Isn't the fact that you've grown apart from China? Politically, you are now
a democracy, very different from China. Therefore, the longer you are a
democracy, the less chance you're going to reunite with China.
That might be true in more abstract terms, because in the early 1990s, Taiwan
started to develop very rapidly toward democratization. Now Taiwan is a
full-fledged democracy, and it is very different from mainland China. Democracy
is a major factor when people consider the cross-strait policy. When we look at
mainland China, it's highly authoritarian, and people wouldn't want to join
force with highly authoritarian country. ...
But if we look at it in different terms, for example, globalization, Taiwan has
been integrated into the international market economy. Taiwan has a tremendous
amount of investment in mainland China. Visitors from mainland China to Taiwan,
and from Taiwan to mainland China have been increasing in such a tempo that
one-third of the current population has actually traveled to mainland China. So
this kind of speed is going to lead to a different result, and
internationalization or globalization is going to be a tremendous force in
bringing Taiwan and China together.
What changes do you see in China itself which make you more confident about
China is changing very rapidly in different directions, for example, in its
economy. We saw that many of the coastal provinces, coastal cities, are
developing so rapidly that some of the areas are seemingly more prosperous than
Taipei. In terms of the military, it's also developing very rapidly. It's
acquiring a modern aircraft and modern battleships. Its naval force and air
force are developing so fast that Taiwan seems to be not having the competitive
edge vis-à-vis China any more.
We also see that China is liberalizing itself in [other] areas. For example, in
major urban areas, Western culture is allowed to go into mainland China. On a
very grassroots level, China is also picking up democratization. They open up
the village administrative positions to open election. So all kinds of things
are changing and transforming China. ...
It seems that everyone in Taiwan is hoping for a status quo. That status quo
can't survive, can it?
It's hard to say whether this status quo can survive, because status quo might
change. ... The current status quo was forged in 1972 when Richard Nixon
traveled to Shanghai and signed the Shanghai Communiqué with the Chinese
leaders. They recognized that Taiwan is going to be part of China. But if we
look at development in these few years, the background of Shanghai
Communiqué and the background today are totally different. The reason
why the United States signed Shanghai Communiqué with mainland China was
because there was a threat from the Soviet Union. China was highly totalitarian
and Taiwan was also very authoritarian under Chiang Kai-shek. So that was the
But today things are changing. There's no more Soviet threat. China is rapidly
rising in its power and talent and democracy. It's prosperous, and it's
grasping the universal value of human rights, democracy and that kind of thing.
So when all this kind of background information is different, we have a new
situation. We have a new reality, so of course the status quo is going to be
pushed by this or that force.
So with all these changes going on, how do you see the future?
Oh, I see the future in different ways. On the one hand, we see the force of
globalization is kicking in. For example, Taiwan is making a tremendous amount
of investment in mainland China. The figure is about $50 billion. Taiwan is
also trading with China, and the amount is also growing and growing by the day.
The number of people [who travel] from Taiwan to mainland China is also
increasing tremendously. One-third of the population has traveled to mainland
China. In Shanghai area, about one percent of the population are actually
Taiwanese taking up residence there. So we see very close interactions between
the two societies. But on the other hand, we also see some things that are not
the way that we wanted to see.
For example, mainland China has very intense competition among bureaucracies,
and because of the bureaucratic politics, it is very hard for the Chinese top
leaders to come up with a more moderate, more sensible, more reasonable policy
to deal with Taiwan, to win over Taiwan's heart. The military has always been a
very strong voice. In the 1980s and first part of the 1990s, the military was
able to run their own enterprises, and the military was happy with that. But
the military now is prohibited from running enterprises. So they need to get a
bigger share of the national budget, and in order to do that, they need to have
some tension here and some tension there.
Taiwan is very conveniently located right next to China, so they want some
tension in order to get a bigger share of the national budget. That is what
they've been trying to do. And because of the intense bureaucratic competition
inside China, no political leader in China is able to appear to be soft on
Taiwan, because that is dangerous to their own political career. This kind of
development is going to lead to the opposite effect of what we need to see in a
peaceful solution in between Taiwan and China.
