TAIPEI — THE REPUBLIC of China is going through a rapid political transformation that will be no less dramatic in its consequences than the current transformation of Europe. Though this process may seem somewhat perplexing to some abroad, my countrymen and I know exactly what we are doing and where we are going.
Democratization characterizes our present endeavor; reunification with mainland China is most certainly our future aim. These two goals are not unrelated.
On May 1, the "Period of National Mobilization for the Suppression of Communist Rebellion" was officially terminated, allowing us to deal with mainland affairs on a more pragmatic basis.
The "Temporary Provisions Effective During the Period of Communist Rebellion," originally passed in 1948, were also abolished, thus paving the way for further democratization in my country.
As a result of constitutional changes first proposed at a meeting last July of the National Affairs Conference -- a round table of all political forces in the Republic of China -- voters will be able to directly elect a new National Assembly by the end of the year and a new Legislative Yuan (Congress) by 1993.
We have also adopted "Guidelines for National Unification" which affirm our determination to reunify China.
The "mobilization period" began in the late 1940s in response to military threats from the Chinese communists that endangered the survival of the republic. For more than four decades, emergency measures instituted during the mobilization period have contributed significantly to our stability and security.
We are increasingly convinced that we must not seek the reunification of our country through a military solution. We believe that freedom, democracy and prosperity have become our most valuable and powerful assets. We must earn the recognition and support of our compatriots in mainland China by demonstrating what we can achieve in Taiwan in economic and especially political terms.
Besides more smoothly facilitating the process of constitutional reform, termination of the mobilization period also demonstrates our desire to improve relations with mainland authorities.
In October, 1990, "Guidelines for National Unification" were adopted to express our hope that, from this point on, both sides of the Taiwan Straits will uphold the principles of peace, reason, parity and reciprocity; that both will work to create an environment conducive to congenial interaction. In such an environment, we can all strive for reconstruction of a reunified China characterized by freedom, democracy and equitable distribution of wealth.
But we cannot do it alone. Despite all the pragmatic initiatives we have recently made, the mainland authorities have yet to respond with any sincere and concrete measures. They have not even echoed our call to give up the use of force to achieve unification.
I am naturally not expecting any magic or instant solution. In fact, it is only prudent and responsible for us to advocate a gradual reduction of hostility between Taiwan and the Chinese mainland, leading to a step-by-step building of mutual understanding, trust and goodwill.
I would like to see China reunified at the earliest possible opportunity, but I will not give up my insistence on guaranteeing the welfare of the entire Chinese people, nor will I ever sacrifice the security of the people in the Taiwan area.
I must reiterate that reunification cannot be separated from our commitment to democracy and from our concern for the welfare of the people on both sides of the Taiwan Straits. This is clearly stated in the "Guidelines for National Unification," which says: "The unification of China should be for the welfare of all its people and not be subject to partisan conflict."
It is imperative that mainland authorities appreciate that what divides the mainland and Taiwan is really not the Taiwan Straits. It is the gap between what we can each offer to our people with our two opposing sets of economic and political institutions.
As we now open this new and historic page, my government is ready to share with the people and authorities of the mainland the lessons of our four decades of the "Taiwan experience."
It is exactly for this reason that we are currently embarking on further economic progress with the "National Development Six-Year Plan" and further democratization with constitutional reform. We are building a prosperous democracy -- not just for the Taiwan area itself, but for the whole of China. We are building a democracy for unification. That is my presidential commitment.
Lee Teng-hui is president of the Republic of China.