China softening stance on Taiwan…?

Maybe we’ll have to chalk up another point for Hu JIntao, who seems to be stepping back from China’s past non-negotiable and semi-crazed position on the renegade colony of Taiwan.

Gradually and without fanfare, China has substantially softened its stand on Taiwan, according to senior officials and diplomats. President Hu Jintao, they said, has begun to play down China’s long-standing vow to recover the self-ruled island by force if necessary and shifted the focus to preventing any move toward formal independence.

The adjustment, which has become clearer in recent months, has brought China’s policy on the volatile Taiwan issue closer to that of the United States. Washington has long maintained that the island’s half-century-old status quo — independent in fact but not in law — should not be changed until Beijing and Taipei can work out a mutually acceptable peaceful solution.

“Before, we never said ‘status quo,’ ” said a Chinese academic who advises Hu’s government on Taiwan. “Now we say it all the time.”

Officials and diplomats spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue. One of them, a high-level official, said he had visited Beijing and spoken to Hu privately about Taiwan for several hours. Hu, according to the visitor, said he had no plans to act militarily against Taiwan unless the status quo was changed in a way that risked causing him to “lose face.” That concern reflected the ardor for reunification among many Chinese on the mainland.

Despite continuing propaganda about “liberating” Taiwan, Hu said China’s bottom line was that it would not allow the island to take decisive steps toward legal independence, the visitor recalled. Backing up that resolution, China has deployed nearly 800 medium- and short-range ballistic missiles in southern China, with targets around the Taiwan Strait, and is steadily building its military forces with Taiwan as a principal focus.

If Hu can convince the world that China can actually be rational on this subject, it would be a major coup. It would take a lot of wind out of the “China threat” neo-cons’ sails and help position Hu as a real diplomat as opposed to a wild-eyed ideologue.

They sure do care a lot about face over there. Wouldn’t it thrilling to imagine a China where the people didn’t let “face” get in the way of everything? Wouldn’t it be thrilling if pigs could fly?

The Discussion: 6 Comments

Well, finally Hu got it right. The best thing for China to do is to maintain status quo in Taiwan. In the meantime, gradually change the political system to match Taiwan’s. Their economic system is getting to be on par with Taiwan’s. Toward that end, there is talk that Hu’s going to democratize the communist party. It is a first step but I don’t know if he is the person to bring real democracy to China. Wait until the western educated people take power in ten years, then there will be real changes.

June 16, 2006 @ 8:28 am | Comment

a load of horse pucky.

Mainland China has always advocated economic integration with Taiwan, it’s a sudden “soft touch”, it’s a long standing policy. Beijing has been pushing direct “three links” with Taiwan for years.

It’s Taiwan and Chen who were dragging their feet and putting up obstacles. But clearly now they had a change of heart. It’s Chen that’s softening his stand.

June 16, 2006 @ 2:03 pm | Comment

Taiwan is a renegade colony? Colony? The ROC comes from the same roots as the PRC and is a compatriot rather than than an offshoot.

I agree Hu has a far more deft touch with this issue – his restraint and unwillingness to rise to ROC President ³¯¤ô«ó Chen Shui-Bian’s baiting tactics has had a tremendously positive effect on local politics in Taiwan.

June 17, 2006 @ 5:02 am | Comment

Bing, you’re talking as if making Taiwan economically reliant on China would be a good thing. Obviously having a diverse-trade base would be best for the island.

Currently it is still China that is being obstinant. The DPP said they would drop their independence pledge and agree to talks, if Beijing didn’t require they affirm the O2CS principle. Beijing refused. Beijing still has all the red-lines, whereas Taiwan has shown it wants to talk on fair terms.

June 17, 2006 @ 5:47 am | Comment

I was being supremely sarcastic when I referred to Taiwan as a renegade colony.

June 17, 2006 @ 10:49 am | Comment


English people should let Scottish people vote on a referendum for independence. And so shoule Wales.


June 17, 2006 @ 12:51 pm | Comment

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