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From newsdesk@igc.apc.org Mon Mar 20 12:32:21 2000
Date: Sat, 18 Mar 2000 18:58:06 -0600 (CST)
From: IGC News Desk <newsdesk@igc.apc.org>
Subject: CHINA-TAIWAN: Beijing Worried About Opposition Victory
Article: 91600
To: undisclosed-recipients:;
X-UIDL: f4dca6b8afd7fc29cce2a7ee0179aefa

Beijing Worried About Opposition Victory

By Antoaneta Bezlova, IPS, 17 March 2000

BEIJING, Mar 17 (IPS) - As Taiwanese go to the polls on Saturday, predictions that Chen Shui-bian, the opposition Democratic Progressive Party candidate, will become Taiwan's next president, ending the Kuomintang's 50-year rule on the island, are making the Chinese leadership increasingly nervous.

On the surface, what the mainland's communist leaders fear is the platform of Chen's party which calls for the establishment of a sovereign and independent Republic of Taiwan. Beijing considers Taiwan a 'renegade province', the last piece of its reunification crusade, that sooner or later must be brought back to the embrace of the motherland.

Beyond that, the fear of the Chinese Communist Party is that if Taiwanese voters elect Chen as their new president, this would mark the end of one-party rule on the island and the beginning of a new, truly democratic regime.

The Kuomintang Party has been in power ever since the defeated troops of its supremo Chiang Kai-shek fled the mainland in 1949 and established a government-in-exile in Taiwan. The Kuomintang Party has governed the island for 50 years, or as long as its arch-rival, the Communist Party, has ruled the mainland.

With the end of one-party rule on the island, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) has vowed to introduce sweeping political reforms and part with the corruption and cronyism of the Kuomintang Party.

It is that manifesto of DPP that rings apocalyptic bells for the communist leadership in Beijing.

Weakened by the decline of its increasingly feeble ideology and grappling with a stagnant economic reform, China's leadership is reluctant to see any political change across the Taiwan Straits. It fears that any change of the status-quo would bring along changes on a range of issues -- from relations with China to economic policy and political system.

Beijing has renounced incumbent Taiwanese president Lee Teng-hui as the biggest criminal in history but it still prefers to deal with his annointed successor and Kuomintang candidate, current Vice President Lien Chan, than with the new generation of Taiwan leaders like Chen Shui-bian.

Fearing momentum for the opposition candidate Chen has been growing over the last week, Beijing on Wednesday and Thursday pulled out all the stops in a last-ditch effort to influence Taiwanese voters when they go to the polls on March 18th.

On Wednesday, Premier Zhu Rongji threatened and then pleaded with Taiwanese voters to shun the DPP candidate Chen Shui-bian. Let me advise all those people in Taiwan: do not just act on impulse at this juncture which will decide the future course that China and Taiwan would follow. Otherwise they will have no opportunity to regret, he said.

Speaking at a press-conference at the end of the National People's Congress session, Zhu said he did not wish to interfere in the Saturday's poll, but expressed hope Taiwan people would vote the right way.

We believe in the political wisdom of the people of Taiwan and we trust that our Taiwan compatriots will make the right historical vote, Zhu said. But in the same breath, he said: The Chinese people are ready to shed blood and sacrifice their lives to defend the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the motherland.

The threats coming from Beijing seem the more unfitting because in the past year, Chen Shui-bian has moved away from supporting independence for Taiwan. If elected, Chen has pledged not to declare independence, not to hold a referendum on the issue and not to put the phrase 'special state-to-state' relations into Taiwan's Constitution.

Those words, which current President Lee Teng-hui put forward last July, infuriated China and set off a war of words across the Strait of Taiwan.

Chen's rivals - ruling Kuomintang Party candidate and Vice President Lien Chan and independent James Soong, have also expressed hopes that relations with mainland China would improve.

While no opinion polls have been published in the past 10 days, in line with election law, the Taiwan media is reporting Chen Shui-bian running ahead of his rivals.

On Thursday, Beijing toughened its warning to Taiwan by saying the timetable for reunification was in hands of Taiwan voters. If they choose a leader who advocates Taiwan independence (read Chen), this timetable may well not be a question of years but of a few dozen hours, said Taiwan researcher Xu Bodong at a news conference on the Taiwan issue.

If you are for peaceful reunification, the timetable could be longer. But if you are moving towards Taiwan independence, it is hard to say. It could be three to five years, or there could be a change within 24 hours, said Li Jiaquan, a standing member of the directorate of the Taiwan Studies Society.

Despite the barrage of threats flying over the Straits, DPP candidate Chen Shui-bian seemed defiant. In response to Zhu Rongji's menacing message, Chen said Taiwan could not agree with his views and that Taiwanese voters would not be intimidated by the threats of bullets.

The Chinese communists want to turn Taiwan into a province whereas we are a country with independent sovereignty, Chen told a campaign rally on Wednesday night. We don't want 'one country, two systems'. Taiwan voters don't want Taiwan to become like Hong Kong and Macau.