Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara attended the May 20 inaugural ceremony for Taiwan’s new president, Chen Shui-bian. While in Taipei, Ishihara talked with Chen and his predecessor, Lee Teng-hui, about various issues between Japan and Taiwan. This was good for Japan-Taiwan relations.

Chinese government sources in Beijing lashed out at the Ishihara visit, telling Japanese politicians to keep their hands off Taiwan. They react hysterically every time a Japanese politician visits Taiwan for talks with its leaders.

Their argument is this: Japanese legislators must not meet Taiwanese leaders without Beijing’s permission because Taiwan is a part of China. Japan, of course, is an independent state and a member of the United Nations, not a protectorate of China. As a sovereign state, Japan should do what it wants. No countries have the right to dictate to this country. It is the Japanese government, not the Chinese government, that decides what Japan should do. It seems Beijing does not understand this.

What Beijing thinks of Taiwan is its own business. But in reality Beijing has no authority, administrative or otherwise, over Taiwan. The fact is that China and Taiwan are two separate entities. China, with its capital in Beijing, is ruled by President Jiang Zemin, while Taiwan, with its capital in Taipei, is now led by Chen.

Beijing often talks of invading Taiwan by force, which shows that it does in fact consider Taiwan a separate entity. That is why Chinese leaders threaten a “military invasion.” They say “China is one.” But that is a contradiction, because they wouldn’t have to make such threats if they really believed this was the case.

Chen’s Democratic Progressive Party has a policy plank that calls for Taiwan’s independence. This reflects a desire to win explicit international recognition of Taiwan as an independent entity. I think it would be all right if the nations of the world were to recognize this as a fact.

Of course, Beijing will try to block any attempt at independence with threats of an armed attack. For now, however, Chinese leaders are ruling out the use of force because Chen is not pursuing a policy of independence. With the new president taking an accommodating stance, China-Taiwan relations appear to be stable for the moment.

Conquest by force is at the root of communism. Vladimir Lenin once said, in effect: To conquer other nations and put their people under communist control is to bring them happiness; wars waged to this end are just and sacred. This Leninist thought provided a basis for Maoism, as is clear from Mao Zedong’s quotations.

Maybe Chinese leaders are still given to Maoist thoughts. If so, that explains why Beijing wants to bring Taiwan under its control and why it believes doing so will bring happiness to the people of Taiwan. A decade has already passed since the Soviet Union collapsed. If the Chinese leadership still believe in antiquated Maoist teachings, they are out of step with reality. It seems to be that Beijing feels it must subdue other states or peoples that do not heed its orders, first by spiritual means and then by military force.

Ishihara’s trip to Taipei was a good thing. Members of Japan’s ruling parties would do well to emulate his example. Of course, we must bear in mind a clause in the Japan-China treaty of peace and friendship that says Japan will not seek “hegemony” in Asia. But China must also renounce the pursuit of hegemony in the region. In this context, Chinese threats to invade Taiwan must be considered a violation of that treaty.

Former Taiwan President Lee reportedly wants to visit Japan as a private citizen to attend a meeting of Kyoto University alumni. There is no reason to oppose the trip. Beijing has nothing to do with it. Chinese leaders have no business trying to stop a private visit by Lee to this country. If they stand in his way, they are insulting Japan as well as the former Taiwan leader.

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