Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

China and Taiwan: A Very Slow Waltz

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

China and Taiwan: A Very Slow Waltz

Article excerpt

In the euphoria accompanying the peaceful reunification of China and Hong Kong, a discordant background note is clearly audible: With Hong Kong back in the fold, the next step is to arrange the return of the "breakaway" province of Taiwan.

To many people on the mainland, that seems logical, if not a national obligation. The difference between the two situations, however, is profound.

Without downplaying the great progress that Hong Kong made under British rule, a fundamental logic supported China taking control of its former territory. Hong Kong was an integral part of China when Britain took possession of it in a shameful episode of imperialism at its worst (the 19th century Opium Wars). Moreover, for a key part of the territory, the lease literally was expiring and the landlord (the government in Beijing) had no desire to renew it. Also, the rule of law the English brought to Hong Kong, while essential to its development, had its limits. The governor was appointed by London. As Hong Kongers have been quick to remind us, the British waited almost a century and a half before introducing a popularly elected legislature. What about Taiwan? In the long sweep of history, Taiwan's ties to China have been far weaker than Hong Kong's. Over the years, Taiwan has been administered by the Portuguese, the Dutch, and the Japanese. The island was colonized by Europeans and later taken over by China. The current Beijing leadership has never ruled the area. China is offering the same deal it struck for Hong Kong: "one country, two systems." As China's Prime Minister Li Peng has stated, "We have consistently stood for reunification ... by peaceful means." He has added ominously, "But we have not forsworn the use of force." On that score, I recall a meeting last year with officials of a key Chinese city. After the usual pleasantries, we discussed China's relations with Taiwan. I noted that, since President Nixon's historic visit to China in 1972, our official policy has been that the United States looks forward to the peaceful unification of China and Taiwan. The leader of the delegation responded with a pointed question, "When the South left the Union, did you use force? …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.