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Further step down splittist road
By Xing Zhigang (China Daily)
Updated: 2004-09-17 00:42

The old Chinese saying "The tree prefers to be still, but the wind will not stop" is true of the current relations between the mainland and Taiwan.

Despite Beijing's ceaseless calls for peace and stability in cross-Straits ties, Taipei refuses to end its provocative moves towards the mainland.

Bent on the pursuit of formal independence for the island, Taiwan leader Chen Shui-bian and his administration have been leaving no stone unturned to achieve their goal.

On September 3, Chen proposed using "Taiwan" to abbreviate the island's official title, "The Republic of China."

"The best way to abbreviate the name of the 'nation' is by just saying 'Taiwan,'" Chen told reporters while visiting Belize, in South America.

Chen's proposal was hailed "a major improvement" by pro-independence activists, who have been pushing for the island's title change for years.

His move has encouraged the island's "foreign ministry" to study a plan to use the name "Taiwan" more frequently.

Zhang Mingqing, spokesman with the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council, has condemned Chen's overture, saying it simply exposes the leader's attempt to pursue Taiwan independence.

University students from Taiwan pay tribute to the Yellow Emperor, the legendary ancestor of the Chinese nation, at Xi'an, Shanxi Province. [newsphoto/file]

Referring to Chen's repeated vows to make "promoting a new identity of Taiwan" a major task for his second term, Zhang said during Wednesday's regular press conference that "all Chen's moves are testament to the hypocritical deception of his commitment in his inauguration speech."

The Taiwan leader had advocated a pro-independence timetable to draft a new "constitution" through referendum in 2006 and enact the document in 2008 ahead of the island's "presidential" elections, to be held in March.

Beijing views the plan for adopting a new "constitution" for the island as tantamount to a formal declaration of independence, which may trigger the use of "non-peaceful means.''

Although, Chen did not reiterate his splittist timetable at his inauguration ceremony after a controversial election victory, he initiated a so-called "constitutional re-engineering project."

"Chen has apparently not abandoned his pro-independence stance," says Li Jiaquan, a senior researcher with the Institute of Taiwan Studies under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

"His proposal to change the island's name is just a covert way of replacing the 'Republic of China' with 'Republic of Taiwan'."

The ultimate goal of Chen's pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) is to eliminate the "Republic of China" and found a new country on the island.

As a clear signal of his instinctive rejection of reunification with the mainland, Chen strongly attacked Beijing's proposals to realize eventual reunification across the Taiwan Straits.

Fear of reunification law

It is crystal clear that both Taiwan and the mainland are part of China and Premier Wen Jiabao said in May that the Chinese Government will consider legislative steps to fight extreme pro-independence moves by Taiwan's separatist forces.

During his visit to Britain, Wen told a group of overseas Chinese living in the United Kingdom that Beijing will "seriously consider" a proposal to introduce legislation mandating eventual reunification between the two sides of the Taiwan Straits.

The premier's comments came as a response to a proposal by 76-year-old president of the council for promotion of national reunification of China in the UK Shan Sheng. He said China's top legislature should draft and adopt a reunification law to prevent Taiwan from edging towards independence.

"Given the desperate push for Taiwan independence by separatist forces, it is pressing for the country to enact a reunification law," said Shan.

"The legislative move may play a role in deterring pro-independence members and also serve as a way of striving for a peaceful settlement of the Taiwan question."

Chen, however, distorted the proposed reunification law as Beijing's plan "to use military force and non-peaceful means to invade and attack Taiwan."

Xu Bodong, director of the Institute of Taiwan Studies at Beijing Union University, says Chen's attack against the reunification law only suggested his fear of the law.

"The reunification law has precisely hit the vitals of Chen, who is preoccupied with pursuit of formal independence for Taiwan," he tells China Daily.

"Otherwise, Chen has no reason to be so afraid of the law mandating cross-Straits reunification."

Xu emphasizes that it is just Chen's continuous push for Taiwan independence that entails the legislation of the reunification law.

Beijing Tongrentang, a famous traditional Chinese medicine brand, sets up its first flagship store in Taipei in January. [newsphoto/file]
In fact, the Taiwan leader's determination to alienate Taiwan from the mainland has been so pervasive and strong that even the island's plan to restructure its government agency has reflected his de-sinofication effort.

Taiwan is now planning to dismantle the "mainland affairs council", its top policy-making body in cross-Straits affairs, and convert it to a lower-ranking office under the "executive yuan" or the its "cabinet'' by January 1 next year.

Some observers say the restructuring would downgrade the status of the Council as it would become a mere office under the "cabinet'' and not an independent body.

