China and Taiwan: Cross-Strait Relations under Chen Sui-Bian

China and Taiwan: Cross-Strait Relations under Chen Sui-Bian

China and Taiwan: Cross-Strait Relations under Chen Sui-Bian

China and Taiwan: Cross-Strait Relations under Chen Sui-Bian

Excerpt

Since his election on 18 March 2000, Taiwan’s new President Chen Shui-bian has surprised many people by his flexibility in handling the tension across the Taiwan Strait. He has not adopted the provocative style of his predecessor Lee Teng-hui, and as he himself often did before becoming President. Instead, he repeatedly appealed for improved relations with Beijing. Taking his cue from the historic reconciliation between North Korean leader Kim Jong Il and his South Korean counterpart Kim Dae Jung in their summit in Pyongyang in midJune 2000, Chen invited Chinese President Jiang Zemin for a summit “to shake hands and reconcile in creating a historic moment”. He said, “If North and South Korea can, why can’t the two sides of the [Taiwan] strait?” For inspiration, he even placed in his study a picture of the Korean leaders shaking hands at their summit.

Though it is too early to say what will become of the two Koreas, their dramatic summit, after fifty years of military confrontation, with reunification as their jointly declared target, is historic enough. However, a cross-strait summit along the lines of the Korean summit is unlikely to take place soon. There are several reasons for this.

The first and foremost reason is that, as the former head of Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council (MAC), Chang King-yuh, has noted, “[T]he two Koreas do not have a problem of whether there is one Korea or whether they are Korean”. Both the Koreas strongly and consistently embrace the notion of one nation, one people, and eventual reunification.

Chen and the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) have so far refused to accept the notion of one China, even if they could interpret this “one China” as the Republic of China (ROC) instead of the People’s Republic of China (PRC). Chen insists that “the summit should not be limited by preconditions” — that is, Beijing’s insistence on the “one China” principle.

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