03/08/2005, 00.00
CHINA - TAIWAN
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Taiwan anti-secession bill, a bluff or a real threat?

Businessmen are not worried, but some intellectuals in Beijing urge the government to be more flexible and reasonable towards Taiwan.

Beijing (AsiaNews) – The business community, both Chinese and foreign, is not concerned by the Taiwan anti-secession bill, which would authorise the use of force should the island proclaim its independence.

"We are all involved in trade here and don't have time to worry about such disputes," a local businessman told AsiaNews. "China's economy is growing fast and needs ours and Taiwan's investment. As long as Chen Shui-bian is in power in Taiwan, China won't dare attack."

Chen Shui-bian is Taiwan's President and his party has many pro-independence militants in its ranks.

Many analysts are convinced that any military attack would not only affect the island but also the mainland. Taiwanese businessmen are among China's most important trading partners.

According to 2003 figures, cross-strait trade reached US$ 58.4 billion with Taiwanese investments totalling US$ 3.4 billion, making the island one of mainland China's main foreign sources of investment capital.

Taiwanese investments currently cover 60,623 Chinese companies worth US$ 70 billion for a total of US$ 36.5 billion in actual investments.

Every year China needs to create 20 million new jobs and faces widespread poverty in rural areas and unemployment in the cities. "This means," the businessman interviewed by AsiaNews said, "that China cannot afford to upset such a vital economic relationship".

For other analysts the anti-secession bill is for domestic consumption. It is designed to whip up patriotic fervour and reinforce national unity in a country increasingly divided by economic development and torn asunder by centrifugal forces in Tibet and largely Muslim Xinjiang.

Prof Pang Zhongying, an international relations expert at Nankai University in Tianjin (China), said that "Chinese leaders are using nationalism as a positive force to hold together this huge country but are conscious that nationalism might get out of hand and cause damage".

He Guanghu, researcher in the history of Christianity at Beijing's Renmin University, is the only voice publicly worried about China's intention vis-à-vis Taiwan.

"I hope the anti-secession law leaves our leaders some margins of manoeuvre. I hope it does not stop them from taking more flexible and reasonable positions towards Taiwan".

Professor He wrote a monograph titled 'The Strait of Taiwan wants peace, not war' but could not find a publisher. "It is a downright disgrace, something ridiculous and strange, that in a big country like China, with its many intellectuals, there be no one speaking this way," he said.

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