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
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
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. …