- Following the Taiwanese earthquake, Chinese statements
have dramatically decreased in militancy, emphasizing connections between
the mainland and the island. Taiwan's response has been to propose the
resumption of talks. There has been no Chinese comment on the response.
It is likely that Taiwan has intentionally "misunderstood"
Chinese signals. Whatever the case, a resumption of dialogue
- Koo Chen-fu, Taiwan's
unofficial envoy to China, tried
Oct. 14 to call in a year-old promise
by his Chinese counterpart to visit
the island. Asserting that
"goodwill and mutual trust" should
power relations between
Beijing and Taipei, Koo stated that differences
in defining the status
of Taiwan should not be allowed to hamper unofficial
even proposed that he visit the mainland instead, due to
for Wang, who is older.
- Koo's statements come on the heels of Chinese diplomatic
posturing that emphasized the connections between the mainland and the
Taiwanese people, despite the squabbling between the governments. While
this is a fairly consistent theme in Chinese foreign policy, Taiwan's
is new. Koo seems to be intentionally misinterpreting China's
paternalism to give both countries an excuse to renew
the aftermath of Taiwan's earthquake, Chinese statements
island have softened to a somewhat paternal attitude. Though
backing down from the goal of reunification, Chinese government officials
have repeatedly expressed their sympathy and connection to the people of
Taiwan. On Oct. 14, the Chinese Red Cross emphasized the separation
earthquake aid and politics. To Beijing this was not a
deviation, as it
claims that Taiwan is a province; China would send aid
and support to any
of its provinces. It would logically follow that
China should be open to
Koo's gesture, since he is - at least, to
Beijing - one of its citizens.
- In the past week, the Chinese government has accepted
nonofficial visits from several Taiwanese citizens, reinforcing its
to the "province's" people. Yesterday, Jiang
Zemin met a delegation
of female entrepreneurs from Taiwan. Last week,
a Taiwanese basketball
star signed with a Chinese team. While neither
of these are groundbreaking
moves - as China sees all the above as its
citizens - they have symbolic
value. One of the first breakthroughs in
U.S.-China relations came with
an exchange of ping-pong teams.
- Koo is the chairman
of Taiwan's Straits Exchange Foundation
(SEF), an unofficial body
authorized to handle cross-straits exchanges
in the absence of official
ties between the nations. Exactly a year ago,
Koo made an historic
visit to the mainland where he was received by Wang
Daohan, the head of
the Beijing-based Association for Relations Across
the Taiwan Strait
(ARATS) and China's top envoy to Taiwan. In what was
hailed as a major
diplomatic move, Wang promised to reciprocate Koo's visit.
- While it is possible
that Koo's request was motivated
by the one- year anniversary of Wang's
promise, he appears to be interpreting
China's recent statements as an
invitation to renew talks. Both the SEF
and ARATS are officially
"private" institutions with no connections
to their home
governments. Unofficially, however, they are the main diplomatic
channels between Beijing and Taipei, and are responsible for bilateral
- We believe that Koo is intentionally misinterpreting
Chinese moves in an effort to re-establish a dialogue with the mainland.
Continued talks between Beijing and Taipei are in Taiwan's interest, as
Taiwan is unlikely to join the mainland and China is unlikely act
in the midst of "normal" relations. Lurking in the
is the Dec. 19 handover of Macau from Portugal to China.
After that, the
only piece of China still not unified will be Taiwan.
China has made it
clear that after Macau is restored to the nation, it
will focus its attention
on Taiwan. Therefore, increased Chinese ties
and improved relationships
are in Taiwan's interest.
- This intentional
"misunderstanding" may elicit
a Chinese response, as
negotiations work to Beijing's benefit as well.
While the possibility
of eventual unification through negotiations is
slim, military action,
even against symbolic targets like Taiwan's outlying
bring down a chorus of international criticism. The reactions
impede Beijing's economic ties or its diplomatic goals, like joining
the World Trade Organization. The alternative, to play along with
"mistake," holds benefits for both sides.
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