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HOOVER SCHOLAR EXPLORES UNIFICATION OF CHINA
STANFORD -- Although the Republic of China (ROC) in Taiwan is pursuing peaceful relations with the People's Republic of China (PRC), it is avoiding any form of unification that might endanger the Taiwan model of modernization, Hoover scholar Thomas Metzger writes in a newly published essay.
U.S. leaders should consider whether the preservation and further development of the Taiwan model is in harmony with U.S. interests, Metzger writes in the essay, "The Unification of China and the Problem of Public Opinion in the Republic of China in Taiwan."
The threat of war in the western Pacific has receded since the end of the Cold War, but a remaining source of tension in the region is the disagreement between the PRC and the ROC about how to unify China.
The PRC, Metzger writes, wants Taiwan, a "rebellious" province, promptly to recognize its sovereign authority over the island. However, the ROC regards itself as a sovereign nation and holds that unification must be contingent on the democratization of the PRC. A major concern is how the United States confronts the disagreement and who will win its support.
Considerations should include understanding the current policy of the ROC, the historical background of the policy and the extent to which the policy is supported by ROC citizens, he writes.
As currently articulated by President Lee Teng-hui, Taiwan pursues three goals reflecting three sets of historical tendencies.
First, since the late 1970s, there has been an increasing tendency toward peaceful relations between the ROC and the PRC. Lee's policy reinforces this tendency by precluding what the PRC most abhors, the idea of legally defining Taiwan as an independent nation separate from mainland China.
Second, a shared culture and other tendencies are bringing the two societies closer together; thus, Lee's policy calls for an appropriate form of unification.
Third, the two societies have also become very different, especially as the ROC, but not the PRC, turned into a prosperous, urbanized, democratic society with a large middle class. Thus, Lee also has the goal of avoiding any form of unification that endangers the preservation and further development of the Taiwan model of Chinese modernization.
Most ROC citizens support Lee's policy, despite the views of unification enthusiasts and the separatists, who still threaten some polarization of public opinion, Metzger says. He argues that U.S. policy coincides with the first two ROC goals, but the third needs reconsideration by U.S. leaders.
Metzger, a a Senior Fellow at Hoover since 1990, specializes in the intellectual and institutional history of China, studying both the premodern and modern periods. He holds a doctorate from Harvard University.
Copies of his Essay in Public Policy (No. 32 in the series) are available for $5 each from the Hoover Institution Press, 723- 3373.
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