Do you think this spy plane collision was used by the military for their own
There are drastically different interpretations on how the military is playing
in this incident. Indeed, the military is seen to be playing up with the
incident and pressuring the civilian government to apply pressure on the United
States. The civilian government has to honor the pilot that has been killed in
the incident. So the whole thing shows that the military still has a very
strong voice in China's decision making, in foreign policy area or in the
military affairs. The incident shows that military has a very strong say in
most of the policy in China. ...
What are the Chinese tactics in dealing with Taiwan?
They're taking several fronts at the same time, and some of them have been more
successful than others. They've been using military threat against Taiwan ever
since 1995 and 1996, when they used missiles to threaten Taiwan. They
understood that ... was having a serious impact because of their threatened
tactics. So they decided to deploy increasing number of missiles across Taiwan
Strait right in Fujian and Jiangxi area.
The current estimate is that they have somewhere around 358 missiles, N-9s and
N-11s targeted at Taiwan. They are also developing cruise missiles and MERVs,
the multi-warhead retrievable targeted at Taiwan. So that is going to
intimidate Taiwan, and they think that this is a very convenient vehicle to
pressure Taiwan to accept the political conditions.
On the other hand, they also try to use the very high number of investment
Taiwan has in mainland China and trying to urge these people, these
businessmen, these investors in mainland China, to pressure the Taiwanese
government to a more open policy. For example, the government just announced
yesterday that it will try to lift the "be patient" policy, open up to more of
the open policy to invest in mainland China. The government is going to allow
for direct flight and direct shipment to mainland China after some intense
studies. So these kinds of things are bearing fruit.
At the same time, they are also using what we call united front -- trying to
ally with your enemy's enemies. They are trying to ally with all the opposition
parties here in Taiwan. They talk directly to these people. They welcome these
representatives from Taiwan's opposition parties to mainland China as
dignitaries, as national guests, to try to isolate the government. They're
using all these kinds of tactics against Taiwan, and some of them are bearing
fruits as well. For example, in the united front tactics, the government is not
able to deal with mainland China directly. Many of the things have to go
through the opposition parties who are travelling to mainland China, and that
is making the government issue on cross-strait issue very difficult.
It's almost ridiculous when they can't negotiate directly with
That's right. That's right. They are saying that Taiwan needs to agree with
some of the political conditions in order to allow direct flight from Taipei to
Shanghai. But at the same time, they don't want to open up to direct
negotiations with Taiwan. ...
Only recently there's been a move within Taiwan to relax investment controls
so the companies can invest more and to start direct trade links with China.
How do you think that's going to be received in China?
I think that's going to be received in China in favorable terms. Basically
Chinese leaders and the public as well looked at the policy of President Lee
Teng-hui in prohibiting anything that is higher than $50 million investment in
mainland China as very hostile. So relaxing this kind of limitation in the
investment in mainland China is going to be received favorably in mainland
China, for sure.
One gets the impression that, if only Taiwan would in principle accept "one
China," then you might have decades to work out what that actually means. Why
doesn't Taiwan just say, "OK, in principle we accept China, but we want to bend
developments in China?"
That seems to be quite simple, and actually that's what many people here think.
Many people here think that if we just accept the "one China" principle, things
will be all right, just as China said, and will open up the direct link with
mainland China. We will welcome the Chinese tourists to Taiwan, and Taiwan's
economy will be rising again, things like that.
But things may not be going that simple, because the way we understand China is
that they may not be willing to have a full open to Taiwan at the current
moment, because they have their own internal difficulties. Their internal
difficulties, on the one hand, are very intense bureaucratic politics. Any kind
of drastic change on their part of Taiwan policy toward Taiwan is going to
trigger some unpredictable consequences inside mainland China. We're likely to
see that some of the bureaucracies will try to fight against each other to vie
for a different position in the Taiwan policy decision-making process. The way
we understand it is they don't want to see that happening in China.
Another thing is that the Chinese succession is coming up next year, and they
don't want anything to go wrong inside mainland China. Changing Taiwan policy
in a drastic term is not going to be predictable in their transition process.
The succession might lead to chaotic situation if there's a sudden change of
their Taiwan policy, because Taiwan policy is still very sensitive to their
political leaders. Anyone who wants to appear to be more moderate in Taiwan
policy is likely to be portrayed by his political opponents as too soft on
Taiwan as a traitor in their nationalism, and they don't want that to happen.
The Taiwan side is sensing that, when we agree with "one China," we might not
have anything in return from mainland China, and that will put Taiwan in
jeopardy because we have put ourselves in a position that we are part of them.
