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Taiwan should not be fooled again
China's annual National People's Congress (NPC) and the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) are currently in progress. The NPC is the Chinese Communist Party's rubber-stamp parliament, while the CPPCC is the organ it uses for its "united front" strategy. The NPC meeting will see former president Jiang Zemin resign from his last official position and President Hu Jintao will thus be rid of the last obstacle holding him back. He will then hurry to announce his new four-point guideline on cross-strait relations aimed at replacing Jiang's so-called "Eight Points."
Hu's four-point guideline is an important policy statement, and as such, it should be announced at a formal, ceremonious occasion. But the fact that Hu gave his speech only after having met with CPPCC representatives to sample their opinions was quite irregular, and it implies a lack of authority -- despite the fact that the meeting and Hu's speech were planned in advance. It was obviously done in order to ensure the passage of the "anti-secession" law by creating unified understanding of it.
Because Hu's four-point guideline does not mention a military option for resolving the situation in the Taiwan Strait, it has been interpreted as a show of goodwill towards Taiwan. But the connotation in his use of the word "never" to describe Taiwan's independence substantially reduces the value of that goodwill.
The following are the four points making up Hu's guideline on cross-strait relations:
First, never sway from adherence to the "one-China" principle.
Second, never give up efforts to seek peaceful "reunification."
Third, never change the principle of placing hope in the Taiwanese people.
And finally, never compromise in opposing "Taiwan independence" and "secessionist" activities.
The second point should generally be welcomed by the Taiwanese. The reason I say that is that it says "peacefully." However, the majority of Taiwanese want to maintain the status quo and don't agree with unification. And even if it were done peacefully, the Taiwanese people detest the trickery and deceit behind the "United Front" strategy.
With regard to the third point, Hu said that "regardless of the situation, we respect [Taiwanese], trust them and rely on them." Why, then, does he not respect the Taiwanese people enough to let them decide their own fate instead of making unification their only option? That kind of "respect" and "trust" is disrespectful and untrustworthy. Hu's "placing hope" in the Taiwanese people only means he hope they will one day accept China's dictatorial system.
The first and the fourth points are in fact one and the same, and it is hard to understand why Hu wants to split one meaning into two. Maybe he doesn't want three points because that would be too similar to "the three educational emphases" or the "three represents," or maybe he simply wants to emphasize the importance of the "one China" principle and China's opposition to Taiwanese independence. But there are irreconcilable contradictions between these two points and the other two. So which ones are the more important?
Since efforts toward "peaceful unification" will never be abandoned, Beijing's military option in achieving unification must be abandoned. Once Taiwan adopts a new constitution and changes its national title, the nation will have declared independence in China's eyes. But even if Taiwan does not declare independence, the "one China" principle would wane if we continued using the Republic of China flag while refusing unification. And if the Taiwanese people -- in whom China is placing its hopes -- do not want unification, how would Beijing go about the process of "peaceful unification?"
Hu's four-point guideline does not, in fact, have to be taken too seriously. Mao Zedong talked about "liberating" Taiwan; his successor Hua Guofeng evoked Ye Jianying's "Nine-Point Proposal for Peaceful Unification." Deng Xiaoping had his "one country, two systems" principle and Jiang his "Eight Points." Now Hu, with his four-point guideline for cross-strait relations, shows that all of Beijing's tricks still amount to only one thing: unification.
The international situation is ever-changing, but democracy surges forward, so there is no need to believe someone who insists something will "never" happen.
President Chen Shui-bian's "four noes" are far more realistic than Hu's four-point guideline, because Chen only guarantees them for his term in office. How long will Hu's four points be adhered to? Given China's recent military build-up and the double-digit increase in its military expenditure, one has to doubt Hu when he says that he never will give up his peaceful unification efforts.
Would Hu show any goodwill at all if it weren't for the US' and Japan's attempts to restrict the scope of the anti-secession law? The most important thing now is that the Taiwanese people should not let themselves be deceived.
Paul Lin is a commentator based in New York.
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