Chinese Vice Minister Zhou Mingwei lauded the recent improvement in U.S.-China ties at a breakfast with congressional staffers on January 17. The breakfast took place at the Monocle restaurant on Capitol Hill, and was sponsored by the U.S.-China Policy Foundation (USCPF). Zhou, the deputy director of the Taiwan Affairs Office of China's State Council, has advanced degrees from SUNY-Albany and Harvard University.
After brief welcoming remarks by USCPF executive board member Ambassador James Sasser, Minister Zhou addressed the thirty-three assembled guests. "U.S.-China relations made a huge move upward late last year," he said. Zhou emphasized the importance of President Bush's visit to Shanghai in improving U.S.-China relations in October for the APEC summit. "He told us China is not an enemy, but a friend, with whom he wants to have a constructive and cooperative relationship," Zhou stated. He added that Bush had regained the trust of the Chinese people in the United States after it had been damaged by the NATO bombing of China's Belgrade embassy in 1999 and the plane collision crisis between the United States and China last year.
Zhou also expressed satisfaction with the robust cultural contacts between mainland China and Taiwan. Last year, he reported, trade between the mainland and Taiwan reached more than $32 billion. Meanwhile, three million Taiwanese visited the mainland, and 60,000 mainlanders visited Taiwan. Also last year, Zhou reported, more than 3,200 new businesses on the mainland were opened by Taiwanese. On the political level, Zhou reiterated that Beijing is prepared to negotiate reunification on an equal basis with the Taiwanese government.
Zhou responded to the audience during a lively question-and-answer period. He argued that large arms sales by the United States to Taiwan over the last decade have been detrimental to cross-Strait relations, while he defended China's build-up of missiles on its coastline given the push towards independence in Taiwan. Zhou also said recent Taiwanese elections show a majority of the populace wants peace and the status quo. A referendum on independence in Taiwan would be a mistake that would not contribute to a peaceful solution to the conflict, he warned.
In response to a question from a staff member of the U.S.-China Policy Foundation, Zhou argued forcefully for the establishment of the "three links" between China and Taiwan: the ties of direct trade, post, and transportation. Taiwan lost $1.5 billion last year alone because of the lack of the three links with China, Zhou said, and Taiwan's business community supports the links being made. In closing, Zhou also noted that even many younger members of Taiwan's pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) have investments in China. He invited DPP members to come to the mainland to see for themselves.
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