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24 November 2003

• “Use of Force May Become Unavoidable” in Taiwan Strait
• Play By World Trade Organization Rules, Please
• New Generation of Leadership Fosters Political Openness

“Use of Force May Become Unavoidable” in Taiwan Strait

In recent weeks, numerous speeches by leading Chinese officials have warned Taiwan not to pursue independence. On November 13, Maj. Gen. Wang Zaixi, the deputy director of the Taiwan Affairs Office stated, “If the Taiwan authorities collude with all splittist forces to openly challenge the mainland and the one-China principle, the use of force may become unavoidable.” This is the first time in nearly four years that Chinese leaders have openly spoke of using force against Taiwan.

China’s warning come in the wake of months of activities on Taiwan designed to push closer and closer towards independence. Taiwan’s President Chen Shui-bian, a native Taiwanese, has added Taiwan’s name to their passport and is now pushing for a law on public referendums to decide issues of national public policy. He has also called for a new constitution.

As the March 2004 Taiwanese presidential election draws closer, China finds itself caught in a catch-22. In the past, harsh rhetoric against Taiwan has only gained more votes for the independence-minded factions in Taiwan. If they don’t react however, there is a significant chance that President Chen will indeed move the island closer to formal independence.

As a last resort, Beijing has taken its case to the United States in the hopes that Washington will moderate Taiwan’s actions. During an interview with the Washington Post last week, Premier Wen Jiabao stated that China supports a diplomatic solution and that, "we hope the US side will take practical measures that are conducive to the maintenance of peace and stability in the Taiwan Straits."

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Play By World Trade Organization Rules, Please

In a strange reversal of roles, China is calling on the United States to adhere to WTO rules. Within the past week, the United States has cited anti-dumping laws and imposed tariffs on Chinese textiles, steel, and color televisions.

In his interview with the Washington Post last week, Premier Wen Jiabao stressed his government’s desire to handle the problem properly in the belief that expansion of trade and economic co-operation serves the fundamental interests of both peoples. He also suggested that the United States and China establish a formal mechanism for the regular coordination and cooperation on issues relating to bi-lateral trade.

Chinese newspapers show frustration over “the obstinacy of some American politicians to base trade policies on politics rather than economics.” Chinese believe that the U.S. failure to force a revaluation of their currency has caused US politicians to insist on protecting the domestic industries so they can net political support for next year's presidential election.

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New Generation of Leadership Fosters Political Openness

The People’s Daily reports that on Monday November 24, Politburo of the Chinese Communist Party held a meeting to discuss current and future challenges to economic development. President Hu Jintao presided over the meeting.

China will continue the rapid program of economic development, according to the meeting. The participants called for cultivating a scientific concept of development, which should be comprehensive, coordinated and sustainable. They also called for “deepening reforms in all fields, rectifying the market order, pushing forward the restructuring of industries and the coordinated development of regional economies, and speeding up the development of science, technology, education and public health undertakings.”

They also noted that the state will continue to implement proactive fiscal and monetary policies, and make timely and proper adjustments in policy priorities to ensure steady economic growth. They also discussed a number of problems, including growing economic inequality between urban and rural areas, rising unemployment, and the reckless investment in certain industries.

The fact that this summary appeared in the Chinese media attests to the growing openness of the Chinese political system. Before the recent leadership change, the dates of Politburo meetings were never released and their agendas were classified as state secrets. As China’s program of economic reform and development continues at breakneck speed, the political system is also developing in original ways.

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