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China views Taiwan as a renegade Chinese province, a lost kidney. Related Gully Coverage:

Taiwan: Democracy At Risk
The Gully's complete Taiwan coverage, its colonial past, and uncertain future as a new democracy eyed hungrily by China.

chen with fighters

Taiwan's President Chen surveys his fighter planes.
The Beijing-Taipei Shimmy

by Kelly Cogswell

JULY 25, 2000. In the ritualistic dance of China-Taiwan relations, the inter-national dialogue seems to take place only in the media. A speech in Taipei draws a vitriolic press release from Beijing, which, in turn, triggers a speech from Taiwan pooh-poohing the Beijing press release, and so on.

Most of the rhetoric has to do with the ongoing dilemma of Taiwan's status. The democratic Taiwan sees itself as a distinct entity, a sister country, while China views it as a renegade Chinese province, a lost kidney. The central issue for some years has been whether either side will resort to arms to settle the matter.

Hawks Waltzing with Doves
Both sides pretend they will not. China has repeatedly declared it will not use force unless Taiwan declares independence. Taiwan always says it will not declare independence unless China uses force to reunify it. Reassuring words, from two countries apparently preparing for war.

China is building up short-range missiles in provinces along the Taiwan Strait, its main army newspaper periodically demanding that Taiwan seek reunification with the Communist-ruled mainland. "Taiwan's new leader must think of the safety and welfare of 23 million Taiwanese, recognize the situation, stop at the edge of the precipice, return to the 'one-China principle' and make the right choice soon on reunification," the army newspaper turgidly admonished.

Across the Strait, Taiwan put four new warships into the water last Friday to demonstrate its naval power. In a bit of Cold War double-speak Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian said, "Strengthening the navy's combat readiness is meant to prevent war and maintain peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait."

There is even strife between the countries in the dot.com world. The Nasdaq-traded china.com revealed that it has filed legal proceedings in Taiwan against its former partner CMC Magnetics Corporation and CMC's subsidiary Taiwan Dakang (TD) claiming breach of contract.

American Twist
As always, the U.S. is tangled up in the dilemma, trying to increase trade with Communist China, while promising defense to the democratic, and strategically located Taiwan.

chen with fightersTaiwan's status was on the agenda when Defense Secretary William S. Cohen travelled to China in mid-July, in his first visit to the country since military ties with Washington were severed last year after a U.S. plane on a NATO mission mistakenly bombed China's Belgrade embassy.

When asked about the Chinese arms build-up, Chinese General Chi Haotian sweetly told Cohen that China's policy towards Taiwan, "is a policy of peaceful reunification of one country, two systems." Then he sourly added, "We have made it clear we do not undertake to give up the use of force."

Rose-colored Glasses
From the outside, it seems impossible to know how much is bluff, how much is in earnest. As bombastically theatrical as the whole thing seems, the missiles aren't cardboard.

The U.S. ambassador to China, Joseph W. Prueher doesn't seem to have such doubts. He recently told reporters China seems to be looking at Taiwan in a more positive manner than in the past. Prueher said that he detected a "shift" in China's "willingness to resolve differences," and to discuss issues other than reunification.

I'll believe it when I see it.

Related links:

For Taiwanese links Berkeley Students for a Sovereign Taiwan: Links.

For Complete Coverage Asia

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