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Tuesday, 14 March, 2000, 10:09 GMT
Taiwan's government spokesman answers your questions

Taiwan's government spokesman, Chao Yi, took your questions about the upcoming presidential elections.

The elections on March 18 will have crucial implications for the island's future, and its tense relations with China.

Yao Kuei, Canada: Mr. Chao, after the presidential election, regardless of the result, do you see an increase in the division of the people on Taiwan? Can the Conflict between the mainlanders, who came to Taiwan after the civil war, and the native Taiwanese be resolved?

Dr. Chao Yi: In fact, President Lee Teng-hui has proposed the concept of "new Taiwanese," which encourages people of every ethnic group to look toward the future, identify with Taiwan, and co-operate with each other, while remembering the lessons of history. Thus, no matter who came to Taiwan earlier, everyone should concurrently consider themselves Taiwanese and Chinese. This is the concept of being a part of the same organic body.

Frankly speaking, after decades of intermarriage and assimilation, it is difficult to tell the difference between "native Taiwanese" and "mainlanders." I sincerely believe that social and democratic forces will help to reduce or eliminate questions of ethnic differences. I am very optimistic that we can achieve this result.

Zhang Bing Cheng: It seems the Taiwan authority has been promoting a Taiwan independence policy over the past decade. Don't you think the step toward an independent Taiwan will jeopardise the island?

Dr. Chao Yi: We have not adopted a Taiwan independence policy. In fact, reunification is the common aspiration of the people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait. Therefore, over the past ten years, the ROC government has not only formulated the Guidelines for National Unification and has also promoted dialogue and exchanges to reach a win-win result and peaceful unification, under the principles of parity, peace, progress, and prosperity.

Tony, Scotland: How real do you judge the threat of a mainland Chinese invasion? Is it just posturing for domestic political purposes?

Dr. Chao Yi: Although Taiwan and the mainland have had their respective governments since 1949, Beijing has refused to renounce the use of force against Taiwan and has continually attempted to denigrate our international status, while forcing us to accept their self-serving "one country, two systems" formula.

During our 1996 direct presidential election and again this year, Beijing has shown no sign of easing its verbal attacks and military intimidation against Taiwan. Through such actions, the Chinese mainland hopes to achieve both domestic and international goals.

Domestically, the Chinese mainland is suffering from severe corruption; its economic reform has encountered several constraints; there is a growing dispute over the policies; and internal power struggles are more evident. The authorities are trying to divert domestic attention from these issues, by appealing to nationalistic sentiments.

Internationally, Beijing has frequently propounded its definition of the "one-China principle" to prevent our government from participating in international organisations and engaging in pragmatic diplomacy, in order to completely isolate the ROC from the world community.

Harry Wu, USA: Do you think that the USA should take some blame for the increasing tensions between Beijing and Taiwan?

Dr. Chao Yi: The mainland Chinese threat against Taiwan has existed since 1949, and they have adamantly refused to renounce the use of force in resolving the cross-strait disputes. Therefore, I don't think that the USA should take blame for increasing tensions between Beijing and Taiwan.

However, the USA can play a more constructive role in cross-strait relations by promoting security and peace in the Taiwan Strait and the Asia-Pacific region.

The USA and the ROC share the same ideals of freedom, democracy, and human rights. Moreover, our political and economic development experiences have provided an example for the democratisation of the Chinese mainland and are consistent with the American goal of comprehensive engagement with the Beijing authorities. Consequently, the continuation of prosperity on Taiwan and stability in the Taiwan Strait are in the US national interests.

Jon Morley, England: Does Taiwan expect assistance from Western governments should China begin to carry out its military threats?

Dr. Chao Yi: According to US military intelligence, the Chinese mainland does not at present have the ability to invade Taiwan. The ROC's military information also indicates that the Chinese mainland shows no signs of preparing to attack Taiwan.

However, the regime on the Chinese mainland is very unstable. To alleviate a crisis caused by political, economic, and social problems on the mainland, Beijing might initiate military action abroad to divert attention from domestic affairs, so we must maintain our preparedness. If Beijing takes military action against Taiwan, we are confident that all democratic countries around the world will support Taiwan.

The Republic of China and Western countries implement democracy and safeguard freedom and human rights. In addition, the Taiwan Strait is an international waterway, and Taiwan has a very important geopolitical position. If the Chinese mainland launches military attacks against Taiwan and endangers navigation safety on the high seas, the West will not stand idly by.

Under the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act, the US has continued to provide defensive weapons to the Republic of China. In 1996, the US dispatched two carrier battle groups to the area, when the Chinese mainland launched missiles into the waters near Taiwan in an attempt to intimidate us during our first direct presidential election.

Ai-Lun Huang, Taiwan (currently in UK): Is there any alternative route instead of independence for Taiwan's future?

Dr. Chao Yi: According to the results of many polls, most people on Taiwan do not favour a declaration of independence, as such would raise cross-strait tensions and foment a war. Such an action would be completely contrary to the interests of the people on Taiwan, the Asia-Pacific region, and the rest of the world.

The cross-strait relationship has moved from confrontation of the Cold War era to the frequent interactions over the past decade, as a result of our government's efforts to actively promote dialogue and contacts with the Chinese mainland.

However, the negotiations between the two sides have been deadlocked since 1995 by the Chinese mainland's constant attempts to degrade our status into that of a local government and its refusal to acknowledge the existence of the ROC as a sovereign political entity. The stalemate in cross-strait relations is directly attributable to the Chinese mainland's unfair treatment of the ROC and its hostility toward Taiwan's democratic progress.

