Wednesday, April 26, 2006

becky met with the president of Taiwan yesterday

Becky just came back from three days in Taipei, where she met with the president of Taiwan in the Presidential mansion. Here is the story she and Jason Dean did.

They gave her a classic photo of she and pres. Chen shaking hands. I will try to scan it and post.


Chen Is Wary of Reliance on China
Taiwan's Leader Stresses
Military, Economic Risks
To Island Posed by Neighbo
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By JASON DEAN and REBECCA BLUMENSTEIN
April 26, 2006; Page A8

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian said China's president had failed to "score points" against the island during a visit to Washington last week. But Mr. Chen stressed that China's rise poses longer-term military and economic threats to Taiwan and its 23 million people.

In an interview yesterday, Mr. Chen steered a cautious line between emphasizing the risks posed by Taiwan's giant neighbor and trying to leave hope for progress on vital economic issues across the Taiwan Strait. (Read the transcript of the interview.)

He warned against excessive economic ties with China, which claims Taiwan as part of its territory despite nearly six decades of separate rule. And he said that Taiwan needs to move ahead with a major purchase of U.S. arms to counter Beijing's military buildup -- and that an accord with opposition legislators who have blocked the acquisition could be close.

"Only by strengthening our national defense can we ensure and safeguard the hard-won fruits of democracy as well as economic prosperity," Mr. Chen said in the wide-ranging interview at Taiwan's Presidential Palace.

But the Taiwanese leader also voiced optimism that a long-awaited influx of Chinese tourists to Taiwan -- which could substantially boost the island's economy -- could begin by the end of this year. Beijing recently indicated it may be willing to lift its restrictions on letting its citizens travel as tourists to Taiwan. And Mr. Chen stressed that his government doesn't intend to stymie the extensive business relations that have blossomed across the strait in recent years.

"When Taiwan's economy becomes overly dependent on or tilts excessively toward China, I think the government has a responsibility ... to issue an early warning," Mr. Chen said. But, he added, "Investing in China is part of the global plan of Taiwanese companies. The government cannot stop it."

The middle-of-the-road message reflects the conflicting pressures on Mr. Chen as he enters the final two years of his presidency, which will end in May 2008. The 55-year-old aims to leave a legacy based on solidifying the democratically governed island's separateness from China. But he is also struggling with pressure from the electorate to steer a pragmatic course on relations with China.

Last week's U.S. visit by Chinese President Hu Jintao showed the need to clarify Taiwan's identity, Mr. Chen said. The White House welcome ceremony for Mr. Hu was marred by a proclamation announcing the anthem of the Republic of China -- actually Taiwan's official name. China's name is the People's Republic of China.

Mr. Chen said the gaffe was understandable given Beijing's insistence that the island is part of China. He said that making the distinction clearer will be a central task of his remaining two years. "I would like to see the international community gain a better understanding of the differences between democratic Taiwan and totalitarian China," he said. "They are, in fact, two separate countries."

He portrayed the Hu visit overall as a victory for Taiwan, as President Bush merely restated U.S. opposition to any unilateral changes in Taiwan's status by either Taipei or Beijing. Mr. Bush "did not allow China to score points on the Taiwan issue," Mr. Chen said.

Mr. Chen predicted progress on another issue that could help Taiwan's relations with Washington, but upset Beijing: arms purchases. Mr. Bush announced shortly after taking office in 2001 that the U.S. would sell a multibillion-dollar suite of weapons to Taiwan. Opposition lawmakers in Taiwan have blocked legislative approval for the package, however, in part because they say it could fuel an arms race with China.

While approval of the full package remains "difficult," comments by opposition leader Ma Ying-jeou suggest a compromise on acquiring some weapons is in reach, Mr. Chen said.

On the economic front, Mr. Chen rattled off a list of problems he said China's rise is causing for Taiwan and other countries: rising prices for raw materials, inefficient energy consumption and a flood of cheap imports that is causing structural unemployment.

Mr. Chen said his government wants to ensure that Taiwan, which has per capita income of more than $14,000 compared with China's $1,700, doesn't "place all our bets" on China as Taiwanese companies rush to tap the country's huge market and cheap labor.

But Mr. Chen dismissed fears that his government is trying to crack down on business ties to China. Such concerns were triggered by his announcement this year that his government will more "actively manage" investment across the strait, and by Taiwanese prosecutors' probe into whether computer-chip giant United Microelectronics Corp. had illicit ties to a Chinese semiconductor company. "We consider the UMC case as an isolated case," he said. "This does not mean that the government will start cracking down on all Taiwanese businesspeople investing in China.