Thursday, February 22, 2007

Bitter Friends

First the stick, now the carrots
Jonathan Adams
Newsweek International, May 2, 2005

China wants Taiwan back, but doesn't quite know how to make it happen. Tensions seemed to be easing earlier this year, until Beijing enacted a tough anti-secession law in March authorizing the use of force against Taiwan to prevent a permanent break between the two sides. Taiwan's pro-Independence President Chen Shui-bian has turned the draconian measure to his political advantage, so Beijing is now taking a savvier tack: it's trying to isolate Chen by wooing his political foes, and even some supporters. This week Lien Chan, chairman of the opposition Kuo-mintang, will visit Chinese President Hu Jintao, marking the first time a KMT leader has met with the Communist Party chief since the KMT fled the mainland in 1949. Beijing has also reached out to Taiwan's other major opposition leader, James Soong, and is even tempting the island's fruit farmers—largely pro-independence supporters—with scrumptious trade terms for their produce. "It's a stick-and-carrot strategy," says Emile Sheng, a political-science professor at Soochow University in Taipei.

Not all Taiwanese are impressed by Beijing's overtures. Despite Lien's talk of achieving "peace for both sides of the Taiwan Strait," any negotiations need Chen's blessing, and his party still holds more sway with Taiwanese voters than the KMT. Chen's allies have denounced Lien's trip as a sellout of Taiwan's interests—and warned that the would-be peacemaker could be tried for treason if he reaches any renegade deals with Beijing. Lacking any real power, Lien's bid for a cross-strait breakthrough may turn into another cross-strait breakdown.

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