Drawing a Line in the Sand
By CHEN WEN
When Chinese President Hu Jintao signed the presidential order to make the Anti-Secession Law effective from March 14, he removed any doubts about China’s stance on the so called “independence of Taiwan.” Those in Taiwan seeking a split with the motherland have been given the blunt message, this far and no further. With the law stressing the process of peaceful reunification of Taiwan and the mainland, the Chinese Government has been at pains to explain that this will always be their first option, while non-peaceful means of reunification is clearly the last resort. What has emerged from the overwhelming support of the Anti-Secession Law is that it carries with it the will of the Chinese people. The ball now is firmly in Taiwan’s court.
One week after Wang Zhaoguo, Vice Chairman of the Standing Committee of the 10th National People’s Congress (NPC), released the reasons behind the controversial draft legislation of the Anti-Secession Law, the NPC, China’s top legislature, ratified the 10-article law by a unanimous 2,896 votes to nil, with two abstentions at the Great Hall of the People on March 14.
The law is aimed at opposing and checking Taiwan’s secession from China in the name of “Taiwan independence.” According to the official news agency Xinhua, the law has been hailed as a “powerful legal guarantee for peaceful national reunification.”
Both the legislators and experts on the Taiwan question see this law as both timely and necessary. As Wang Zaixi, Deputy Director of the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council, pointed out, although there are some signs showing that the situation in Taiwan is somewhat defused, the activities of pro-independence forces there still exist. “If we can’t effectively check the momentum of the ‘Taiwan independence’ forces, they will repeatedly challenge our ‘redline’ and will further severely threaten peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait region,” he said at a press conference held on March 15.
According to Wang, the legislation of the Anti-Secession Law changes neither the Chinese Government’s policies and guidelines toward, nor its stance on, Taiwan. The law has actually taken the basic guidelines of “peaceful reunification” and “one country, two systems” that have been in operation for over 20 years, along with important speeches made by Chinese President Hu Jintao on solving the Taiwan question, into the legal framework, he said.
Xinhua said that the Anti-Secession Law was first put on the legislative agenda of the NPC last December, partly in response to the growing calls and proposals for such legislation both at home and overseas in recent years. The contents of the law were kept secret until Wang Zhaoguo explained it to NPC deputies on March 8.
Wang pointed out that in recent years the Taiwan authorities have intensified their “independence” activities aimed at separating Taiwan from China. Proof of their escalating secessionist activities can be particularly found in the Taiwan authorities’ attempt to use so called “constitutional” or “legal” means through “referendum” or “constitutional reengineering,” said Wang.
Facts have shown that the secessionist activities of the “Taiwan independence” forces gravely threaten China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, seriously endanger the prospects for a peaceful reunification and severely undermine the fundamental interests of the Chinese nation. They have posed a serious threat to peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait and the Asia-Pacific region as a whole, said Wang in explanation of the new law.
Wang’s remarks were echoed by experts on Taiwan question and some authoritative media editorials.
Zhu Weidong, an expert with the Taiwan Studies Institute under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, held that the anti-secession bill was the result of insistence by the “Taiwan independence” forces, to gradually move from “gradual Taiwan independence” to “radical Taiwan independence.” This was now the biggest threat to cross-strait relations, stability and peace of the Asia-Pacific region and reunification of China, said Zhu.
When answering a question about the reasons for enacting the anti-secession bill at this time, raised by a netizen of Xinhuanet, Zhu said that in the long term, the “Taiwan independence” forces would never easily give up their activities. “They have unrealistic ambitions,” said Zhu, who believes that the factor influencing stability across the strait hasn’t yet been eliminated. So enacting this law does not go against the current situation, he said, adding that the most important wording in the law is “peaceful reunification,” instead of military attack.
In his article written for Taiwan-based China Times, Nan Fangshuo, a famous political critic in Taiwan, voiced similar opinions to Zhu, when he said that in recent years, secessionist activities in Taiwan have become more and more radical, forcing China’s hand in enacting the Anti-Secession Law.
Both Hong Kong-based Wen Wei Po and Macao-based Macao Daily believed that the legislation of the Anti-Secession Law would be an effective curb to the secessionist activities.
An editorial in the Hong Kong-based Ta Kung Pao said that enacting the Anti-Secession Law is not only necessary but also timely, adding it is an important step to the reunification of the country.
Apart from checking the secessionist activities, the law also aims to oppose foreign forces’ intervention into China’s internal affairs through the Taiwan question, according to Zhu Weidong.
“The Taiwan question is one that is left over from China’s civil war of the late 1940s. Solving the Taiwan question and achieving China’s complete reunification is China’s internal affair. On this question, we will not submit to any interference by outside forces,” said Wang Zhaoguo.