The change will pave the way for the office to become part of its "foreign ministry'' and the eventual classification of mainland-Taiwan ties as foreign relations, which would further de-emphasize the island's links with the mainland, they say.

"The DPP's goal is to put relations with the mainland under the 'foreign ministry'," says Xu Bodong.

He adds that Council reform is merely an "interim phase" towards that end, and therefore a step towards independence.

Bid for UN membership

On the international front, Chen has launched another bid for United Nations membership, which requires statehood and again suffered failure.

This is the 12th time that Taiwan has tried, in vain, to join the United Nations in as many years.

The 59th session of the General Assembly presided by Jean Ping, the general assembly president, refuse once again to include the so-called issue of "Taiwan's participation in the UN" in the agenda of the General Assembly. [newsphoto]

Beijing has been accusing Taipei of using the issue to create "two Chinas" and "one China, one Taiwan" within the UN to achieve Taiwan independence.

To play up the doomed campaign, Chen's administration launched an advertising blitz in the United States and Europe, targeting billboards, newspapers and broadcasting outlets.

Meanwhile, Chen himself managed to hold a video conference with the UN Correspondents Association on Wednesday, drumming up support for the UN campaign.

To promote "transit diplomacy," Chen made transit visits in Hawaii and Seattle during a trip to Central America at the beginning of this month.

"All these moves demonstrate that Chen has never abandoned his splittist plot," says Wu Nengyuan, director of the Institute of Modern Taiwan Studies under the Fujian Academy of Social Sciences.

"Rather, he has tried every means and taken every opportunity to promote Taiwan independence on all occasions and in different forms."

Wu adds that Chen's pro-independence nature is also reflected by his determination to fight reunification with military build-up.

Since taking power in May 2000, Chen's pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party administration has spent US$12.5 billion on procurement of US arms, including fighter jets, Kidd-class destroyers and diesel submarines.

Given the DPP administration's larger purchase of sophisticated weapons to guarantee its pro-independence push, Taiwan's budget deficit rose from NT$142.5 billion (US$4.21 billion) in 2001 to NT$238.1 billion (US$7.03 billion) in 2003.

The island is now planning a controversial special budget of NT$610 billion (US$18 billion) to buy advanced weaponry, including eight conventional submarines, modified Patriot anti-missile systems and anti-submarine aircraft, over a 15-year period from 2005.

The three-year-old arms deal would be the biggest weapons sale to Taiwan in a decade.

Wang Zaixi, vice-minister of the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council, called it an "unwise move" for Taipei to engage in a military build-up through huge purchases of advanced weapons from the United States.

The island's arms build-up will not only jeopardize cross-Straits relations but also hurt the immediate benefits of Taiwan compatriots, he said.

"The security of Taiwan depends on how Chen deals with the one-China principle rather than buying more aircraft and missiles for the island," Wang said in earlier interview with China Daily, adding that the more arms Taiwan buys, the bigger the danger it will face.

Since he took power in May, 2000, Chen has refused to embrace the one-China principle that there is only one China in the world; both Taiwan and the mainland are part of China.

Instead, he has been engaging creeping pro-independence moves while preaching that the island is "an independent country" and "there is one country on each side (of the Taiwan Straits)."

Disgraceful role of US

Li Jiaquan blamed Washington for Taipei's growing tilt towards independence.

"As Taiwan's biggest arms supplier, Washington has always been playing an ignominious role on the Taiwan question by lending covert or overt support to pro-independence forces in Taiwan," he says.

The United States has been urging the island to strengthen its defence against the mainland, citing Beijing's growing military power.

A US Defence Department report in June even proposed the island consider development of a missile that could strike civilian targets on the mainland.

Those targets could include the massive Three Gorges Dam, the world's largest hydroelectric project on the Yangtze River in Central China, or the 468-metre-high Oriental Pearl TV tower in Shanghai.

Wang Zaixi urged Washington to stop arms sales to Taiwan that will send the wrong signals to pro-independence forces and encourage the island to push for formal independence and threaten peace in the region.

The vice-minister stressed that separatist activities by pro-independence forces in Taiwan remained the "biggest threat" to peace and stability in the Taiwan Straits and the Asia-Pacific region.

"We're especially concerned about the US sales of large quantities of advanced weapons to Taiwan and closer military ties between the United States and Taiwan," he said.

"If Washington continues to send wrong signals, Taiwan independence forces will be confident of going down the splittist road as far as possible."

Analysts say the United States should come to recognize Chen's push for independence benefits neither China nor the United States.

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