Poll-itical Salvation: Forget Tibet, Look at Taiwan

Hu Siew handshakeAt least one thing appears to be going right for China on the diplomatic front. After a brief but reportedly friendly meeting between and Taiwan’s vice-president elect Vicent Siew on the sidelines of the Bo’ao Forum in Hainan, a new survey suggests people in Taiwan are feeling better about relations with the mainland. From Monsters and Critics:

Thirty-nine per cent of the respondents said relations were friendly, compared with 32 per cent after the 1993 meeting in Singapore, according to a poll conducted by the China Times daily after Taiwan vice president-elect met with Chinese President Hu Jintao over the weekend in China.

Only 22 per cent thought China is still hostile toward Taiwan, the survey of 931 adults found.

For those looking for a more textured view of reactions inside Taiwan, the BBC’s Caroline Gluck provides some good analysis:

Mr Siew’s decision to travel to the forum was a bold step, carrying significant risks as well as opportunities.

Some members of the governing Democratic Progressive Party, or DPP, had opposed the visit, saying it could undermine Taiwan’s dignity and status in any future dealings with Chinese officials.

“Interaction between two hostile countries with very different ideas is good,” said senior DPP legislator, Trong Chai, “but we must understand the position and ideas of the other side. The other side should respect the fact that Taiwan is an independent, sovereign country. Mr Siew didn’t receive that kind of treatment.”

But others disagreed. Mr Siew was attending the forum in a private capacity – as head of a private, non-government organisation promoting trade with China.

Those studying the nuances of his treatment were quick to note that he was seated in the front row, reserved for VIPs, and invited to join the centre table at a state banquet.

As Gluck observes, more than a few pundits wonder how much of the good turn in cross-strait relations is owed to Beijing’s hunger for good PR in the wake of its pounding over Tibet.

April 14, 2008 12:32 AM
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Categories: Politics, Taiwan