Taiwan President Views Future of Chinese World

The Christian Science Monitor, May 21, 1997 | Go to article overview
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Taiwan President Views Future of Chinese World


He urges US to act decisively in a crisis to avoid repeat of Korean War; assesses post-Hong Kong trade; presses spiritual renewal

ONE year after becoming the first democratically elected president of the Republic of China (Taiwan), Lee Teng-hui answered questions from Monitor editors.

Hong Kong has long served as a vital link between Taiwan and the mainland in trade and investment. What changes, if any, will follow the return of Hong Kong to Peking's control? Economic and trade relations between Taiwan and Hong Kong have always been very close. Hong Kong serves as an important relay for economic contacts between Taiwan and the Chinese mainland. It is the set policy of the Republic of China (ROC) government that after Hong Kong's status changes on July 1, relations and exchanges between Taiwan and Hong Kong will be maintained. Toward this end, the ROC has already formulated the Statute Governing Relations with Hong Kong and Macau, which stipulates that the ROC will treat Hong Kong as a "special administrative region" rather than as an area of the Chinese mainland. It is our hope that Hong Kong will be able to maintain both a high degree of autonomy and its current free economic system, and so long as it does, economic, social, and cultural exchanges between Taiwan and Hong Kong will continue to grow. But it is indisputable that several elements of post-1997 Taiwan-Hong Kong relations remain uncertain. The lengthy separation of Hong Kong and the Chinese mainland has led to a wide gulf between ideologies, lifestyles, values, and even legal standards in the two areas. This will affect Hong Kong's stability and continued prosperity in the future. The ROC government looks forward to the establishment of a stable foundation and new framework that will be conducive to the maintenance of relations between Taiwan and Hong Kong. Such a development will allow for the further expansion of mutually beneficial and reciprocal relations between Taiwan, Hong Kong, and the Chinese mainland. However, the attainment of this goal also will require cooperative and concerted efforts from all sides. An increasing number of scholars in Taiwan, Hong Kong, the mainland, and elsewhere are talking about the emergence of an economic, cultural, and possibly political "Greater China." How do you envision such a possibility? Looking at the international situation that has evolved since the end of the cold war, we can see that at present there is no single country or region that can afford to alienate itself from the global family of nations. Chinese people in Taiwan, Hong Kong, the Chinese mainland, and other areas generally all identify with the same cultural heritage. However, the political systems, social structures, and the extent of economic development in the various areas differ considerably, and disputes between different groups arise over even basic viewpoints. In light of this situation, it seems too early to speak of a "Greater China." Does the ROC expect the United States to defend it against any possible military attack by the mainland regime? In March of last year, the mainland authorities conducted military exercises and missile tests in the Taiwan Strait in an attempt to disrupt the first direct presidential election in Chinese history. Why? Because governing according to the will of the people is the "Western" practice that Peking fears the most. As the very existence of a democratic Taiwan poses a tremendous threat to Peking's dictatorship, the mainland authorities are unwilling to make a concrete commitment to end the state of hostility across the Strait. As we face a constant military threat posed by the Chinese mainland, the ROC is already well prepared to counter any action. We are nevertheless encouraged by the concern the US has shown for our national security, and we are particularly grateful for the US decision to dispatch two aircraft carrier groups last March to cruise in the vicinity of Taiwan.

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