Home>News Center>China>Foreign Media On China

China disapproves Taiwan independence signals
Updated: 2006-03-01 08:48


China reacted sharply Tuesday to the decision by Taiwan "President" Chen Shui-Bian to terminate the island's unification council, a move that analysts say has shaken confidence in Beijing that pressure from Washington or Mr. Chen's electoral setbacks will be sufficient to check his drive for formal independence.

Mr. Chen Monday formally scrapped the National Unification Council and guidelines for unification with the mainland. Though largely moribund, the council and the guidelines were symbols of Taiwan's political links to Beijing that Mr. Chen had once vowed to preserve.

Beijing responded by declaring that the step threatened stability in the Taiwan Strait and the Asian region. Preventing Mr. Chen from using "constitutional engineering" to achieve legal independence for Taiwan has become "the most important and most urgent task" facing the mainland today, China's Taiwan Affairs Office said in a statement.

Joseph Wu, the chairman of the Mainland Affairs Council, the Taiwanese government agency that handles relations with Beijing, rejected the mainland's objections today, repeating Mr. Chen's position that Taiwan was only trying to preserve a balance in its relations across the Taiwan Strait even as Beijing builds up its military forces facing the island.

"The criticism by China is groundless," he said. "What we are doing has nothing to do with changing the status quo."

Mr. Chen's persistence in pursuing narrow but politically potent goals aligned with Taiwan's independence movement has undermined hopes in Beijing that the Chen had been stymied by the upset victory of the opposition Nationalist Party in local elections last year. Many Chinese experts also expected that the Bush administration would do more to prevent Mr. Chen from trying to legalize Taiwan's independent status.

"The reality is that even under heavy American pressure, Chen Shui-Bian is determined to provoke a big response from China," said Huang Jiashu, a Taiwan expert at People's University in Beijing.

"He pushes through this measure today and something else tomorrow," Mr. Huang said, adding, "You cannot rule out a confrontation before 2008," when Mr. Chen's second and final term ends.

Mr. Chen still faces an uphill struggle to achieve formal independence for Taiwan, the main goal of his core political constituency. His popularity ratings have sunk into the 20's in some recent polls. The Taiwan legislature, which would have to approve changes to the island's Constitution, is controlled by the opposition Nationalists, who favor more cordial ties to the mainland.

Moreover, the United States, Taiwan's only major military and political partner, has tried to check creeping moves toward independence there. Washington needs China's help in managing pressing problems such as the nuclear programs in North Korea and Iran and seems determined to prevent Taiwan from undermining diplomatic ties to Beijing.

Even so, the scrapping of the unification council, which Mr. Chen first signaled in late January, was widely viewed in Beijing as a test of how successfully the United States could constrain Mr. Chen. The result is viewed as mixed.

After a concerted diplomatic push by the Bush administration, Mr. Chen modified the wording of his order, saying the council would "cease to function" rather than be abolished, as he said he would do in late January. He also reiterated his pledge to maintain the status quo in cross-Strait relations.

The pledge and the wording change appeared to reassure Washington. The State Department issued a statement Monday that took note of Mr. Chen's decision not to formally abolish the council, suggesting that Washington considered that a significant concession.

But Beijing viewed the sequence of events as ominous, arguing that Mr. Chen effectively prevailed over Washington's objections.

"Although he did not use the term "abolish" and changed the term to "cease function," this is merely a word game," the Taiwan Affairs Office said. "Basically he is tricking the Taiwan people and international opinion."

Yan Xuetong, an international relations expert at Tsinghua University in Beijing, said that Mr. Chen had shown that he can manage American pressure. Though Mr. Chen violated his pledge to the United States to leave the unification council in place, he ended up winning tacit American support for his effort to terminate the body, Mr. Yan said.

Page: 12

Skyscraper fire in Ningbo
CPPCC members in Beijing
China to increase spending on education
  Today's Top News     Top China News

Party affairs to be more transparent



Debate on corporate tax law fast-tracked



Experts discuss energy security



US trade report attacks, praises China



Chen's separatist policies widely condemned



'Forbidden garden' to be renovated


  200b yuan earmarked for transport improvement
  Chen's separatist policies widely condemned
  Party affairs to be more transparent
  The old curiosity shop: there are many here
  Coach fire leaves 16 dead in S. China
  CPC calls for stronger performance of CPPCC
  Go to Another Section  
  Story Tools  
Manufacturers, Exporters, Wholesalers - Global trade starts here.