Vice Minister Zhou Mingwei Speaks to Congressional Staff

Chinese Vice Minister Zhou Mingwei called for Taiwan to accept the One-China principle during a breakfast speech on February 27.  Among the approximately fifty attendees were congressional staffers, Chinese embassy staff, and Foundation board members.  Zhou, the Deputy Director of the Taiwan Affairs Office of China’s State Council, was in the midst of a U.S. trip to New York, Washington, and the West Coast. During his visit, he discussed China’s Taiwan policy with American government officials, members of Congress and congressional staff, think tank scholars, business leaders, and members of the overseas Chinese community.

During his speech, Zhou repeatedly stressed the need for Taiwan to accept the One-China principle.  He signaled that the Beijing government is prepared to be very flexible in negotiating the specific political arrangements for Taiwan in a unified China.  “The substance of one China is to be negotiated,” he said.  He also maintained that China is prepared to recognize the Taiwanese government as an equal partner in negotiating a unified China.

Zhou lauded the growth of cultural and economic contacts between the mainland and Taiwan in recent years. He noted that the mainland is now Taiwan’s second biggest trading partner. Although Zhou stressed that cultural and economic contacts have been unbalanced, for the present Beijing is prepared to accept this condition. For example, although 50,000 Taiwanese companies have invested in mainland China, no mainland company has been allowed to invest in Taiwan.  Moreover, around 20 million Taiwanese have visited the mainland, he said, but only about 200,000 mainlanders have visited Taiwan. He also noted that although many Taiwanese journalists have been able to work and report news from the mainland, the first two mainland reporters allowed extended periods of stay in Taiwan were approved just earlier this year.

The March 2000 election in which Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) candidate Chen Shui-bian became president of Taiwan marked a new stage in cross-strait relations, according to Zhou.  He criticized what he deemed “independent tendencies” among the Taiwanese authorities, especially among fundamentalists in the DPP.

Zhou repeated the three-part explanation of the One-China principle that the Beijing government continue to express that there is only one China in the world, that the mainland and Taiwan belong to China, and that the sovereignty and territorial integrity of China is indivisible.  He argued that the mainland is not imposing anything on Taiwan, because history, culture and international law validate the one-China principle.  The constitutions of both the mainland and Taiwan recognize that there is only one China, Zhou noted, and even nations that have relations with Taiwan and Beijing recognize this fact.

U.S. arms sales to Taiwan are a volatile issue in Chinese-American relations, Zhou maintained. He said that over the last ten years Taiwan has been the largest arms consumer in the world.  Zhou argued that current arms sales are sending the wrong signals to a separatist oriented government.  America must recognize that the DPP has hard-liners who “are still pushing separatism.”  “Arms sales to Taiwan in no way help in a positive way to maintain peace there,” Zhou said. He concluded his remarks by stressing America’s large economic stake in China’s overall stability. He said China desires a “smooth, positive and stronger relationship with the United States.”

In response to a question, Zhou advised caution with regards to the idea of a Taiwan referendum on its future.  “The 1.3 billion people here [on the mainland] also have rights,” he declared.  He said that while the views of the people of Taiwan must be taken into account, the Taiwanese must accept that they belong to one China.

In response to another question, Zhou emphasized that under unification, Beijing would respect the right of Taiwan to maintain its social and economic system.  “They would not have to pay any taxes to Beijing,” Zhou said.  He added that Taiwan could also keep its army. “If both sides accept there is one China, there is lots we can do,” Zhou stated.

When asked when cross-strait dialogue would be resumed, Zhou said it is being blocked by the refusal of the Taiwanese authorities to accept the one-China principle as the basis for dialogue.  His final remark was that “two systems can not be talked about without recognition of one country.”

A second speaker, Xu Shiquan, President of the Institute of Taiwan Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Science, said there is no legal basis for a referendum in Taiwan’s constitution.  He also said a resumption of dialogue between the mainland and Taiwan depends on Taiwan accepting the 1992 consensus reached by the two governments that there is only one China.

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