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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?

AsiaweekTimeAsia NowAsiaweek

MARCH 17, 2000 VOL. 26 NO. 10

'We Don't Want War'
Chen on cross-strait ties and 'one China'

 
  ALSO IN ASIAWEEK
Cover: Stock Options
Still relatively rare in Asia, companies are likely to start giving employees equity as an incentive to work better and stick with the job. Thank the Internet
• Glossary: A quick guide to cashless collars and other terms
• Japanese Dream: It isn't hip to be a salaryman

Asiaweek Salaries Survey 2000
Jobs in the region and how much they pay

Taiwan: The race for president is too close to call. Whoever wins, the island and its relations with Beijing will never be the same
• Interview: Chen Shui-bian does not want war with China
• Black Gold: Of gangsters, vote-buying and political corruption
• Geopolitics: The influence of Taiwan's brand of democracy
Thailand: What the Senate election means for political reform
Malaysia: Behind a debate on special privileges for Malays
East Timor: Why Falantil members are now rebels without a cause
Viewpoint: Vajpayee masks the fundamentalist threat

Technology
The Net: A geek summit in Taiwan
Computing: Hong Kong's hidden software industry
Cutting Edge: Simulating real life

Business
Cash: With $1 billion, San Miguel goes shopping
Marketing: Notebooks as status symbols in Asia
Interview: Krung Thai Bank head says changes are coming
Investing: Mining resource stocks for profit

People: A*Mei drops pop for the classics
Entertainment: The hot spot for survival docu-dramas
Health: Protecting against Alzheimer's disease
Newsmakers: Zhu Rongji lays down the line
Looking Back: Mourning South Korea's President Park

At 48, Chen Shui-bian is the youngest of the five presidential candidates. Politically, Chen's DPP has always played the Taiwan-independence card. The prospect of a Chen presidency has China worried enough to threaten military action. But even if Chen doesn't win this time, Beijing had better start getting used to him: He will likely remain a fixture in Taiwan politics for years to come. Chen recently spoke to Senior Correspondent Allen T. Cheng. Excerpts from the interview:

It is clear China's White Paper was targeting you. If you became president, for the sake of cross-strait peace, would you strike from the DPP platform the call for Taiwan independence?

Many view our party as having a Taiwan-independence platform. However, this is a grave misinterpretation. We only have a self-determination platform, not a Taiwan-independence platform. And in it, we say the establishment of a new Republic of Taiwan or the presentation of a new Constitution must be decided and chosen by the people.

Having the right to a referendum or a plebiscite does not mean that the people need to execute or implement this right immediately. But we believe it is important to have the right. The question of the referendum or the timing of the referendum can be flexible. In order to normalize cross-strait relations and enable constructive dialogue across the strait, we believe that the present is not the best time to hold a referendum on Taiwan's future. On Jan. 30, in my "Seven Point Position on Relations with China," we indicated that if the DPP became the ruling party of Taiwan, we would not propose to put President Lee Teng-hui's description of "special state-to-state relations" into the Constitution. We would not initiate a referendum of Taiwan independence or unification. We also feel that unless China intends to use force or invades Taiwan, there is no need to change the name of the country or declare Taiwan independent.

If China refuses to have dialogue with you as president, do you think that would bring the danger of conflict closer?

[Talks between cross-strait negotiators Koo Chen-fu and Wang Daohan] have already been suspended. Cross-strait relations are at a very, very low point. I don't think it can get any worse than this. Just as Chinese official Tang Shubei [vice chairman of the Association for Relations Across the Strait] said recently: Relations should start clearing up after the elections. I am confident that my election would be an expression of goodwill and sincerity to reopen the dialogue across the strait.

What was the purpose of the White Paper? Was it overblown?

We should look at this as a normal kind of statement from China. There is no need for us to be too tense or hyped up about it. We also want to remind China of the experience four years ago - that such threatening pressure tactics will only further alienate the Taiwanese people. Four years ago, the tactic did not succeed; rather, it got the opposite result. The Taiwanese people will not choose their leader under pressure or compromise. We suggest that the mainland take this into consideration.

Would you characterize your position as having shown sincerity?

I think that as long as there is goodwill and sincerity expressed, anything is possible. We can open up cross-strait talks, dialogue and contacts. We would not exclude any issue from the discussions. We would be happy to sit down to drink tea, have some candies. By having a meeting, it would greatly improve the atmosphere. And under an improved atmosphere, anything can be discussed.

What plans do you have to improve relations?

We hope to utilize the window of opportunity after the election and before the inauguration of the new president on May 20. I have said I would like to visit China during this period. At the same time, we welcome Chinese leaders - Jiang Zemin or Zhu Rongji or even Wang Daohan - to visit Taiwan. We encourage such interaction and dialogue between leaders of both sides. Only through contact and dialogue can we open up a new chapter in cross-strait relations.

China has insisted that reunification be accomplished on the basis of the "one country, two systems" model. Do you see any way that this model can be fitted onto Taiwan?

Right now, according to public-opinion polls in Taiwan, the vast majority of the people do not accept the formula of "one country, two systems." This is a reality, and any leader in a democratic country must respect this majority view of the people.

You said you're prepared to discuss "one China" with Beijing. What would you consider to be acceptable under "one China"? Would it be a commonwealth or a federation?

As for the "one China" principle, it should not be seen as a precondition. But we see it as an issue, an issue that we can talk about with China. Most of us here are not clear what exactly "one China" means, and we are willing to hear their views on the content of "one China."

Any message to mainland leaders?

We hope that the leaders and people on both sides can seek common goals, goodwill, reconciliation, active cooperation and permanent peace. We want cooperation, not war. We want competition, but not struggle against each other. We want peace, not war. We believe that cross-strait peace and Asia-Pacific stability is definitely the common language and common interest of Taiwan, China and even the U.S. and other surrounding countries.

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