Slow Flight to China

Article excerpt

Taiwan's President Lee Teng-hui's offer to fly to Beijing for peace talks is not in a league with Sadat's flight to Jerusalem or Eisenhower's flight to Korea.

The two earlier flights dramatically reversed the course of cold and hot wars in the Mideast and East Asia. President Lee's Rubicon, the Taiwan Strait, won't be crossed soon.

But jaw, jaw is still better than war, war. And having the leaders of the governments in Taipei and Beijing lobbing peace-flight proposals at each other is a sensible move away from missiles lobbed across the strait. The two sides can now get back to taking practical steps beyond Taiwan's present trade and investment on the mainland.

Both Mr. Lee and China's President Jiang Zemin have proposed a summit to discuss the long-term goal of reunification. Lee places such an end to the half century of China's civil war somewhere in the 21st century.

In the past, Deng Xiaoping, who steered China in its U-turn from communism, indicated a long timetable for the reintegration of both Hong Kong and Taiwan into the mainland economy. What Lee would obviously like to accomplish is to:

1. Fend off Beijing's efforts to isolate Taiwan internationally.

2. Increase both the volume and the normality of Taiwan's business links with the mainland - trade, transport, and safe investment.

3. Keep dialogue alive to prevent future missile-rattling.

4. Calm fears of Taiwan's global business partners and stock-market traders about China-Taiwan clashes. …