David G Brown: A little sunshine across the strait
After burnishing its hardline credentials by announcing in December its intention to enact an Anti-Secession Law (ASL), Beijing took some significant steps toward improving cross-strait relations in January by cooperating in New Year charter flights, stopping propaganda criticism of Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian, and sending ARATS (Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait) officials to Koo Chen-fu’s funeral in Taipei. For his part, Chen also took conciliatory steps by reaffirming his inaugural pledges concerning constitutional reform and appointing as the new premier Hsieh Chang-ting, who quickly set a more moderate tone on contentious domestic and cross-strait issues.
Nevertheless, despite widespread criticism from Taiwan and the United States, Beijing’s National People’s Congress (NPC) last month adopted the ASL, which emphasizes China’s pursuit of peaceful reunification but mandates that unspecified “non-peaceful means” may be used if Taiwan seeks to secede from China. When the dust from the ASL controversy settles, the question will be whether Beijing and Taipei are able to follow up on the successful New Year charter flights by arranging further steps toward direct cross-strait cargo and/or passenger flights.