Geography Reference
In-Depth Information
Tensions between the mainland and Taiwan were once again height-
ened in mid-1999, when President Lee announced in an interview
broadcast over German radio that he and his government would
now conduct talks and contacts with the Communist government on
the mainland only on the basis of government-to-government rela-
tions. In doing so Lee was simply emphasizing the obvious facts that
two governments on either side of the Taiwan Strait did in fact exist
and that the Republic of China had been a reality since 1912. To the
mainland, this was an ominous step closer to a formal declaration of
independence. Given the mainland's recent belligerent mood and
saber rattling, Lee's “one country, two governments” formulation
was precipitous and ill-advised. It only increased suspicion and
heightened tensions in the Taiwan Strait, across which fundamental
misunderstanding existed in both directions.
Tensions flared up once again in February 2000, when the mainland
Chinese government issued a white paper making new threats to Tai-
wan. Like mainland China's saber rattling in early 1996, these new
threats occurred on the eve of democratic presidential elections on Tai-
wan and were obviously intended to intimidate and bully the island's
voting population into selecting a candidate pleasing to Beijing. The
Chinese Communists were clearly unnerved by the possibility of a
pro-independence candidate winning the election and taking Taiwan
even farther down the road of formal independence. The three candi-
dates running were Lien Chan (President Lee's vice president); Chen
Shui-bian, a native Taiwanese and member of the DPP who had
declared that Taiwan already was a sovereign state and did not need
to declare it formally; and James Soong, a former member of the Kuo-
mintang who now ran as an independent and generally favored closer
ties with the mainland. Of these three candidates, James Soong was
obviously the most suitable as far as Beijing was concerned, and Lien
Chan, even though he had been Lee Teng-hui's vice president, was cer-
tainly more acceptable than the pro-independence choice Chen Shui-
bian. Chen Shuibian won the election with 39 percent of the popular
vote. James Soong finished right behind him with 37 percent; and Lien
Chan came in a distant third at 23 percent. The remaining 1 percent of
the vote went to minor also-rans.
James Soong and Lien Chan both favored eventual reunification of
Taiwan with mainland China. Meanwhile, they would pursue a status
quo ante policy, neither rejecting unification nor taking concrete steps
toward it. It was just this go-slow, status quo approach to unification
that was troubling Beijing in early 2000. The Chinese Communists
did not want to wait forever for the unification of China, and they
Search WWH ::

Custom Search