The coming decade will be critical for Taiwan, and for its relationship to the Chinese mainland. Taibei will face the difficult problem of succession to President Jiang Jingguo, its economic development will meet new and serious challenges, and its relations with the People’s Republic of China will evolve—in one direction or another.* Developments in Taiwan-P.R.C. relations will continue to influence the Sino-American relationship and the political structure of east Asia. Relations between the two governments claiming to rule over China, however, will increasingly depend on the interaction between Beijing and Taibei themselves, rather than on Washington and other international players.
Three related factors determine the texture of this interaction: the policies evolving in Beijing, internal developments on Taiwan, and the international environment. This article will examine each of these factors, then discuss Taibei’s policy options and their possible consequences, and finally suggest a desirable course of developments for the decade to come.
The most important influence on Taibei’s relationship with the mainland is, of course, Beijing itself. P.R.C. policy toward Taibei has changed significantly since Mao’s death in September 1976, and especially since Deng Xiaoping’s consolidation of power three years later. The new policy has three components: an effort to reduce tensions and convince Taibei to come to the negotiating table; a parallel strategy of pressuring Taibei to talk with Beijing; and the policy of setting limits to constrain Taibei’s behavior.
During the past several years, Beijing has offered Taibei several proposals for reunification. These proposals, including Deng Xiaoping’s recent "one state, two systems" proposal, allow Taibei to maintain its social and economic system, its armed forces and its unofficial ties with foreign countries. In return for promising not to interfere in Taibei’s internal affairs, Beijing expects Taibei to give up its claim to represent all of China and agree to become a "special administrative region" of China. Beijing has repeatedly suggested that open direct trade should be
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