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Web-only Exclusives
November 30, 2000

From Our Correspondent: Hirohito and the War
A conversation with biographer Herbert Bix

From Our Correspondent: A Rough Road Ahead
Bad news for the Philippines - and some others

From Our Correspondent: Making Enemies
Indonesia needs friends. So why is it picking fights?

Asiaweek Time Asia Now Asiaweek story

TAIWAN'S 'DOOR IS OPEN'

The new premier spells out his priorities


VINCENT SIEW WAN-CHANG, 58, was sworn in as Taiwan's premier on Sept. 1. A technocrat with a degree in international law and diplomacy, he was named to the Central Committee of the ruling Kuomintang in 1988, minister of economic affairs in 1990 and chairman of the Council for Economic Planning and Development in 1993. Before running successfully in a tight race for the legislature in 1995 to represent his hometown, Chiayi, he served a short stint as chairman of the Mainland Affairs Council. On Nov. 10, the premier talked with Asiaweek Editor Ann Morrison, Senior Editor Thomas Hon Wing Polin, and Senior Correspondent Alejandro Reyes in Taipei. Excerpts:

What do you consider the top priorities of your administration?

Our top priorities are the issues of most concern to the public: law and order, continuing economic development, raising the quality of life, enhancing cultural and educational institutions, promoting cross-strait relations, and bolstering national security. Our key international priorities are expanding our global economic activities, promoting pragmatic diplomacy and encouraging regional cooperation. We are determined to establish an honest and capable administration free of corruption.

What approach are you taking in Taipei's relationship with China?

Our mainland policy requires that we agree on democracy, freedom and prosperity as the basis for pursuing reunification and that this should be accomplished after an appropriate period of forthright exchange, cooperation and consultation conducted under the principles of reason, peace, parity and reciprocity. Despite [Beijing's] military threats and hostile invective over the past two years, we have remained committed to resolving misunderstanding through communication and consultation. We are still hoping for a positive response from the other side.

Did President Lee in his recent comments to Western media essentially declare Taiwan independent?

No, not at all. What President Lee said is a clear expression of the political reality in this country. What he said is that the Republic of China [ROC, Taiwan's official name] has been a sovereign state since 1912. What he said is a statement of fact. But you people have misunderstood when he says that Taiwan is Taiwan and that we are a country. What he said is that the Republic of China is a sovereign state. So our policy is clear. It has not changed at all. You foreigners, when we say "Republic of China," you say "Taiwan." Our official name is the "Republic of China," but I don't see many foreign newspapers citing our name as the "Republic of China."

To many, your policy seems ambiguous.

[After 1949,] both governments claimed to represent the whole of China. In 1991, we amended the Constitution to abolish martial law and accept the reality that China has been separated into two political entities. We exercise jurisdiction of the territory of Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu, while the People's Republic of China (PRC) government has effective jurisdiction over the mainland. We accept that and we don't claim to represent all China. On the other hand, we are also seeking the peaceful reunification of China. We expected their side to give the same response. But until now, they have not agreed to renounce the use of force against us. They claim to rule all China, including Taiwan, which is totally unacceptable to us. The PRC never for a single day ruled Taiwan. We won't agree that we are their province. Not at all. It will still take a long time for the mainland to transform its system into one of freedom, democracy and prosperity. We have to wait and see.

Do Taiwan people clearly understand your mainland policy?

This policy has been set for seven to eight years. A great majority of people support it. About 30% of the people are at the extremes. One extreme is for immediate reunification by any means. The other extreme is for immediate independence. But 70% of the people prefer the status quo, and the status quo is the ROC within the context of a one-China concept but not according to their [the PRC's] definition. The U.S. has its definition of one China. The PRC has its definition. We also have our definition.

When will cross-Strait talks resume?

More than two years ago, we had preliminary talks to prepare for a second [round of cross-strait] talks. We had several items on the agenda: the settling of fishing disputes, repatriation of hijackers, joint efforts to stop smuggling, joint efforts to fight against crime, and protection for investments of Taiwan businessmen on the mainland. It is essential to settle these issues first. Then we will not rule out the possibility of other topics they may raise, including political ones such as the end of hostilities and the signing of peace agreements. We say our door is open. We never closed the door. What we hope for is the resumption of dialogue at any time at their convenience provided there are no preconditions. We are committed to seeking peaceful reunification. There is no timetable. Both sides have to recognize there are two separate political entities, but this does not mean two separate nations.

How has the visit by Jiang Zemin to the U.S. affected the relationship among Taiwan, China and the U.S.?

Before and after Jiang Zemin's U.S. visit, the U.S. offered assurances that the ROC's national interests will not be harmed. We feel comfortable for the time being. We take note that Washington reiterated several times its position on Taiwan and made no changes in policy. We have always maintained that relations among Taipei, Washington and Beijing are not triangular but rather parallel -- between Taipei and Washington and Washington and Beijing. We don't interfere with relations between the U.S. and the Chinese mainland; likewise, we will not allow any third party to interfere with Taiwan-U.S. relations. We're concerned whether or not our rights and interests are sacrificed. In future, we will watch developments closely.

Would you rate Jiang's visit a success?

I don't want to comment.


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