But they are not promising anything else, and the government cannot take that
kind of risk. I don't think anyone, any sensible intellectual in Taiwan, will
urge the government to just accept the "one China" principle without knowing what
China would do in return.
What's China going to do in return to make the "one China" principle
I think China has to start to hammer on the details. For example, they will
have to say that in [terms of] Taiwan's entry into the World Trade Organization, they will
not do anything to hamper on that, and on Taiwan's normal participation in
international organizations. They will have to figure out a way to safeguard
Taiwan's position in international society.
And they will have to announce -- and this is the bottom line -- that they are
not going to use force against Taiwan. But they are not saying that these kinds
of things yet. In fact, they're saying that [they] will never give up the use of
force against Taiwan.
And that is not a good idea to say.
That's a terrible idea to say.
Because people don't like it, and that is pushing Taiwan further and further
away. It's very counter-productive in saying these kinds of things.
So the more threats China uses, the more missiles it puts around your
borders, the more--
-- the more people would tend to see China as very hostile, and the people's
reaction will be to keep a safe distance with China.
Do you think the majority of people in Taiwan could ever accept "one China"
without much greater democracy within China?
I doubt it. ... Currently, Taiwan has different ideas of what "one China" is, but
at the same time, China is trying to impose this "one China" principle on Taiwan.
That's where the difference is. But if the two sides can get together and
figure out what they describe as "one China," and their description of "one China"
is so loose that Taiwan feel that it's not threatening, then that's fine.
So you can't even agree on what is "one China"?
Exactly. And China is saying that we have to agree with their terms before the
negotiation can start.
But at the end of the day, your freedoms and your position as a democracy --
all those de facto -- depends on America.
Yes, to a significant degree.
Without America's support, Taiwan can't be independent, or it can't have its
status quo. It can't be as independent as it virtually is. Yet they want you to
be part of China, don't they?
Yes, yes. That's the dilemma. The people in Taiwan and the government tried to work
out a way to deal with China in a peaceful way and we tried to coexist
peacefully and have special relations with China. After all, we share the same
cultural bond. But at the same time, the international strategic environment
makes it somehow difficult because we are importing a lot of weaponry from the
United States, and some of the U.S. politicians are telling us quietly, "If you
work out your differences with China, how about all these modern weaponry? Are
they going to go to China?" China knows our American secret, and we don't want
Taiwan needs to respect the ideas and the decisions of the United States.
There's no doubt about that, because Taiwan's survival depends to a significant
degree on the goodwill and the willingness of the United States to support
Taiwan. So far, the United States has been very supportive of Taiwan, so we
have to be very sensitive about what the United States is thinking. Currently
we have very close interactions between Taiwan's government and the U.S.
government and the kind of ideas can be flowing back and forth in between each
other. So we are fine, so far, in terms of warding off China's possible
aggression against Taiwan.
The American policy certainly before President Bush came to power was
strategic ambiguity. Do you think it's changed under the president?
I don't agree with the idea that there was a strategic ambiguity under Clinton
administration, or that the Bush administration is changing tremendously the
policy from its previous administration. Because in 1996, when China was
resorting to military exercises and missile threat against Taiwan, the United
States government under Clinton administration dispatched two aircraft carrier
battle groups to Taiwan area. Those two groups were composed of 16 ships, and
that's a tremendous act on the part of the United States. It's sending a very
clear message to China that Taiwan cannot be attacked unprovoked. That is
strategic clarity for the people who are doing the security studies.
Another part of the this strategic clarity is that if Taiwan is provoking
mainland China, for example, [by] declaring Taiwan's independence, that kind of
thing, then the United States is probably not going to help Taiwan, and that is
quite clear as well. But the U.S. administration under Clinton was not saying
it very clearly because, as they said, they don't want to appear to give Taiwan
a blank check so Taiwan can act recklessly. The Bush administration is somehow
more clear on these kinds of ideas. But actually that policy has been
continuation of the 1996 policy toward Taiwan.
So you're absolutely sure that America will come to your aid if China makes
any more threats against you or starts using force?
I think so. At least that's my personal belief. I have full confidence in
But you're an advisor to the government. Do you think that's [its
I think many of them have that kind of belief as well. But many of the decision
makers at the same time caution that, if we depend on the United States to that
degree, Taiwan might lose its autonomy in its own policy making. That's a
dilemma we face.
