Taiwan Can't Shake Hands with China's Iron Fist

Article excerpt

In a recent Washington Post interview, Jiang Zemin, the ultimate decisionmaker for the People's Republic of China (PRC), explicitly ruled out any final cross-strait arrangement other than Beijing's "one country, two systems" formula. This formula expressly is designed to reduce Taiwan to a local entity, a provincial government, under the central political authority of Beijing. The "one country, two systems" solution was developed 18 years ago, and Beijing's insistence on pressing Taiwan to accept the concept disingenuously ignores the fundamental political and social differences between Taiwan and the mainland. It also refuses to take into account the unprecedented democratic achievements of the Taiwanese people during the last 18 years.

Beijing's implementation of the "one country, two systems" model in Hong Kong and Macao has had mixed success. However, the administration of each of these two territories was transferred directly from a colonial government to Beijing.

Taiwan, on the other hand, is a democracy with its own national defense and foreign relations. Thus, any attempt to integrate the two sides of the Taiwan Strait will have to take into account the wishes of the Taiwanese people. That is why Taipei insists that the future "one China" issue must itself be discussed according to the principles of democracy and parity. And, in fact, various public-opinion polls taken during the last decade show a large majority of the Taiwanese people steadfastly oppose the "one country, two systems" formula.

One can't blame them for their reluctance. The mainland is plagued by authoritarian politics, rampant corruption and the authorities' disregard for the basic human rights of their own people. So how can the people of Taiwan trust Beijing to honor their human rights? The mainland regime has not even earned the right to request unification with Taiwan, let alone demand it. The existing political and social systems on the Chinese mainland hold no attraction whatsoever for us.

Given that the political future of the Taiwan Strait cannot reasonably be resolved without mutual dialogue and consultation, Taipei has taken concrete and constructive steps to resume the cross-strait dialogue with Beijing. In 1992, delegations from Taiwan and the mainland managed to reach significant mutual understandings on the cross-strait relationship. The spirit of the 1992 breakthrough involved dialogue, exchanges and agreeing to set aside controversial disputes. As Republic of China President Chen Shui-bian has pointed out, Taipei does not intend to avoid any issue, and discussions through established institutional channels for cross-strait communication should be the top priority for both sides.

But such dialogue must be conducted without any precondition. Any serious and effective solution to the protracted cross-strait stalemate will have to secure for both sides mutually acceptable rights to full control of defense capabilities and operations and a decent international status. …