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Taiwan to Declare Independence in 2008?

The Straits Times of Singapore has taken a look at the potential for war between China and Taiwan (written about earlier here). They predict that Taiwan will take advantage of the Chinese preoccupation with the 2008 Summer Olympics to declare their independence that year, or perhaps a year earlier:

Beijing observers see Mr Chen's Aug 3 referendum speech as an echo of an earlier call by Mr Lee for a formal declaration of independence by 2008, the year that China will be hosting the Olympics.

And it will be no coincidence, say these analysts. With China hosting the mega sporting event and the eyes of the world on it, so the argument goes, it would be hard for Beijing to wage a war on the separatists.

Other Chinese strategists, like Yan Xuetong of Qinghua University and Zhu Yanlong of Beijing United University, believe that Taiwan might make a bid for independence in 2007, a year ahead of Mr Lee's target date.

Whether independence is declared in 2008 or the year before, the general view among Chinese experts is that the Taiwanese independence camp has a timetable mapped out.

The problem with the article is that it acts as if Taiwan isn't a democracy, and the government can plan events on a precise timetable. In fact, it's not at all clear how the public would vote in an independence referendum today, much less five or six years from now.

Having said that, to the extent that such events can be planned, consider this: once the 2008 Olympics are over, China will undoubtedly feel much freer to take action. Taiwan's best bet is to declare independence well in advance of the Olympics, but not so far in advance that China might bet on the world community forgiving them with time (as has happened with Tiananmen Square). To me, this would indicate declaring independence sometime between 2004 and 2006. But again, it's all up to the Taiwanese people.

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