Crisis between China and Taiwan may arise under Hu, expert says

Crisis between China and Taiwan may arise under Hu, expert says

HONG KONG, Oct. 13 Kyodo

A crisis between China and Taiwan may arise the consensus over the issue has shifted within the Communist Party with Jiang Zemin’s resignation as leader, a leading expert said Wednesday.

Pei Minxi, senior associate with the Washington-based Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said Chinese President Hu Jintao may adopt a harder line on the Taiwan issue than his predecessor Jiang.

”The consensus (over Taiwan) has shifted within China,” Pei said at a talk organized by the Foreign Correspondents’ Club in Hong Kong.

”There has been so much frustration and (that China is) totally incapable of striking back. But in the next three to four years, China may be more ready to have confrontation with Taiwan,” he said.

But Pei stopped short of predicting a war between China and Taiwan, which Beijing considers a breakaway state, because it would curb Chinese economic growth. ”There is a growing sense in China that maybe it’s time for a crisis. In what form the crisis will be, that is unclear.”

”The goal is to force the U.S. to pay attention,” Pei said.

But Pei also said Hu’s foreign policy is unlikely to prove a major departure from Jiang, who maintained a pro-United States approach while cultivating regional relations with other powers such as Russia, India and the European Union, but pointedly excepting Japan.

Hu, however, is expected to improve relations with Japan.

On Sept. 19, Jiang announced he was retiring as chairman of the Central Military Commission, the last post he held in the party after stepping down as president in 2002.

The move signified the complete transition to a Hu administration.

Many China watchers were caught by surprise by Jiang’s move as most had speculated he would cling to power.

Pei said with Jiang now gone, it would take Hu about two to three years to consolidate his own power, which is one of most serious challenges he faces.

Also, maintaining economic growth without upsetting the current peaceful environment is also a taxing task for Hu, Pei said.

He said that although China experienced unprecedented economic prosperity under Jiang, the hidden cost of his economic policies is that the growth was achieved by bad loans.

Corruption became more widespread and investment in education, environmental protection and healthcare was by and large sacrificed during the Jiang era, Pei said.

He said in the 1980s, most corruption cases involved individuals but now around 60 to 70 percent of the cases involve collusion between officials.

He added that paying bribes in exchange for a lucrative senior government position did not emerge until the 1990s.

According to China’s official figures, more than 4,000 officials suspected of embezzling a combined 5 billion yuan (US$604 million) in public funds have fled abroad.

Pei said Hu would use anticorruption as a ”political tool” to get rid of his opponents in the party as he and his close ally Premier Wen Jiabao were relatively ”clean.”

But a full campaign to root out corruption is unlikely because the practice is built into the system, he added.

Also, diversion of government investments from prestigious projects to social needs such as education, environment and healthcare will remain mere political talk rather than a core policy for Hu, Pei predicted.

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