Taiwan's President Lee Teng-hui has written an article in the latest issue of Foreign Affairs magazine reiterating the "state-to-state" formula that angered China in July and heightened tensions between the island and the mainland.
In the article, Lee says that Taiwan and China now have a "special state-to-state relationship," a description that Beijing believes suggests independence for Taiwan, which Chinese leaders regard as part of one China.
"If peace and stability are to be maintained in the Taiwan Strait area, the perceptions underpinning policies involving Taipei and Beijing must be more firmly grounded in reality than in ideological wishful thinking," Lee wrote. "It is fiction to claim that the Chinese nation is not divided--and pernicious fiction to assert that the People's Republic of China has any right or imperative to claim sovereignty over Taiwan."
While Lee's argument is not fundamentally new, its formal elaboration in the prestigious journal is likely to harden the positions of the Taiwanese and Chinese governments.
"One would have hoped for a little bit more of an outstretched hand to get dialogue going again," said a Clinton administration official, calling the article "an opportunity missed."
Taiwan has been a self-governing island since 1949, when Chinese Nationalists fled there after losing a civil war with Chinese Communists. For most of the past 50 years, both governments have insisted that they were the rightful rulers of all China. In the past 20 years, however, Taiwan has increasingly pursued a separate identity.
China has advocated that Taiwan be reunited with China under a "one country, two systems" plan that would recognize Chinese sovereignty over Taiwan but allow Taiwan to maintain its democratic government, economic system and military.
But Lee writes that "people in Taiwan remain highly suspicious of the Chinese communists" and that "democratic development in Taiwan has now reached the point of no return." In Chinese, the word "state" is the same as "country" or "nation" and therefore Beijing sees Lee's "state-to-state" formulation as a rejection of the policy that there is only one China.
Lee's article, published Nov. 1, also attacks China for regarding Taiwan as "a renegade province," a phrase Beijing generally doesn't use anymore. The Beijing government usually refers to Taiwan as an island or entity and often describes its own officials by their party titles to avoid the issue of how to describe leaders on both sides of the Taiwan Strait, a Chinese embassy official said in an interview last week.
The Clinton administration official said Lee's use of "renegade province" was "a canard."