Taiwan: Stop the War of Words
Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian thinks he and his fellow Taiwanese don't get enough respect from mainland China's leadership in Beijing. He's right: Beijing continues to treat Taiwan as a renegade province that must be brought to heel. Lately, some Taiwanese executives who support Chen have complained that their factories on the mainland have been harassed by the authorities. China's leaders need to realize that tough words and actions are pushing Taiwan away, not bringing it closer.
But Chen, too, needs to be cautious. To his credit, since becoming President he has modulated his pro-independence views considerably. Still, in a July 27 interview with Business Week (page 49), Chen skated close to the edge of confrontation when he spoke of Taiwan as "a sovereign and independent country." Chen also said he intends to continue the former President's policies of traveling to diplomatically friendly countries abroad, will continue to seek Taiwan's representation on the U.N. and other international bodies, and supports continued research into a U.S.-developed Theater Missile Defense system. All of those policies have angered Beijing in the past.
Both Beijing and Taipei should cool the rhetoric and lay off the symbolic gestures. Instead, they should restart long-suspended talks on such confidence-building measures as cooperation on fishing rights, hijacking, and smuggling. At a time when emotions on both sides of the Taiwan Strait are running high, it's important to aim toward peace, not provocation.