For nearly three years, until last month, China has adopted a non-
bellicose approach toward Taiwan, whose independence stirrings
greatly upset Beijing, and brought censure last week from President
Bush. China's so-called "soft strategy" has earned it points for a
reasonable moderation that promotes stability and avoids an
inflammatory war of words over Taiwan's status.
Yet parallel to Beijing's soft strategy has been a tough strategy
of harassment designed to block Taiwan from any normal activity.
This "hard strategy," little noted, has further isolated Taiwan in
the international arena. It includes an extraordinary range of
actions, both major and minor - from impeding free-trade agreements
in Asia, to censuring Taiwanese world beauty-pageant contestants, to
a recent build up of missiles aimed from the Fujian coastline.
Take, for example, Taiwan's effort to join the World Expo 2005 in
Japan. Taiwan cannot participate as a state, but was told it could
have a booth as an unofficial entity. "We were told not to worry,
that it was no problem," a Taipei official states. "We worked hard
on our proposal. Then in October, on the eve of the announcement, we
heard - no Taiwan presence. China discovered our plan, and made a
demand of Tokyo that it couldn't refuse."
Last summer, to take another example, a Taiwanese diplomat flew
to Morocco for a women's issues forum. The diplomat, a woman, had
not only a visa, but a letter of invitation from the president of
Morocco. Yet at Moroccan customs she was ushered into a small room,
and given the news: She could not enter. A Chinese diplomat had
created a fuss.
China has long blocked Taiwanese participation in international
venues, and wooed its diplomatic allies in an effort to diminish the
island's status. China ardently regards Taiwan as part of the
motherland. Yet as China continues to rise in the region, and as the
number of nations with formal ties to Taiwan has fallen to 27,
Beijing is trying to further box Taiwan within its island borders,
officials here say. They also point to worries in Beijing this fall
after 200,000 Taiwanese marched in what appeared to be solidarity
with 500,000 Hong Kong protesters.
Below the media radar screen China has stepped up efforts to wear
out, demoralize, and, as one Taipei defense specialist says,
"psychologically browbeat" the island of 23 million. The "hard
strategy" ranges from tracking Taiwanese diplomats, to a systematic
strangling of effort to conduct free-trade agreements, to the
effective banning of visits by Taiwanese leaders to most nations of
In the past year, they argue, China has launched a full-scale
effort to nullify any Taiwanese presence in the nongovernmental
organization realm. This includes participation in conferences and
scholarly exchanges in areas like agriculture, the arts, the
environment, arms control, and social issues such as health and