- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 16, 2001

SHANGHAI With less than five days to go, Taiwanese and Chinese officials yesterday still had not agreed on who should represent the island at a summit of 21 Pacific Rim economies in Shanghai.

The two archrivals wound up in their latest squabble after China indicated it would not bow to Taiwan's wish of sending a former vice president, Li Yuan-zu, to this weekend's informal summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum.

Even though both Chinese and Taiwanese representatives said they were working hard to find a solution, a compromise seemed remote, as both appeared equally hopeful that the other side would give in.

"Li is an extremely suitable choice," said Steve Chen, Taiwan's vice minister of economic affairs. "Since we are in the middle of talks, we don't want to rule out anyone."

Taiwan's hopes of being represented by Mr. Li, now a special presidential adviser, at the APEC leaders' summit, is opposed by China because it considers him too political a figure.

Mr. Li, a native of China's Hunan province, was the vice president of the Republic of China (Taiwan) from 1990 to 1996, while the island was governed by the nationalist Kuomintang party.

"We hope Taiwan will send someone in accordance with the rules," Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhu Bangzao said.

China, which considers Taiwan a renegade province after the two split in 1949 after a civil war, has set strict conditions for accepting the island's membership in APEC.

The main precondition is that Taiwan does not send its president to the annual APEC summits, but rather an economic decision-maker.

At last year's APEC summit in Brunei, Taiwan's representative was Peng Fai-nan, the central bank governor.

"We can accept any Taiwan representative as long as the choice is in accordance with APEC rules and practice," Mr. Zhu said.

Taiwanese media had said sending Mr. Li, a law professor-turned-politician, would be a "breakthrough" for Taiwan in countering China's bid to squeeze it out of the international community.

The failure of the two sides to agree on a suitable Taiwan representative five days before the APEC summit reflects the tense nature of relations between the two sides.

This year, Taiwan repeatedly stated its hope that President Chen Shui-bian could attend the APEC summit, and China also has repeatedly rejected the proposal.

That came as no surprise to observers, since Mr. Chen built his political career as a high-profile advocate of Taiwan independence from mainland China.

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