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Taiwan's Ruling DPP Cautiously Welcomes Chinese Invitation - 2002-01-25


Taiwan is cautiously welcoming a goodwill gesture from Chinese Vice Premier Qian Qichen as a step toward improving relations. Mr. Qian Thursday signaled that Beijing may be adjusting its hostile view of Taiwan's ruling pro-independence party.

Taiwanese officials say they are pleased by China's apparent shifting approach to their ruling Democratic Progressive Party.

Thursday Chinese Vice Premier Qian Qichen invited members of Taiwan's ruling DPP to visit the mainland, saying only a handful of members are true separatists. He also called for renewed dialogue and stronger economic ties.

Until this week, Beijing has virtually ignored Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian and his independence-leaning party that took power in elections two years ago.

But despite Mr. Qian's ground-breaking invitation, China's official media Friday stressed that Beijing's fundamental policy on Taiwan has not changed.

Chinese officials want the DPP to acknowledge that Taiwan is a part of a single China before resuming dialogue on improving relations. Beijing has vowed to use force to recover Taiwan if Taipei were to move to declare outright independence.

Taiwan and the mainland split politically during civil war in 1949, and the island has been ruled separately ever since.

Friday, DPP officials on Taiwan called the invitation "progress" and a "demonstration of goodwill." It is not yet clear exactly when such visits might take place or what the conditions would be, but Taiwanese officials said they will study the offer carefully.

Political analyst Andrew Yang, says the invitation is a smart move by Beijing. "Probably they (the Chinese government) recognize the political fact in Taiwan that the DPP, the ruling party, is probably going to rule Taiwan for many years. Therefore Beijing has to recognize this political factor, they have to think of something to deal with a constructive cross strait relations," Mr. Yang said.

Mr. Yang, of the Chinese Council of Advanced Policy Studies in Taipei, says several things encouraged China to try a new approach, including the entry of both the mainland and Taiwan in the World Trade Organization and President Bush's upcoming trip to Beijing.

Taiwan is one of the most difficult issues in U.S.-Sino relations. The United States broke diplomatic ties with Taiwan decades ago when it recognized China, but it arms Taiwan and has pledge to defend the island against an attack from China.

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