Mainland officials and scholars said yesterday that Taiwan leader Chen Shui-bian's stepped-up efforts to push for the island's formal "independence" would lead to cross-Straits tensions.
They said this year would be a crucial year for curbing secessionist activities because Beijing is preparing to host the 2008 Olympic Games.
"Cross-Straits ties face grave challenges because the Taiwan authorities are substantially pursuing de jure 'independence' through 'constitutional' change this year," said Xu Shiquan, vice-chairman of National Society of Taiwan Studies.
Li Jiaquan, a senior researcher with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, also warned Chen against attempting to promote "Taiwan independence".
"We should stay alert for any secessionist moves from Chen this year aimed at undermining cross-Straits ties," he said.
The scholars made these remarks yesterday at a seminar to mark the 12th anniversary of former President Jiang Zemin's eight-point proposal for developing cross-Straits relations.
Jiang's 1995 proposals drew a path to the ultimate goal of peaceful reunification across the Taiwan Straits, and promised that everything can be negotiated under a "one-China" premise.
Zhou Tienong, vice-chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), said Chen might make every effort to pursue "constitutional independence" before he leaves office next year.
Such efforts appear to have begun already. Local media reported yesterday that Taiwan had revised its high-school history textbooks to suggest that the island is not part of China.
The China Times said the island's "education ministry" had requested the phrase "national history" be changed to "China history" when referring to the mainland in a local high school textbook to be used in March.
Phrases like "our country", "this country" and "the mainland" have been changed to "China", indicating that Taiwan considers itself to be independent from the mainland, the newspaper said.
Meanwhile, a new draft of the revised "Taiwan constitution" was released over the weekend, stating the island is a "free and democratic country".
Scholars said the basic policy of "peaceful reunification" should be adhered to, but the bottom line for the worst-case scenario was also consistent: The use of force could be the last resort in case of any foreign interference or plots for an "independent" Taiwan.
Despite political tension across the Straits, bilateral economic and personnel exchanges have become stronger.
Official figures show that the indirect cross-Straits trade volume last year posted a year-on-year increase of 18.2 percent to $107.8 billion. The number of people crossing the Straits reached 4.6 million, 7.7 percent more than the previous year.
(China Daily January 30, 2007)