Whether we want autonomy in our policy making or we want protection from the
United States, the consensus is that we should maintain a very strong force by
ourselves and we should be able to defend ourselves in times of crisis. If we
are able to defend ourselves, then we don't need to rely so heavily on outside
forces to come in and intervene on our behalf, and then we will maintain some
of our policy autonomy. But apparently that's going to be very difficult.
Some people ... argue that it would be
preposterous for America to go to the defense of Taiwan. It would then be
taking on a country it recognizes, a country it's got huge trading
relationships with, [for the sake of] a country that doesn't actually represent
at all. Isn't that the truth of it -- that, economically, it's just not in
America's interests to come to your aid?
... If the United States decides not to come in to help Taiwan, ... then that would put the United States in a more serious
[situation] than ever. Because in the strategic environment in this area,
countries like Korea, Japan, are going to look at United States as a country
that cannot be trusted any more. What if Japan is attacked? Is United States
going to come in? What happens if Korea is attacked? So the countries in the
area will look at United States' commitment to the security of the area with a
different view, and that would make the U.S. position much more difficult.
I see it in a more complex way. On the one hand, economic development is very
conducive to the establishment of more liberal, more democratic political
system, and that kind of experience has been repeated throughout the world,
including the experience of Taiwan. But on the other hand, if we look at the
variables inside China, I personally worry about the consequences of rapid
How dangerous is the Taiwan Strait for America and the rest of the
I would say it's quite dangerous, because there is a high degree of competition
in terms of military build-up across the Taiwan Strait. If we look at the
traditional force, China already has 60, 70 submarines in the area and Taiwan
only has four. So in that area China has significant power if they decide to
have a blockade against Taiwan.
In terms of air force, China has been acquiring 150 SU-27s. They are in the
process of having SU-30s and more advanced Russian-made aircraft. In the area
of our naval forces, they are having four mini-class destroyers equipped with
SSM-20 missiles. Currently there seems to be no defense against those missiles,
and those missiles have a range of 120 sea miles. So China is adding more and
more to its weapon inventory in terms of more traditional weaponry and in terms
of strategic weaponry.
They are adding 50 missiles more per year to their deployment, and currently
they have about between 350 to 400. And they're still adding on and there's
nothing seems to be able to slowing them down. They also developing cruise
missiles and the multi-warhead missiles. Currently, even though people are
talking about missile defense, there's no defense against cruise missiles or
So the situation is developing into something that worries a lot of people here
in Taiwan. It worries a lot of decision-makers in the United States as well.
The way we see it is that China is developing all these kinds of weapons very
rapidly and deploying them so that they can have a total overwhelming force
against Taiwan by the year 2005 or 2010. Then Taiwan will be subsumed, because
if Taiwan is not able to keep up with this kind of pace of military competition
against each other, then Taiwan is not likely to sustain a blockade or military
attack. ... So that has political consequences and military consequences. So
the people here in Taiwan will get a situation with worry, and I'm sure the
decision-makers in Washington, D.C., are looking at a situation with a lot of
Do you think they really are planning for a blockade?
I'm not sure whether they will actually go into military actions, but they are
having all kinds of war games and simulations of what they plan to do against
Taiwan. Blockade is one of the ways that they can actually have an overwhelming
force against Taiwan. That is the prime reason why Taiwan needs to purchase
some of the anti-submarine aircraft from the United States in the recent
Do you think it's right that President Bush gave the go-ahead for Taiwan
being able to buy that?
Yes, I think so. I think President Bush is quite forthcoming in allowing the
United States to sell Taiwan the necessary weapons in order for Taiwan to
defend itself. Included in this package is twelve anti-submarine aircraft, as
well as eight submarines.
Of all the conflicts in the world, as you look at the Taiwan Strait, how do
you rate that as a potential flashpoint?
I would say it's probably the most dangerous flashpoint in the entire world,
because once a war erupts here, then many countries are going to be drawn in.
The United States is probably not going to sit idle. Japan and other countries
in the area might have to react, because Taiwan Strait happens to be a very
important sea link communication channel. The channel cannot afford to be shut
down. So many countries will be drawn into the situation. When there's a war in
between Taiwan and China, that will probably be another world war. Many people
will be involved for sure.
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