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Address to International Conference on "The PRC After the 15th Party Congress"
1998-02-19

Vice President Lien Chan was invited to a luncheon today with participants in the International Conference on the PRC after the 15th Party Congress held at the Grand Hotel in Taipei.

 

The full text of the Vice President's speech is as follows:

 

President Tien, Distinguished Scholars, Friends and Honorable Guests:

 

First, I would like to express my sincerest appreciation for being invited to speak on this occasion. The Republic of China has always been concerned about the welfare of our compatriots on the other side of the Taiwan Strait. Indeed, if we look from a historical and geographical perspective, it is clear that the future development of Taiwan is closely linked to that of the Chinese mainland. The ROC has therefore been a regular and careful observer of modernization on the mainland. Discussion at this conference will focus on "the PRC after the 15th Party Congress ". I am confident that with your insight, this conference will produce a bounty of opinion to aid us in our understanding of the Chinese mainland.

 

I myself have often thought long and hard about these issues. First and foremost, I believe that when people talk about the "Taiwan issue", they fail to incorporate the full scope of the situation. We must instead talk about the "Taiwan Strait issue". Only then do we address the full complexity of all factors involved, including political and economic developments in Taiwan and the Mainland, interaction between the two sides, and the international factor.

 

I recently set forth a new approach to the Taiwan Strait issue--the "three noes" and "three yeses."

 

The "three noes" are" no" to Taiwan Independence, "no" to reunification, and "no" to antagonism. The first, "no" to Taiwan Independence, simply means that Taiwan is incapable of declaring independence and establishing a so-called "Republic of Taiwan". The fact that the Republic of China has long been a sovereign state is both evident and undeniable. As for the second "no", "no" to reunification, indicates that as conditions for the reunification of Taiwan and the mainland are not yet ripe, Taiwan is in no hurry to reunify, let alone become a part of the "People's Republic of China."The third "no", "no" to antagonism, means that the two sides should not provoke or exclude each other. They should not deliberately incite antagonism or hostility and thereby cause instability.

 

I advocate "no" to independence because the Republic of China has an uninterrupted 87 years of history as a sovereign state. This is a fact that no amount of suppression by the Chinese mainland can negate. We do not need to once again declare independence or change the name of our nation.

 

I say "no" to reunification for two reasons. First, the Chinese mainland has not yet evolved into a free, democratic, and equitably prosperous society. If the two sides were to unify in spite of such enormous economic and social differences, the welfare and prosperity of the people on Taiwan would be sacrificed. Not only would it be grossly irresponsible of the ROC government, it would also run counter to international standards of humanitarian values.

 

Second, and more important, our most basic requirement for reunification--democracy on the Chinese mainland--has yet to be met. The logic of this requirement is really quite simple: Only when there is a democratic government in Peking with an internal system of checks and balances can we be ensured that all related agreements between Taipei and Peking will be upheld. Furthermore, a China that is to be reunified under democracy has the greatest chance of peaceful coexistence with neighboring countries and not posing an even larger threat. Over the past few decades, the totalitarian Peking regime has, in its arrogance, subjected its own people and neighbors to a great deal of suffering. Only through 50 long years of continuous resistance have the people of Taiwan been able to achieve their present success. It would be sheer folly for Taiwan to now blindly accept the one-sided arrangements of Peking.

 

However, in emphasizing "no" to reunification, I am not rejecting efforts by both sides to create conditions for reunification. In fact, it is because I want to lay down a foundation for future reunification that I proposed the third "no"--"no" to antagonism--as well as the "three yeses," which will promote cross-strait exchanges and thereby greatly assist the reunification process. Indeed, it is my opinion that the combination of the "three yeses" and the aforementioned "no" to antagonism will provide the best ground to promoting exchanges and moving toward eventual reunification. The "three yeses" include "yes" to peace, "yes" to exchanges, and "yes" to a "win-win" scenario for both sides.

 

At the present stage, we believe that the best formula for developing bilateral relations is "exchanges," and it is this belief that underlies my appeal for "yes" to exchanges. Continuous exchanges would not only enhance our understanding of one another, but would also reduce hostilities and prevent conflict between the two sides. As for "yes" to peace, this simply means that a peaceful environment would serve as the best foundation for cross-strait relations. Indeed, proceeding with gradual and sequential exchanges between the two sides is the ideal method for maintaining peace in the Taiwan Strait.

 

"Yes" to a "win-win" scenario means that leaders from both sides of the strait adopt an approach to planning and promoting private-sector exchanges in which both sides win. A "win-win" policy would ensure that both sides benefit from bilateral exchanges. If both sides can share with each other the benefits reaped from these exchanges, then conflicts can be avoided and peace maintained.

 

The purpose of the aforementioned "three noes" and "three yeses" is to provide a resolution to the problems facing both Taipei and Peking. Through dialogue and exchanges, the two sides have over the past decade laid a solid foundation for bilateral relations. This is the positive side of the Taiwan Strait issue. However, the negative side is that a latent antagonistic atmosphere still lingers.

 

At present, the positive side of cross-strait relations involves two components. The first is semi-official exchanges. Taipei's Straits Exchange Foundation and Peking's Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait have accumulated a wealth of experience with bilateral negotiations. From January 1992 to May 1995, the SEF and ARATS held 17 rounds of negotiations, and in April 1993, the two organizations even signed four agreements in Singapore. All this represents a good start for cross-strait relations.

