Publication: China Brief Volume: 2 Issue: 1

By Richard D. Fisher, Jr.

China Brief is pleased to present the first in what will be a series of occasional interviews with Asian leaders. When China Brief’s managing editor visited Taiwan to observe the December 1 legislative and local elections, Dr. Su Tzen-ping, director general of the Government Information Office and chief spokesman for Taiwan’s government, agreed to answer questions submitted by China Brief. Before joining the cabinet of President Chen Shui-bien in October 2000, Su–a former president of the Association of Taiwan Journalists–was chief editorial writer for the Taiwan Daily and, before that, first deputy and later full editor-in-chief of the Independence Morning Post. The interview follows:

Q1: In your opinion how will the results of the December 1 Legislative Yuan election affect your government’s policy toward cross-strait relations?

A: Cross-strait policies will remain consistent, and we will not change the basic principle of promoting cross-strait peace and stability. After the Legislative Yuan election, political parties in Taiwan face a new situation; therefore, we hope to form an internal consensus and promote cooperation between the governing and opposition parties.

The authorities on the Chinese mainland have scrutinized the election. After the election, I think it is time for the two sides to promote the normalization of cross-strait relations and resume formal dialogue. Only through established channels can the two sides resume interaction. This is an appropriate way to resolve disputes and develop bilateral relations.

Q2: How can the People’s Republic of China earn the confidence of the people of Taiwan so as to encourage peaceful negotiations?

A: It is not us who don’t want to have negotiation, but the other side. The Chinese mainland has heavily emphasized its “united front” campaign against Taiwan but refuses to acknowledge majority opinion in Taiwan. Furthermore, the Chinese mainland authorities still refuse to renounce the use of force against Taiwan, set self-serving preconditions for cross-strait dialogue and negotiations, and ignore the goodwill of the ROC government, thereby paralyzing cross-strait relations.

I think the Chinese mainland must clearly understand the mainstream public opinion in Taiwan. The majority of the people in Taiwan hope for effective national security, peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait, and the continuous development of Taiwan’s political and economic systems. Therefore, only by renouncing its strategy of belligerent rhetoric and military intimidation, and responding to the goodwill of the ROC government, can the Chinese mainland earn the confidence of the people of Taiwan.

I must reiterate that there is no support in Taiwan for the “one country, two systems” formula, which the Chinese mainland has been actively promoting as a solution for cross-strait issues. The “one country, two systems” formula is a proposal made eighteen years ago, with the purpose of denigrating Taiwan government into a local government. Taiwan has undergone great changes in the past eighteen years. The vast majority of the people refuse to accept the “one country, two systems” formula. Any solution to cross-strait issues must respect the free will of the 23 million people of Taiwan and should not impair Taiwan’s welfare.

Q3: Is the People’s Republic trying to use “united front” tactics to win support in Taiwan?

A: The “united front” is a customary strategy used by the Chinese mainland. However, since Taiwan is already a mature democracy, its people have the ability to rationally judge such tactics.

Therefore, we believe that no matter how actively the mainland tries to promote a “united front” against Taiwan, the effect will be very limited. However, I still believe that the people on Taiwan should unite to form a consensus on mainland policy, so they will be able to cooperate in safeguarding the safety and welfare of the people in the Taiwan area.

Q4: How will Taiwan’s accession to the World Trade Organization affect cross-strait relations?

A: The simultaneous accession of Beijing and Taipei to the World Trade Organization (WTO) will contribute positively to the future normalization of the cross-strait economic and trade relations, enabling the two sides to establish closer interactions and cooperation under the framework of this multilateral global trade organization.

Since both sides of the Taiwan Strait are members of the WTO, both should show mutual respect and equitable participation to produce the utmost welfare for the people on both sides based on “goodwill reconciliation, active cooperation, and lasting peace,” as we have previously suggested.

As long as the two sides pursue the normalization of cross-strait relations after joining the WTO, dialogue and negotiation are the definitive methods for resolving matters of mutual concern. If Beijing would be pragmatic, eliminate the political prerequisites it has set for cross-strait dialogue, and resume bilateral interactions and communication, the future of cross-strait relations will definitely improve.

Q5: Is democratic political evolution inevitable on the Chinese mainland, or must democratic evolution there be encouraged by other democracies?

A: In recent years, the Chinese mainland’s internal and external situations have changed drastically. Reform and openness on the Chinese mainland have generated socioeconomic development with consequent political ramifications. The people on the Chinese mainland demand not just economic liberalization, but also democratic reforms. However, democracy is not made of elections only; a true democracy requires multiparty politics, respect for human rights, and democratic institutions. Thus, establishing a fair competitive environment for political parties is especially important for democratic evolution, and we are most willing to share our democratization experiences with the Chinese mainland.

Q6: Should other democracies in Asia be concerned about the security of Taiwan, or how would conflict in the Taiwan Strait affect their security?

Q: As we know, the more countries that embrace democracy, the less likely wars are. In view of this broadly recognized fact, Asian democracies should undoubtedly be very concerned about Taiwan’s security, because Taiwan is one of the most successful democracies in Asia, and its experience of democratization could serve as a beacon for mainland China and other Asian countries.

More critical is the fact that Taiwan is located at a pivotal point in the Asia-Pacific region. If Taiwan were controlled by a hostile power, the whole of Asia’s security would be at risk. Even a brief glance at the route taken by the ships of the international alliance against terrorism reveals that Taiwan’s strategic importance couldn’t be more obvious.

Q7: Is Taiwan satisfied with the support you have received from the administration of President George W. Bush?

Q: Taiwan-U.S. relations have continued to develop steadily on a solid foundation this year. In addition to President Bush’s public statement that the United States would do “whatever it takes” to help Taiwan defend itself, Washington has agreed to sell Taipei a robust package of advanced defensive weaponry, such as diesel submarines, Kidd-class destroyers and P-3 Orion anti-submarine aircraft. In addition, unprecedented courtesy was accorded to President Chen during his transit stops in May this year in New York and Houston. It is evident that our mutual trust has been greatly elevated.

Since the September 11 attacks, Taipei has kept in close contact with Washington and actively supported the fight against terrorism. Taiwan has worked with the United States to help cut off the financial resources of terrorist organizations and has provided significant humanitarian assistance, among other contribution. For instance, so far Taiwanese at home and abroad have donated a total of more than US$16 million in humanitarian aid. In this regard, cooperation between Taiwan and the United States has never been better.

The ever-growing ties between Taipei and Washington are based primarily on three pillars. First, both sides firmly share the same universal values of democracy, freedom and human rights. Second, both sides are eager to pursue peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait. And third, trade and economic ties between our two countries remain strong and continue to thrive. These three pillars provide a solid foundation for Taiwan-U.S. interaction and continue to make the bond flourish.