March 6, 2009
China Calls for Closer Ties With Taiwan
By KEITH BRADSHER
HONG KONG — Prime Minister Wen Jiabao of China called Thursday for closer political and economic relations with Taiwan, but he offered few specifics and did not expand on a previous suggestion by President Hu Jintao for improving communication with Taiwan on military issues.
In his opening speech to the National People’s Congress, Mr. Wen clearly signaled the Chinese leadership’s support for a series of economic measures that negotiators from Beijing and Taiwan were already discussing. These include the gradual integration of banking and other financial services across the Taiwan Straits, and the drafting of a “comprehensive agreement on economic cooperation” that could eventually become the basis for a free-trade agreement.
Mr. Wen also called for “fair and reasonable arrangements” on Taiwanese participation in international organizations and a formal cessation of hostilities with Taiwan, without providing any details on how these thorny goals could be achieved. And he did not mention any specific measures of military cooperation, like a possible hot line between the People’s Liberation Army and Taiwan’s military that had been previously mentioned. President Hu of China and President Ma Ying-jeou of Taiwan had each expressed some interest in this in recent months.
Taiwanese officials said they were satisfied with focusing on economic issues for now. “On the political aspects, when the relationship between Taiwan and the mainland reaches a certain level of mutual trust, only then can discussions be move forward,” the island’s Mainland Affairs Council said in a statement.
Mr. Wen’s address represented a modest olive branch to Taiwan and avoided the more hostile language the mainland had used in the past. The stock market in Taipei, Taiwan’s capital, jumped 2.1 percent as investors responded to Mr. Wen’s suggestion for closer cross-strait economic ties.
Mr. Wen’s clear endorsement of such ties could help accelerate economic talks, which have been dragging along more slowly than expected. Critics in Taiwan have suggested that the mainland is reluctant to make any concessions, but Taiwanese officials have themselves been constrained by the skepticism of a large section of the island’s population about the need for closer cross-straits ties.
On military cooperation, Mr. Wen’s speech included an offer to hold talks, but did not provide any specifics that would advance the issue beyond previous comments by President Hu. In his annual policy address on Taiwan on Dec. 31, Mr. Hu had suggested that the two sides could engage in “contacts and communications on military issues when appropriate, and discussions on building a trust mechanism for military safety.”
Military analysts have suggested that the People’s Liberation Army has little interest this winter in improving relations with Taiwan, particularly because preparations for a possible conflict with Taiwan are central to the mainland military’s budget and training. When President Ma was asked in an interview last month if he was disappointed that the mainland military showed little enthusiasm for cooperation, he quickly replied that President Hu had specifically endorsed security cooperation and confidence-building measures in his Dec. 31 policy speech.
But Mr. Wen’s speech on Thursday included only a general statement on those matters: “We are also ready to hold talks on cross-straits political and military issues and create conditions for ending the state of hostility and concluding a peace agreement between the two sides of the Taiwan Straits.”
President Ma has ruled out any peace agreement for the foreseeable future, and no talks are planned on ending the formal state of hostilities that has endured ever since the Nationalists lost China’s civil war to the Communists in 1949 and retreated to Taiwan.
Prime Minister Wen said that political talks would have to be based on the principle that there is only one China, but he did not suggest how this principle should be interpreted — a longtime stumbling block.
Friday, March 06, 2009
China Calls for Closer Ties With Taiwan
Hopefully China is sincere and down-to-earth about this; otherwise, we're going to have a lot of problems. But still, the definition of China is quite outstretched and their definition don't usually match with ours.