A Referendum on Reunification

March 7, 1996

Hardly anyone I know wants Taiwan to openly declare independence. And most people are worried even about having a referendum on the issue. Better to let sleeping dogs lie, they say.

But the dog is not sleeping. The PRC is awake and growling. So I suggest having a referendum, but not on independence. Just the opposite. Why not have a referendum on whether to make definite plans to join the PRC? More specifically, the referendum could ask: "In 1997, Hong Kong will become part of the PRC under rules that are separate from those applying to other parts of the Republic. Assuming that the PRC would permit Taiwan to join the Republic under the same rules as Hong Kong, do you want your next president to begin talks aimed at joining the Republic by January 1, 2,000?"

To avoid potential criticism, Taiwan could invite international observers, even Jiang Zemin himself, to monitor the referendum. The referendum could be placed on the same ballot as the presidential election, so that the additional cost would be minimal. And Jiang Zemin could also be invited to make his best case to the Taiwan people. Of course, Taiwan politicians and news editors could do the same.

Copyright © 1996 by James Patrick Gunning

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J. Patrick Gunning

Professor of Economics/ College of Business
Feng Chia University
100 Wenhwa Rd, Taichung

Taiwan, R.O.C.
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