© 1999 New York University. All Rights Reserved.

The Debate between China and Taiwan
By Professor Liu Huaqiu*
August 19, 1999

MONTEREY, Calif. -- By blatantly putting forward the separatist theory of "state-to-state relations," Lee Teng-hui has revealed himself as someone who has long been maliciously trying to separate Taiwan from China.

Lee's timing in making his July 9 statement could not have been worse. It came just as Chairman Wang Daohan, of the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait (ARATS), was planning to visit Taiwan amid signs of improved cross-strait relations. But Lee's comment completely spoiled the planned visit. The "one-China" principle is the foundation for developing the cross-strait relationship, as well as for authorized talks between the ARATS and its counterpart in Taiwan, the Strait Exchange Foundation (SEF).

By redefining the cross-strait relationship as one of "state-to-state," Lee has destroyed the basis for any agreement. The relationship that had developed over the past two decades will suffer a major setback, and bilateral economic and trade interests will be damaged.

Lee's statement also complicates China's relations with the United States and Japan. Both countries have recently reiterated their own "one-China" policies and indicated that they will not support Taiwan's independence. Nonetheless, we must be aware that there are still right-wing groups hostile to China which will try to use this occasion to make trouble, support Taiwan independence and undermine China's relations with both countries.

Lee's position may lead mainland China to reconsider timing and ways to achieve the goal of national reunification. The mainland will continue seeking to achieve a peaceful reunification. However, especially given the current situation, it will never renounce the use of force to solve the Taiwan problem. Rather, Beijing will accelerate its preparation for a military solution. It will be forced to use force to take back the island if Taiwan declares independence or if any foreign forces interfere.

The Chinese people, including those in Taiwan, do not expect such a scenario to become a reality. They all hope for a peaceful reunification. But for that to occur, these points need to be kept in mind:

-- It's not likely that Lee is about to change his course. Lee was cultivated by Japan during Japan's occupation of China and once served in the Imperial Japanese Army as a second lieutenant in Nagoya. According to his book, "The Advocacy of Taiwan", Lee does not regard himself as Chinese. In the past, he has praised the theory put forth by Taiwan's Wang Wen-shan, which calls for splitting China into seven small states.

In his book, Lee wrote: "The most ideal state is that Mainland China frees herself from the shackles of a Greater China Ideology and let regions with different cultures and in different developmental stages enjoy sufficient autonomy. For example, Taiwan, Tibet, Xinjiang, Mongolia, and Dongbei [the northeastern part of China] can be roughly divided into seven areas so that they will compete with one another to pursue progress, probably making Asia more secure."

Thus, we should cast away illusions about him. Instead, it's important that Taiwan next elect a leader who will uphold the "one-China" policy, resume cross-strait talks and therefore continue moving the Beijing-Taipei relationship towards constructive development.

-- It's equally important to recognize that United States arms sales to Taiwan contribute to this scheme of independence for Taiwan and must be stopped. In particular, the United States should halt its cooperation with Taiwan in developing a Theater Missile Defense initiative. An end to such arms sales would be a real and observable way of demonstrating that Washington does not support Taiwan independence.

The historical fact that Taiwan has always been part of China will not be obliterated with Lee's folly. The Chinese people's determination for the great cause of national reunification is unshakable. Any comment that suggests independence for Taiwan can only worsen the Taipei's relationship with Beijing.

*Professor Liu Huaqiu is a Senior Fellow and Director of the Program on Arms Control and Disarmament at the China National Defense Science and Technology Information Center and is currently a visiting scholar at the Center for Nonproliferation Studies, Monterey Institute of International Studies.

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© 1999 New York University. All Rights Reserved. The Global Beat Syndicate, a service of New York University's Center for War, Peace, and the News Media, provides editors with commentary and perspective articles on critical global issues from contributors around the world. For more information, check out http://www.nyu.edu/globalbeat/syndicate/.

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