Just one point that has been missed. Hu in his speech about Taiwan said that Beijing would negotiate with any party under the condition of that there is “one China.” Something about the DPP candidate Frank Hsieh is that he has in the past mentioned his theory of the “one constitutional China” which is that the ROC constitution states that there is one China and while the DPP doesn’t think that this is the way things should be, these are the way things are. That I think is enough for talks to begin if DPP gets elected.
The problem that DPP has right now is that there are two people trying to run the campaign who don’t seem to agree on what to do.
Here you have Frank Hsieh explicitly not requiring Beijing to drop the insistance on “one China” whereas Chen Shui-Bian insisting that Beijing does. (Again, you have the problems here of media lensing. China Times leans toward the KMT so obviously they are going to highlight any discord in the DPP. I tried to look for these statements in the pro-Green press and I couldn’t find them. Pro-green has been really quiet, which I think is a good sign being pro-blue.)
As far as why the condition of “one China” is important to Beijing it has to do with the details of international law. Under international law, it is legitimate to use force to prevent internal secession but it is a war crime to use force against another state. One can get into deep arguments as to whether Taiwan is a state or not, but as long as Beijing or anyone else important doesn’t recognize Taiwan as a state, then one can argue that the situation is ambiguous. Once Taiwan does something that clearly indicates that it is a state and Beijing does not object, then Beijing loses any ability to try to argue under international law that the threat of force is state self-defense. As it is, it is some thing you can argue about, but if Beijing says Taiwan is independent then there is nothing to argue about anymore.
It also works the other way. If Taiwan were recognized as under the sovereignty of Beijing (as is Tibet), then arms sales to Taiwan by the United States would be a violation of international law.
This comes up with one difficulty of dealing with law. When you do something legal, you have to understand and respect a different legal theory while at the same time promoting your own. One problem in getting into nationalistic discussions involving international law, is that people tend to regard arguments that support their side as “obviously right” and those that support the other as “obviously wrong.” However, this is bad approach, if you are trying to use the law to get something done. In that case you have to respect and understand other people’s arguments, and in many situations actively work with people who you disagree with in order to come up with a solution to a problem. It’s this sort of thinking that I think does a lot to promote what I think of as “democracy.”
In this particular situation, since I think that talks between the Mainland and Taiwan are a good thing (since they promote economic interaction which I think will contribute in the long run to national unification), part of the challenge is to arrange the situation so that neither side has to compromise their legal theories to talk to each other. This actually is quite a bit more difficult than it sounds since even the act of being publicly seen talking to someone has legal and diplomatic ramifications.