Therefore, the psychological impact on people should not be too great, if there is any at all.

Since it is going to be a law, people have begun to address this issue on the legal front. A swift response first came from Vice President Annette Lu and Chen Lung-chu, a national policy advisor and president of the Taiwan New Century Foundation.

Lu said that "China has its own Constitution, while we have our own. China uses its own currency and we use our own ... Therefore, China, even with a plan to pass the anti-secession legislation, can never assert its control over Taiwan. China may even have its jurisdiction over Xinjiang and Tibet, but definitely not Taiwan."

Chen added that "the cross-strait relationship is defined as state-to-state, so it should come under international law. The so-called anti-secession law is a domestic law of China, with which China has no way to get Taiwan under its control."

`To deal with a rogue state like China, only a demonstration of power can deter bellicosity.'

Chen also said that as China is pushing for unification on a "legal" basis, to respond effectively Taiwan should stand firm on the "one country on each side" of the Taiwan Strait stance proposed by Chen, work toward writing a new constitution for Taiwan, strive to rectify the country's name and gain entry to the UN.

The truth is that Taiwan and China are not united, otherwise there could be no discussion of unification. Neither side has jurisdiction over the other. In the past, when Taiwan's Straits Exchange Foundation and its counterpart, China's Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait, were dealing with cross-strait affairs, respecting each other's jurisdictions was a matter of great importance. In this regard, whatever law China is going to enact, Taiwan will never fall under the jurisdiction of China.

Otherwise, Taiwan would not have become what it is today and would instead have become one of China's so-called "autonomous zones" or "special administrative regions." China's Constitution already states that Taiwan is part of China's "sacred territory," yet when has the rule come into force within Taiwan? China just repeats the same thing each time they amend their Constitution.

Now that China has launched this legal warfare, Taiwan should respond on a legal front by enacting a new constitution. The move would serve not only as a response to China's proposed anti-secession law but also to the constitutional parlance of "sacred territory" that has been in existence for decades.

Naturally, that China has put forward the idea of anti-secession legislation at this juncture has its own political background. First, ever since Chinese President Hu Jintao took unified control over the government, he has been trying to gain control over the cross-strait situation by coming up with something new to replace "Jiang's Eight Points," proposed by former Chinese president Jiang Zemin. If he succeeds in accomplishing "a great cause of reunification," his name will go down in history.

Second, Beijing thinks Taiwan's pro-independence camp suffered a setback in the legislative elections. Therefore, they wanted to give an extra boost to the morale of the winning pro-unification camp. We can see that some of Taiwan's media was so excited about the results of the election that they spared no pains to express their pro-China viewpoints and to denigrate Taiwan.

Third, it is an important move for China to feel out the positions of the world on this issue and the US in particular.

China has also seemingly made some concessions by proposing a "unification law" instead an "anti-secession law." It has camouflaged itself with a passive role in the whole scenario, trying to cover up its ambition to annex Taiwan.

To counterbalance this political offensive launched by China, Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council immediately held a press conference to spell out the government's stance and denounce China's attempt to change the status quo. The National Security Council and Ministry of National Defense followed suit in voicing their stance.

As Hu did not make any comment on this issue when he was in Macau for celebrations of the former Portuguese colony's fifth anniversary as a Chinese territory, Chen does not have to come forward to deal with this himself. China is likely to misinterpret the US' wishy-washy attitude, even though the US is opposed to the idea. To deal with a rogue state like China, only a demonstration of power can deter bellicosity.

China's military has yet to make any formal response. On Monday last week, Globe Biweekly, a magazine from the state-controlled Xinhua News Agency, published an article entitled "An anti-secession law is better than a million valiant soldiers." It is thought that the author of the article is Luo Yuan, a colonel at the Chinese Academy of Military Sciences and an academic who often voices his opinions on these matters.

Luo outlined four strategies behind the proposed legislation. First, attempts to split the country would be opposed through the will to unify. Second, "unrighteous laws would be fought against with righteous ones." Third, "smaller" public opinion would be overcome by "larger" public opinion. And fourth, sovereignty would prevail over "interference."

These four points sound rather odd. Take the "righteous law" for example. This is the language usually employed by Falun Gong, which China has considered a defiant religious cult. Yet, in Luo's article there is nothing that reflects the spirit espoused by Falun Gong, which is truthfulness, benevolence, and forbearance. The idea of using "larger" public opinion to fight against "smaller" opinion is also inexplicable. Normally it is "larger" public opinion that oppresses "smaller" voices, and it is the "smaller" public opinion that usually fights against the "larger" variety. This kind of misinterpretation of truth only makes Luo look like a charlatan.

Luo also wrote that "with a law like this, it is perfectly justifiable for the People's Liberation Army to strike Taiwan once the pro-independence activists attempt to split it from China. In summary, the enactment of the anti-secession law is significant and is definitely much better than a million valiant soldiers."

So China needs a "rational cause" to invade Taiwan. Even Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou, considered to possess a "greater China complex," would not agree with Luo.

Before Luo published his article, Ma had said that "China is never well-known for abiding by the rule of law. If it is to take Taiwan by force, it does not even need a law like this. Therefore, setting up a law like that is unnecessary."

Luo seems naive as to the idea of "an anti-secession law is better than a million of valiant soldiers." Does he mean Taiwan is sure to surrender if hundreds of anti-secession laws were to be enacted? With a huge population, China can gain the upper hand in any battle. However, if China is to enact a great many laws of a similar nature, will Taiwan succumb to its will?

Paul Lin is a commentator based in New York.

© Copyright 2002-2007 AFAR