China Rejects Taiwanese Overtures After Chen Victory

By Patrick Goodenough | July 7, 2008 | 8:07 PM EDT

( - China rejected an offer for a peace summit on Monday made by Taiwan's Chen Shui-bian, the new president-elect and the man who ended a half-century of nationalist rule to win Saturday's election despite market jitters and mainland saber-rattling.

Chen heads the Democratic Progressive Party, despised in Beijing for its strong pro-independence platform. Nevertheless, Chen has called for talks between the island and mainland on the basis of equality.

Chen dismissed the communist mainland's "One China" dogma - the notion that Taiwan is no more than a dissident province - which has defined relations between Beijing and Taipei for decades and forms the basis of most outside countries' policies on China.

Chen said the issue of "One China" may be included on the agenda for discussions but could not be the basis for the talks. He said that such talks would have to be held by two parties relating as equals.

President Jiang Zemin turned down Chen's offer, telling his country's official radio network that, while China would welcome talks, they could only be held on the basis of the "One China" principle.

China last July angrily repudiated outgoing Taiwanese President Lee Teng-hui for saying relations between the two parties should be conducted on a "special state-to-state" basis.

Nonetheless, US National Security advisor Sandy Berger, speaking in Bangladesh during President Clinton's one-day visit there, appealed for a resumption of dialogue, noting that statements from Taiwan and China since the election had been "conciliatory" and "measured."

Defying China's threats of military invasion during the political campaign, Taiwan's voters gave Chen 39 percent of the vote while independent candidate James Soong finished at 37 percent and the nationalist candidate, Vice President Lien Chan, finished in third place with 23 percent.

Chinese Prime Minister Zhu Rongji last week declared the country was ready to "shed blood" to prevent the island from splitting away.

Not only did the Chen victory symbolize a defiance of China on the part of Taiwanese voters, it was also the first time a Chinese electorate has thrown out a ruling party in a democratic election.

Chen said after his victory that the poll result would send a message to Chinese people everywhere - democracy is a sacred right.

However, despite the DPP's leaning towards independence, Chen personally eased off on the rhetoric toward the end of the election campaign, stressing that, if elected, he would not hold a referendum on independence.

In his statement Monday, Cehn said he hoped that dialogue would "ease tension and antagonism between the two sides" and "improve the current atmosphere."

Chen has named Nobel laureate Lee Yuan-tseh as his chief envoy for talks with China.

Beijing wants Taiwan to return to the fold in the footsteps of former European colonies, Hong Kong and Macao, on the basis of the "one country, two systems" policy, in terms of which China undertakes to guarantee the regions' capitalist systems for 50 years.

Meanwhile, violent street protests continued to target the headquarters of the defeated nationalist party, Kuomintang (KMT), for the second consecutive day on Monday.

Outgoing president Lee has resisted calls by angry supporters to resign as party chairman, although he has agreed to step down earlier than scheduled, in September. Some leading members have called for a complete reform of the party.

The announcement by runner-up Soong that he intends to launch his own political party has caused the KMT further anguish. The popular Soong was expelled from the nationalist party and ran as an independent on a platform alleging the ruling party was corrupt.

Patrick Goodenough
Patrick Goodenough
Spencer Journalism Fellow