assessments

Taiwan: Taking Advantage of a Beleaguered Beijing

3 MINS READFeb 22, 2005 | 04:19 GMT
Summary
Taiwanese Premier Frank Hsieh on Feb. 21 asked Taiwan's leaders and people to tone down talk of independence and called for a "one-country, one-system policy" with China. Hsieh is ostensibly trying to reduce tensions between Beijing and Taipei, but further examination of his recent statement reveals a different intent. Hsieh is advocating a democratic China, contradicting Beijing's desire to unite the island and the mainland under Communism.
Taiwanese Premier Frank Hsieh has called for a new relationship between the island and mainland China. In a Feb. 21 interview with the Taipei Times, Hsieh asked the Taiwanese to soften appeals for independence and, at the same time, pressed for a democratic China. This latest move indicates a Taiwan that is less vocal on the independence issue while subtly promoting a democratic China. Hsieh, appointed premier at the end of January after the Cabinet resigned, is in charge of improving relations between the island and the mainland. Since assuming office, Hsieh has called for increased cooperation with the mainland on issues such as smuggling. His Taipei Times interview reiterates that Taiwan is interested in an improved relationship with China but the rhetoric veils Hsieh's true intentions. While asking the island to tone down talk of independence, Hsieh also supports democracy in China. He said in the Feb. 21 interview, "I don't think two different political systems will bring stability" and that a "more sensible approach would be to help China become a more democratic society." Hsieh calls his idea a "one-country, one-system" policy, which contradicts the "one-country, two-system" approach that currently characterizes the relationship. The one-country, one-system agenda encourages freedom of religion, opinion and politics — all of which China controls. Hsieh's agenda, while encouraging China to democratize, also mimics U.S. President George W. Bush's plan to promote democracy around the world. Taiwan has historically been close to the United States, but Hsieh seems willing to bolster the friendship by promoting Bush's second-term agenda of confronting tyranny worldwide. Since 2004, the United States has championed efforts to enhance Taiwan's defense capabilities and to further ally Taiwan with Japan. Leaders from the United States and Japan met Feb. 19 to discuss bringing Taiwan into Japan's defense sphere, confirming Taiwan's importance to regional stability. This move demonstrates the West's commitment to Taiwan and raises anxiety on the mainland. Beijing said U.S. and Japanese actions posed "serious concerns" related to China's national security. The U.S.-Japanese talks over Taiwan, in conjunction with Hsieh's suggestion that Taiwan will not declare independence if China becomes democratic, add to the pressure Beijing faces. Responding to new World Trade Organization rules, China is working feverishly to reform its banking system by 2006 — a virtual impossibility. Political tensions also complicate the process as factions fight over the scope and pace of the restructuring. China is confronting an increasing number of economic, political and social issues that pose a threat to its internal stability. It is clear that Taiwan is taking advantage of the situation — and Beijing undoubtedly feels the pressure.

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