 

The second component is private-sector exchanges. Cross-strait social, economic, and trade activities have continued to grow non-stop. From January to November of 1997, trade between the two sides totaled US$22.008 billion, accounting for 10.2 percent of Taiwan's total external trade. During the same period, Taiwan accumulated a trade surplus of US$14.941 billion with the mainland. Since 1990, according to official statistics, Taiwan residents have remitted approximately US$2.3 billion to relatives on the mainland, and from 1991 to October 1997, Taiwan entrepreneurs have invested a total of US$8.17 billion there. Finally, since 1990, an average of one million visits by Taiwan residents to the Mainland have been made per year.

 

Indeed, the frequency of cross-strait exchanges has been greater over the past decade than the entire 40 preceding years combined. So why did we experience military tension in the Taiwan Strait between 1995 and 1996? The reason lies in the latent antagonistic atmosphere that we are very concerned about.

 

Personally, I believe that there are three factors underlying the post-1995 stalemate in cross-strait relations.

 

First, there is a serious imbalance between political development in Taipei and Peking. The mainland authorities have been working toward economic reform and liberalization, and have started to integrate into the world economic order. Nevertheless, Peking remains a Leninist, one-party dictatorship. In fact, the farther mainland economy develops, the more terrified the leadership becomes, and the more they restrict the freedom of speech and access to information. In glaring contrast, the Republic of China has accelerated its pursuit of liberalization and democracy over the past ten years. The residents of Taiwan have thus become accustomed to a democratic life. With each passing day, their acknowledgment of Peking's single-party dictatorship diminishes while their sense of alienation grows.

 

Second, the political gap between the two sides has given rise to internal political constraints on both sides. These constraints are the second source of potential conflict across the Taiwan Strait. The Peking authorities believe that they can improve the economy, preserve social stability and ensure effective rule under a Leninist regime. " When they apply this Leninist concept to the issue of sovereignty it results in a "one China" policy that not only ignores the existence of the Republic of China, but also implies discrimination, coercion, and even annexation.

 

However, politics in the ROC have developed in the opposite direction. Today, the residents of Taiwan fully participate in the political process, and those with opposing political viewpoints have legal channels for questioning government policy. Taipei's mainland policy is under the constant scrutiny of its citizens. The ROC government does not demand much, only that Peking acknowledge the fact that the ROC government exercises effective jurisdiction over the territories of Taiwan, Kinmen, Matsu, and the Pescadores. Furthermore, I am confident that neither the KMT, which hopes to stay in power, nor the opposition parties will ever agree with Peking's narrowly defined "one China" policy.

 

The third factor behind cross-strait tensions is the diplomatic battle between Taipei and Peking. Scholars and distinguished guests: a moment ago I mentioned the cross-strait military crisis of 1995. Some have said that the crisis was precipitated by the ROC's promotion of pragmatic diplomacy, and in particular President Lee Teng-hui's trip to the US as an alumnus of Cornell University. However, I believe this theory is inconsistent with the facts. Decades ago, long before President Lee visited the US, the mainland authorities launched a campaign to exclude the Republic of China from the international community using every means available. This campaign has never ended; only the slogans have changed. In the early days they first spoke of us as the "running dog of US imperialism" and then the "Chiang K.S. clique," and now, they claim that we seek "Taiwan Independence." The fact of the matter is that Peking wants to wipe the ROC off the face of the earth. Until they gain absolute military superiority, one of the mainland leadership's primary goals has been to limit the space that the ROC has to maneuver in the international community, hoping to annex Taiwan in name. Today, we have already entered the post-Cold War era, and the world has become a single "global village ". Nevertheless, that the ROC, despite its strength and willingness, is unable to fully participate in the global community stands perhaps as the greatest mockery of that concept. Furthermore, the continuous pressure exerted by the mainland authorities to suppress the ROC's foreign relations will only intensify the ill will the residents of Taiwan feel for Peking. This is clearly detrimental to the development of cross-strait relations and national reunification.

 

Esteemed scholars and distinguished guests: Tensions between Taipei and Peking spring from differing political systems. Narrowing these differences will require considerable time. I suggest that in the interim, both sides do their best to come up with a concrete channel for relations based on the "three noes" and "three yeses." For instance, Peking could adopt the "win-win" approach to realistically assess the ROC's diplomatic activities. The two sides must respect each other's international presence, cooperate and help each other, and participate together in international organizations and activities. We must march hand in hand toward a new era of cooperation. By so doing, the two sides can maximize the welfare of the Chinese people as a whole and also contribute substantially to world peace and prosperity.

 

Finally, I want to reiterate that I believe exchanges to be the most effective and feasible method for resolving the Taiwan Strait issue. We are confident that the last ten years of cross-strait exchanges represent a good start. If the two sides can refrain from setting preconditions and excluding any particular issues, and resume negotiations on this basis, then the Taiwan Strait issue will not remain as a problem of the 21st century. In the future, as the gap between political systems, ideologies, and lifestyles gradually diminishes and finally disappears, our goal of one nation built on the foundation of Chinese culture and peacefully reunified under freedom, democracy and equitable prosperity will naturally come to pass.

 

In closing, I look forward to the resounding success of this conference. Ladies and Gentlemen, Distinguished Guests: You have my best wishes for good health and future fulfillment.

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