- The Washington Times - Friday, June 2, 2000


TAIPEI, Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian is speaking softly toward China, but has embarked on a strategy to maintain his island's separation from the mainland that, if successful, still could provoke a Chinese attack.
The main element of this strategy is a vigorous effort to enhance a sense of identity among the people of Taiwan, especially in revising education to emphasize Taiwan's history and culture.
Mr. Chen, who was inaugurated May 20, ending a half-century of Nationalist Party rule in Taiwan, is expected to stress the progress of democracy and the conversion of Taiwan's economy into a "green silicon island." He further seeks to expand Taiwan's diplomatic reach and the island's military power.
Mr. Chen has not articulated his strategy in public and is not likely to do so as he tries to avoid provoking Beijing, which sees Taiwan as a breakaway province that it has threatened to conquer by force.
But an outline of the strategy can be discerned in a book Mr. Chen wrote last year, in his subtly defiant inaugural address, and from conversations with his close advisers in Taipei.
Danger will arise if the strategy is successful, as that will most likely frustrate leaders in Beijing and may cause them to launch a military attack on Taiwan.
That, in turn, would probably bring the United States and possibly Japan and South Korea into the fray. The United States is committed to a peaceful resolution of the dispute between Taiwan and China; Japan is committed, under new defense guidelines, to assist the United States in such hostilities; and South Korea is the station of 37,000 U.S. troops.
The Chen strategy, according to analysts in Taipei, is intended to counter what they see as a campaign of psychological warfare calculated to browbeat Taiwan into submission with military threats, political pressure, diplomatic isolation, economic disruption, subversion and propaganda.
"China has had more than 2000 years of experience with psychological warfare," said Ni Lexiong, a senior fellow at the Institute of National Defense in Shanghai during a recent visit to Hawaii. "The People's Liberation Army has recently brought that up to date."
At the moment, Beijing seems to be vacillating in its attacks on Taipei, one day sending belligerent messages via the official media, the next day a softer message through officials speaking in public.
Many observers believe China's main thrust will not be decided until Chinese political and military leaders hold their annual meeting in the seaside resort of Beidaihe in August.
"Taiwan does not sail on smooth seas," Mr. Chen wrote in his book entitled "Son of Taiwan."
"Taiwan cannot afford to be quixotic concerning any opponent, nor can we let them dictate our position. Rather, we must anticipate all their possible reactions and formulate strategic countermeasures."
The critical component of this strategy is to expand the Taiwanese sense of identity that has flowered in recent years. That was evident in Mr. Chen's inaugural ceremonies when almost all of the music, the dancers, and special guests were Taiwanese rather than Chinese, and the national anthem was sung by a popular singer, A Mei, who is an aborigine.
In his address, Mr. Chen drew a distinction between Taiwanese and Chinese cultures and applauded grass-roots organizations "working to explore and preserve the history, culture, geography and ecology of their localities."
Political analysts and members of Mr. Chen's Democratic Progressive Party said students would be taught more Taiwanese and less Chinese history and more about Taiwan's traditions, art and literature.
Over the past decade, Taiwanese scholars and writers have begun to flourish; before, they were repressed by the Nationalist government dominated by Chinese who fled from the mainland with General Chiang Kai-shek in 1949.
Mr. Chen's defiance of China came in the title of his address, "Taiwan Stands Up," and in repeating that theme three times in the text.
High priority will be given to asserting that Taiwan has become democratic, with three direct elections in the past four years in which 76 percent to 83 percent of the eligible voters turned out.
In addition, Taiwan has accomplished perhaps the most difficult of all political actions, the peaceful transfer of power from one party to another.
Mr. Chen, according to his advisers, will expand the flexible diplomacy begun by Mr. Lee. Taiwan has diplomatic relations with only about 30 nations, the rest being conducted by quasi-official organizations such as the American Institute in Taiwan, which is an embassy in all but name.National security, Mr. Chen says in his book, "outranks all other issues in importance." Therefore, he says, "Taiwan must foster the concept of deep-level defense" with augmented reconnaissance, assessments of Chinese military deployments, and intelligence exchange with nations in the region.
In sum, Mr. Chen seeks to play for time in hopes that China will become less hostile and Taiwan will gain more space in the international arena. He will continue to speak calmly to Beijing, but will not concede to its demands.

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