- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 8, 2005

China’s idea of negotiations with Taiwan is dictating surrender terms. Last week’s events bring this into stark relief.

Tuesday, Lien Chan — leader of the Nationalist Party who lost the last two presidential elections — ended his historic eight-day visit to China. It was the first time since the end of the civil war a Nationalist leader set foot on the Mainland.

A gentle, scholarly man, doubtless, Mr. Lien had the best intentions. Unfortunately, his visit strengthened Beijing’s position — by allowing it to deal with a party leader, rather than representatives of a duly constituted government.

As Mr. Lien departed, Wang Zaixi of the Communist Party’s Taiwan Affairs Office, announced there would be no talks with the party of Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian, until it removes references to the island’s independence from its constitution.

“For the time being, we have no party-to-party exchanges with the Democratic Progressive Party, for the key reason that its party constitution advocates Taiwan independence,” Mr. Wang explained. Advocates? Say rather it recognizes the reality Taiwan is self-governing, as it has been for almost 60 years, and its people have a right to keep it that way.

Beijing also demanded Mr. Chen stop his “separatist activities.” Presumably, this includes Taipei’s annual bids for United Nations and WHO membership (which started under the Nationalists). The communists want Taiwan to stop trying to represent its people in international forums — to stop acting like what it is: a sovereign state (with more people than almost two-thirds of U.N. member states and the world’s 18th largest economy).

Next, the communists probably will demand Taiwan close its embassies in 27 nations and its representative offices in 122 foreign cities — all “separatist activities,” in China’s eyes.

Beijing insists on unilateral concessions before “party-to-party” exchanges with the DPP — not negotiations with the elected representatives of the Taiwanese. For 13 years, Taiwan’s leaders have been chosen by the people. China’s rulers are selected by an oligarchy oblivious to popular demands.

And here we come to the heart of the matter: As far as China is concerned, there is no government on Taiwan.

The PRC’s position (stated ad nauseam) is this:

(1) There is one China.

(2) This China is ruled by the communists.

(3) Therefore, because it refuses to acknowledge communist rule, Taiwan is a “province in rebellion.”

To get Taiwan back in the fold, China alternately cajoles and bullies: It offers the Taiwanese limited autonomy for 50 years. Then it threatens invasion. It facilitates cross-straits trade. Then it augments arsenal of missiles (currently close to 700) targeting Taiwan. It calls Taiwan’s elected president a criminal and a provocateur. Then it says it will send the Taiwanese pandas, in lieu of missiles — for the time being.

These are perilous times for the people of Taiwan. Their parties are deeply divided on how best to deal with the Mainland menace. The Nationalists urge that Taipei do nothing to antagonize China. The DPP fluctuates between asserting Taiwan sovereignty and appealing to Beijing to bargain with it.

In the meantime, America — pledged to support the island’s defense — warns the Taiwanese not to upset the status quo by asserting their rights. The low point came last November, when then-Secretary of State Colin Powell declared China and Taiwan should “move forward toward the day when we will see a peaceful unification” — of a free people with totalitarian thugs.

Taiwan’s leaders should recall the words of Rabbi Hillel, “If I am not for myself, who will be?” America should remember Winston Churchill’s warning about feeding the crocodile “in the hope that he will eat you last.”

Taiwan can ill afford to just sit quietly and wait to be devoured — worse, to invite the tiger to the dinner table.

Don Feder is a consultant and free-lance writer based in Massachusetts.

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