China warns ‘malevolent’ Taiwan

Catherine Armitage – The Australian

Copyright THE AUSTRALIAN
28 March 2005
The Chinese Government issued a sharp warning yesterday that a march by
hundreds of thousands of people in Taipei to protest at China’s new
anti-secession law on Taiwan had created “new tension across the Taiwan
Strait”.
China vowed, again, never to back down over Taiwan. In an official
commentary carried in all major newspapers and broadcast on state
television, it accused the “extreme Taiwan independence secessionists”
of
“malevolently distorting the principles of the law to misguide the
Taiwan
people and instigate antagonism and create new tension across the
Taiwan
Strait”.
But the big problem for Beijing is that most of the rest of the world
thinks
it is Beijing, not Taiwan, that has increased the risk of hostilities
over
the island, by introducing the new law authorising the use of force
against
Taiwan just when relations looked ripe for repair.
The law, which gives China legal backing to use “non-peaceful means” if
Taiwan moves to formally split from the mainland, has unravelled a
European
Union consensus to lift a 16-year-old ban on trading arms with China, a
move
which had been expected by mid-year but may now be delayed.
By underlining China’s willingness to go to war over Taiwan, the law
has
also set back China’s multi-faceted diplomatic campaign to persuade the
world, and the East Asian region especially, that its rise as a world
power
is peaceful and does not constitute a threat to other nations.
Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian joined hundreds of thousands of
protesters who converged on central Taipei on Saturday, marching from
10
different rallying points to represent the 10 clauses of the
anti-secession
law passed by the Chinese legislature on March 14.
Rally organisers invited participants to bring their children and pets
for
what they described as a “democratic carnival”. Children were reported
to
have bared their bottoms to reveal anti-missile messages, a reference
to the
several hundred missiles China has poised in Taiwan’s direction.
Although Mr Chen kept to his promise not to address the rally for fear
of
enraging Beijing unnecessarily, he did mount a stage and led the crowd
in
chanting slogans, including “What do we want from China? Peace!”
But in state-controlled Chinese media, special criticism was reserved
for Mr
Chen. “We noticed some political figures of Taiwan authorities openly
instigated and directly participated in the so-called ‘March 26 march’.
Are
these only empty words again?” the Xinhua news agency said.
The best explanation for the law, which is now looking like a rare
political
blunder on the part of the Beijing leadership, is that it seemed like a
good
idea in the middle of last year when it was first mooted.
Back then Mr Chen was making provocative noises and Chinese President
Hu
Jintao needed to consolidate his leadership to prove his hawkish
credentials
were a match for those of his lingering predecessor Jiang Zemin.
By the time the law, widely telegraphed in state media, had worked its
way
through the central Government’s ponderous and byzantine bureaucracy,
things
had changed.
Mr Chen had done poorly at legislative elections and therefore lost any
mandate to push further on independence. He had been forced to make a
political pact with his pro-Beijing adversaries in the People’s First
Party
and China and Taiwan had managed to agree on the first direct charter
flights between them since 1949.
In Beijing, Jiang Zemin had announced his complete retirement. But by
then
the loss of face in abandoning the hardline law on Taiwan was too
great.
Political common sense alone would dictate that it could have been
dusted
off the next time Mr Chen started getting up Washington’s nose by
pushing
his pro-independence line too far.

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