China and Taiwan -- some see Reagan as possible mediator
China is mounting a many-pronged peace offensive aimed at Taiwan, and President Reagan must decide whether to be a bystander or to try to be a mediator.Skip to next paragraph
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Reports from Washington say some of Mr. Reagan's foreign policy advisers are intrigued by the possibility of a mediation a la Camp David, although there has been no official indication the President has chosen this course.
Here in Peking, where Sen. Mark Hatfield (R) of Oregon launched the idea during a visit last month, there is official silence. But so far there has been no attempt to shoot down the idea.
China appears to be waiting to see, first whether President Reagan is receptive to the idea of mediation, and Second, if so, what he will propose to China and to Taiwan.
There is plenty of opportunity for high-level contacts between Peking and Washington. A new American ambassador fluent in Chinese, Arthur Hummel, has just arrived in Peking. The United Nations corridors in New York during the current General Assembly session furnish another opportunity for top diplomats to get together privately. And Mr. Reagan and Chinese Premier Zhao Ziyang will have a tete-a-tete at next month's North-South summit in Cancun, Mexico.
Reunification of China -- that is, the return of Taiwan -- is one of the three major tasks Peking has set for itself during the 1980s. The other two are opposition to Soviet hegemonism and the economic construction of China.
Peking's immediate goals on Taiwan are believed to be modest. China, under Vice-Chairman Deng Xiaoping is devoting almost all its energies to modernizing the economy over the next 20 years.
Mr. Deng and his associates know this is a long process, and they need stability within and around China to achieve it. They are even willing to risk a degree of dissatisfaction within the military establishment by giving low priority, at least for the present, to the defense budget.
In this context, Messrs. Deng and company must know that reunification of Taiwan can come only as the result of a long, gradual process in which China gathers economic strength and Taiwan begins to find it disadvantageous to remain outside China's economic and political orbit.
They would be satisfied, some observers here believe, to conduct toward Taiwan a prolonged period of what might be called "pingpong diplomacy" -- the seven-year process whereby Washington and Peking gradually achieved normalization of diplomatic relations. Between Taipei and Peking, the process is bound to take much longer than seven years.
The important thing, Peking feels, is that there be at least some movement, however slow, toward reunification.
So far all the movement has come from Peking. Taiwan has rejected every proposal from the mainland, including postal ties, exchanges of visits, and trade.
Peking has unilaterally abolished customs duties on goods imported directly from Taiwan. Taiwan has not reciprocated. Peking says Taiwan may retain its own Army, its own economic and political decisionmaking ability. It says the islanders will not lose their high standard of living or their noncommunist social system after reunification.
Most recently Mr. Deng has even suggested co-leadership between the Communists and the Kuomintang (Chinese Nationalist Party) which rules Taiwan.
The 70th anniversary of the 1911 revolution led by Dr. Sun Yatsen is Oct. 10. This revolution toppled the corrupt Qing (Ching) dynasty and turned China into a republic.
Taiwan claims to be the direct heir of this revolution.