The ROC has a free and democratic society, whose future will be decided by all its people. Before unification can take place, we must comply with the sequential phases of the Guidelines for National Unification and strengthen our national defence and economic competitiveness to ensure continuous development and elevate the international status of Taiwan.

Dipta K. Bandyopadhyay, USA: Do you think the brave people of Taiwan are taking the threat from China seriously and thus may vote against pro-independence candidates?

Dr. Chao Yi: The security and dignity of the 22 million people on Taiwan are essential for our survival; they are also our common goals. We are totally opposed to the use of military force to resolve cross-strait issues.

Four years ago, voters in the ROC refused to be intimidated by Beijing's military threats and chose the first popularly elected head of state in Chinese history. In the current presidential election, our voters will carefully consider and wisely decide to elect the person, who will be most capable of preserving national security and dignity.

W Pearson, Canada: What will Taiwan do if the Chinese mainland uses force in the future? Will Taiwan consider reunification under President Lee Teng-hui's idea of "special state-to-state" relations?

Dr. Chao Yi: As noted previously, the Chinese mainland currently does not have the military capability to successfully invade Taiwan, nor are there any indications that Beijing is making the necessary preparations for such an invasion.

If the Chinese mainland truly intends to launch an attack or stir up incidents to initiate a war, these acts would be condemned as irrational and inhuman by all the peace-loving nations of the world. Nonetheless, I am confident that the years of preparation by the ROC's Ministry of National Defence should be more than adequate to inflict heavy casualties on an invading force.

From the perspective of the Constitution and the current state of political affairs between the two sides, it is simply honest and pragmatic to say that the Chinese mainland and Taiwan share a "special state-to-state" relationship. This definition has nothing to do with promoting Taiwan independence, nor does it signify any change in the ROC government's policy of achieving peaceful reunification and a democratic, free, and prosperous China.

Simon, Singapore: What do you think the relationship between the Chinese mainland and Taiwan will be in the following 5 years?

Dr. Chao Yi: The ROC remains adamant that the development of future cross-strait relations must protect the existence and development of the Republic of China.

The methods and the developmental process itself should progress under the principle of finding common ground amidst our many differences; that is, using specific means to promote constructive mutual interaction between the two sides through positive economic, cultural, educational, scientific, and tourist exchanges.

For example, cross-strait economic and trade relations should be developed in a stable manner under the principles of reciprocity and mutual benefit in accordance with the trends of economic integration taking place in the Asia-Pacific and the rest of the world.

The more controversial issues in cross-strait relations can be resolved gradually and sequentially.

Peter Crawford-Bolton, UK (in US): If Taiwan should achieve its independence, from China, what is next for Taiwan?

Dr. Chao Yi: This is a hypothetical question. I have never predicted that Taiwan would move in the direction of "independence," and I would like to stress that the ROC has been a sovereign state since 1912.

At present, there are different governments on each side of the Taiwan Strait. Our government is dedicated to the goal of peaceful unification. As long as the two sides of the Strait are on an equal basis, there is no limitation on the level and subjects of our dialogue, and the breadth and depth of exchanges will surely surpass those of the present. Thus, the cross-strait relationship will be completely transformed.

Nick Davies, UK: The British Government has announced plans to relax the requirements for foreign IT workers to work in Britain. Do you fear a resulting depletion of IT skills and international competitiveness in Taiwan, or do you look forward to the increased competitiveness of the Taiwan economy, when these workers return home with new skills?

Dr. Chao Yi: Information technology is an important industry, which will advance the economic development of Taiwan. Possessing the rich resources of first-class hardware and software design and qualified manufacturing personnel, Taiwan is the world's third-largest manufacturer of information technology products.

Taiwan's information technology personnel have been active throughout the world, including the Silicon Valley in the USA and Scotland's "European Silicon Valley." In addition to personnel exchanges, local information companies in Taiwan also form strategic alliances with foreign companies, such as those established between the Acer affiliates and IBM.

These facts demonstrate that the world has become a global information village. The export of information technology experts will not affect the competitiveness of Taiwan's information industry, but will promote Taiwan's competitiveness and co-operation in the international market.

Duncan Innes-Ker, UK: Does the KMT have any plans to further open the Taiwanese economy to foreign investment, especially with possibility of accession to the WTO?

Dr. Chao Yi: Consistent with internationalisation, liberalisation, and our pledge to join the World Trade Organisation, the ROC has gradually relaxed the proportional restriction of foreign investment in local stock markets since 1994. In the future, we will continue to adhere to this principle of gradualism in completing the following tasks:

1. With the exception of "special businesses," there will be no restriction on foreign investments in local stock markets, beginning January 1, 2001.
2. We will encourage foreign enterprises to distribute TDR in Taiwan and form strategic alliances or relationships with notable foreign stock exchanges to link local capital markets to the international market.
3. We will develop Taiwan as an Asia-Pacific assets management centre. As Taiwan has ample capital for industrial growth, public construction, new townships, and urban renewal, which all require capital, we will therefore expedite passage of relevant trust laws and regulations; promote security assets; provide multipurpose financial products; liberalise and introduce local and overseas professional institutions; and provide comprehensive financial consultations, counselling services, and swift and convenient movement of capital.
4. Following the world-wide trend of allowing financial institutions, such as banking, insurance, and securities, to engage in cross-business operations, we will expedite development in this direction to satisfy people's demands for varied financial services.
5. We will actively promote new financial products, as well as linking and trading with important foreign stock exchanges.

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