Wednesday, December 31, 2008

What Are The Chinese Up To?

The Chinese charm offensive continues:

Chinese President Hu Jintao said Wednesday that often-hostile relations with Taiwan have improved greatly over the past three decades and that Beijing remains committed to its long-term goal of peaceful reunification with the island.

"Great changes have been made in the cross-strait relationship with efforts by compatriots from both sides of the strait," Hu said in an address marking the 30th anniversary of a message from China to "compatriots in Taiwan" calling for reunification by peaceful means.

Hu also laid out the possibility of discussions with Taiwan on the highly sensitive military level."The two sides can engage in ... contacts and communications on military issues when appropriate, and discussions on building a trust mechanism for military safety," he said. ...

Earlier this year, the two sides agreed to begin direct air and shipping services across the Taiwan Strait, ending a nearly six-decade ban on regular links. Regular direct flights resumed Dec. 15.

Hu said China would be willing to work with Taiwan on getting it admitted into international organizations.

"The issue of Taiwan's involvement in events held by international organizations could be reasonably arranged through pragmatic negotiations under the condition of not causing "two Chinas" or "one China and one Taiwan," Hu said.

So China is suddenly willing to allow Taiwan to do things that in the past were considered characteristics of an independent state? And China wants to take a peak at Taiwan's military? And all this taking place in an increasingly crowded Taiwan Strait filled with civilian air and sea traffic?

Maybe hope and change is breaking out all over, and China really will just wait and see if Taiwan wants to peacefully join China at some point in the future--even as Taiwan gains international space that China has vigorously denied Taiwan up until now.

Or maybe the charm offensive has another purpose. Maybe China figures that any concessions made now just won't matter before too long.