Washington Post Foreign Service
Thursday, March 24, 2005; Page A13
BEIJING, March 23 -- China has paid a price abroad for enacting its controversial anti-secession law, spoiling a strategy for relations with Taiwan, undercutting a drive to end Europe's arms embargo and reinforcing unease over the growth in Chinese military power. Although the law did little more than codify long-standing policy, Taiwan and countries around the world have focused on the vow to use "non-peaceful means" to prevent Taiwanese independence. In the 10 days since the legislation passed, this focus has emphasized the image of a China willing to risk war across the Taiwan Strait, frustrating Chinese diplomatic efforts to depict the nation's rise as non-threatening.
In pushing forward with the law, President Hu Jintao and his government were weighing domestic considerations as well as foreign policy. Hu, who analysts say is still solidifying his power, was eager to be seen at home as a tough leader on the emotionally charged Taiwan issue. Work on the law began last fall, they noted, as Hu was taking over as military leader from former president Jiang Zemin.
Hu and other leaders have portrayed the new law as a needed check on Taiwan's independence activists -- including President Chen Shui-bian. Without the law to brake him, officials have said, Chen could take one step too many, producing a military conflict nobody wants.-------------