Redline for Secessionists
The Anti-Secession Law aims to draw a “redline” for the “Taiwan independence” forces, according to a commentary in Taiwan-based China Times Express. The commentary said that once the “Taiwan independence” forces crossed the redline, the Chinese mainland would resort to force. The law would make it clear to all parties in Taiwan on how to maintain peace on both sides of the Taiwan Strait, the commentary said.
“The draft legislation provides that in the event that ‘Taiwan independence’ forces should act under any name or by any means to cause Taiwan’s secession from China, or that major incidents entailing Taiwan’s secession from China should occur, or that possibilities for a peaceful reunification should be completely exhausted, the state shall employ non-peaceful means and other necessary measures to protect China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” said Wang.
China “has never forsworn the use of force,” said the vice chairman of the NPC Standing Committee, adding, “No sovereign state can tolerate secession and every sovereign state has the right to use necessary means to defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
An article, entitled “China Sends Warning to Taiwan With Anti-Secession Law” published by the U.S.-based The Washington Post, said that in Wang’s description of the law, although he did not say what specific steps toward “independence” might lead China’s leaders deciding on a military response, he “listed, as particularly troubling, several goals that Chen [Shui-bian] has mentioned repeatedly, including revision of Taiwan’s “constitution” and consulting the island’s 23 million people through referendums on questions regarding independence.”
“By adding the solemn force of law to its policy, China put Chen and his followers on notice in a dramatic way that, should they go too far in their quest for independence, Beijing is ready to use its growing military might,” said The Washington Post article.
The Anti-Secession Law does not list what specific steps toward “independence” might lead to military response. “Because no matter how clever you are, you are not able to anticipate all situations,” said Xu Shiquan, Vice President of the National Society of Taiwan Studies and also a member of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC). According to Xu, the cases in which the non-peaceful means should be taken are usually unexpected, and thus even if you list 50 cases, the 51st may be the one you need to deal with.
Xu also emphasized that the phrase “other necessary measures” shows the Chinese Government’s sincerity for a peaceful reunification. But he did not talk much about what “other necessary measures” might include.
As for whether there will be a timetable for reunification, Xu said that the focus of this legislation is on drawing a clear “redline” instead of setting the timetable for reunification.
Benefiting All People
When explaining the legislative purpose and the scope of application of the Anti-Secession Law, Wang Zhaoguo said that the law is formulated “in accordance with the Constitution, for the purpose of opposing and checking Taiwan’s secession from China in the name of ‘independence,’ promoting peaceful national reunification, maintaining peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait, preserving China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and safeguarding the fundamental interests of the Chinese nation.”
The “Taiwan independence” forces have severely threatened peace and stability in the cross-strait region and also in the Asia-Pacific region, which has severely damaged the fundamental interests of people living in both sides of the Taiwan Strait, especially the fundamental interests of people living in Taiwan, said Li Weiyi, Spokesman for the Taiwan Affairs Office under the State Council, China’s cabinet.
Li emphasized that the drafting of the Anti-Secession Law, which is aimed to oppose and check “Taiwan independence” and maintain peace and stability in the cross-strait region, basically guarantees the fundamental interests of people living on both sides of the Taiwan Strait, especially that of people living in Taiwan. It will also provide better conditions for Taiwan business people’s investment, cross-strait economic cooperation as well as three “direct links” of trade, mail and air and shipping services.
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao also said at the press conference held after the closing of the NPC annual session on March 14 that only when the “Taiwan independence” forces are checked and opposed can there be peace in the cross-strait region.
The Anti-Secession Law is not a law to promote war, but one to bring about the peaceful reunification of the motherland, Wen said, adding, “It is not a law intended to change the status quo that both sides of the Taiwan Strait belong to one and the same China, but one conducive to peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.”
He held that the law has clearly stipulated that it aims to promote exchanges between people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait, and encourage and facilitate economic cooperation, the three “direct links” and exchanges in education, science and technology, culture and other fields. It also stipulates that the rights and interests of Taiwan business people on the mainland shall be protected, he said.
Wen quoted President Hu Jintao’s important speech delivered early this month on the Taiwan question as saying, “We will protect the legitimate rights and interests of Taiwan business people on the mainland and do whatever benefits the Taiwan people.”
“Fundamentally speaking, the law is intended to protect the direct and basic interests of Taiwan compatriots, and will provide a legal guarantee for their aspirations for peace, stability and development,” said Yang Guoqing, Honorary President of the All-China Federation of Taiwan Compatriots, during an interview with Xinhua News Agency.