གཟའ་པ་སངས། ༢༠༢༤/༠༥/༢༤

China Rejects Olive Branch Offered by Taiwan's President - 2004-10-11

China has rejected Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian's call for dialogue and peace talks. President Chen made the overture during a much-publicized National Day speech in Taipei on Sunday. President Chen's efforts to ease cross-strait tensions were sharply rebuffed in a series of editorials published in China's state media on Monday.

Chinese newspapers characterized Mr. Chen's speech as insincere and too vague to be taken seriously.

Professor Li Nan of Singapore's Institute of Defense and Strategic Studies says the Chinese press, which reflects government policy, has largely concluded that there was no substance to the proposals.

"From the perspective of Mainland China, Chen Shui-bian was mainly playing [a] game of words," he said.

The Taiwanese leader's speech offered peace talks and arms-control measures. However, he also lashed out at the mainland's military threat to the island, and defended Taipei's proposed $18 billion weapons purchase from the United States.

The biggest obstacle to cross-strait talks appears to be President Chen's refusal to state an unequivocal acceptance of the "one China policy," which says Taiwan is an inseparable part of the mainland.

Beijing, which considers Taiwan a renegade province, insists acceptance of the policy is a prerequisite for any talks with Taipei.

But analysts say that President Chen, who came to power on a pro-independence platform, is considered unlikely to concede the point.

Military tension between the two rivals has intensified over the past year, with Mr. Chen making a series of moves that Beijing fears are a step towards declaring independence, and Beijing repeating its threats to reunify Taiwan with the mainland by force if necessary.

Even President Chen's critics say Sunday's speech was more moderate than they had expected, and could yet lead to improved dialogue.

Professor Li says China's immediate reaction does not necessarily reflect Beijing's final position.

"China tends to respond very rigidly, but after the initial response you're probably going to see a process of consensus-building, some sort of internal debate, and maybe you end up with something more conciliatory," said Professor Li.

But he cautions against too much optimism. Chen Shui-bian's speech may have been moderate, he says, but it was not the unqualified rejection of independence that Beijing is looking for.