- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 28, 2002

A delegation of Chinese specialists on Taiwan said the mainland is prepared to give Taiwan broad freedom to follow its own economic and political path after reunification and suggested that the island could stage baseball and other events for the 2008 Olympic Games awarded to Beijing.
But Xu Shiquan, president of the Beijing-based Institute of Taiwan Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, also said in an interview that the communist government had "no room to retreat" on the fundamental question of China's sovereignty over Taiwan, which the communist mainland considers a renegade province.
"Don't put us in a corner," said Mr. Xu, who headed the delegation, which met this week with editors and reporters at The Washington Times.
Chinese officials floated the idea of sharing some of the Summer Olympic events even before Beijing was awarded the 2008 Games in July 2001.
Baseball was high on the list because of the many stadiums in Taiwan, the quality of the professional leagues there and Taiwan's bronze-medal performance in the Seoul Games of 1988.
But the offer has divided officials in Taiwan, where senior members of the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) of President Chen Shui-bian rejected the idea almost immediately. Vice President Annette Lu said Taiwan should not try to bask in Beijing's Olympic glory.
But Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou of the opposition Nationalist Party came out immediately in favor of the idea.
Mr. Xu said the baseball offer underscored Beijing's willingness to try to accommodate Taiwanese concerns, large and small, as it works toward eventual reunification with the mainland.
The idea of sharing the baseball competition with Taiwan "is a very popular one in Beijing," he said, "although it would still have to be approved by the International Olympic Committee."
Accompanying Mr. Xu were Su Ge, senior research fellow at the China Institute of International Studies in Beijing, and Yang Jiemian, senior fellow at the Shanghai Institute for International Studies.
The researchers' visit comes at a particularly delicate time in Sino-U.S. relations.
Chinese President Jiang Zemin will make a much-anticipated visit to President Bush's Crawford, Texas, ranch next month for high-level talks, just days before the 16th Communist Party Congress is expected to begin a transition to a new generation of leaders under Hu Jintao. A recent Pentagon study concluded that Beijing is building up its military arsenal with the intent of intimidating Taiwan.
For his part, Mr. Chen, who was elected president of the Republic of China (Taiwan) in 2000, has infuriated the mainland with public statements broadly hinting that he sees Taiwan as a separate state equal in status to China.
Mr. Chen's wife, Wen Shu-chen, earlier this week made the first visit by a Taiwanese first lady to Washington in a half-century, repeatedly stressing Taiwan's vigorous, even unruly democracy and its right to a place in the "community of nations."
The Chinese Taiwan experts said they believed Beijing was prepared to go a long way toward meeting Taiwanese concerns about reunification, if only the island's leaders definitively dropped any talks of independence.
Mr. Su noted that several issues were finessed in China's takeover of Hong Kong and Macao. China, for example, does not permit its citizens to hold dual citizenship, which many in Macao held before the transfer of power from Portugal. Beijing decreed that Macao residents would hold only Chinese passports, but could keep any "international travel documents" they had held previously.
The "One China/Two Systems" formula used for hypercapitalist Hong Kong could be adapted for Taiwan, Mr. Xu contended, despite what would appear to be incompatible political systems and a strong popular sentiment in Taiwan that opposes any reunification.
"Taiwan could keep the government system it has and the economy it now enjoys," he said. "The mainland would be sending no government officials, no army, no tax collectors to oversee the island."
Only on foreign policy would Beijing insist on a single voice, he said. Taiwan's representation in hundreds of nongovernmental organizations could also continue after reunification.
But Taiwan skeptics say the island's new democratic reality encapsulated in Mr. Chen's March 2000 electoral victory and the peaceful transfer of power from the long-ruling Nationalists makes a further alienation between the mainland and Taiwan inevitable, raising the odds for conflict.

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