Sun, May 07, 2000 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: Time to draw the line

On Friday, this newspaper ran two articles which together must make us question exactly where the new government is going on cross-strait relations.

The first was Cao Chang-ching's (曹長青) deeply disturbing analysis of Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) statements -- both pre- and post-election -- on the topic, focussing especially on concessions that Chen had made unilaterally and which had considerably weakened his negotiating hand.

Cao thought that Chen had made two enormous blunders, first by invoking a Richard Nixon analogy -- that it take a hardliner to really work out a compromise -- when Nixon's room for maneuver then and Chen's now are completely different, and, more importantly, Chen's repeated promises that he would not enshrine the "two-states" model in the constitution, wouldn't change the nation's name and wouldn't hold a plebiscite on independence. Cao rightly characterized this as Chen retreating before Beijing had even applied pressure. Hardly a smart way of dealing with people whose concept of negotiation more nearly resembles intimidation.

But if Cao's reminding us of errors already made wasn't bad enough, in the very same edition of the newspaper was Mainland Affairs Council Chairperson Tsai Ying-wen (蔡英文) saying that the new government will not use the phrase "special state-to-state relations" in its official statements. The justification for this was that the "state-to state" label had been misunderstood as referring to Taiwan independence; the new government is to forego use of the term as a gesture of goodwill to China.

And what exactly is to be gained thereby? China hasn't shown the slightest goodwill toward Taiwan for half a century. Why should anyone be so naive as to think that putting on ice a policy which is overwhelmingly endorsed by the people of Taiwan to curry favor with the thugs who rule in Beijing -- who would destroy Taiwan in an instant if they had the military wherewithal, which they don't -- is good policy? Who elected this government? Was it the "state-to-state" enthusiasts of Taiwan or the dictators in Beijing and their creatures in the US State Department?

Tsai's words were meant as reassurance to KMT lawmakers worried by DPP Chairman Lin Yi Hsiung's (林義雄) earlier statement saying that government officials who espouse unification with China should be replaced. But here Lin was at least half right. If he was talking about civil service bureaucrats then they shouldn't be espousing anything at all, that is the point of administrative neutrality. If he is talking about political appointees then it is only common sense to ask why a government would retain policy makers whose beliefs were fundamentally at variance with its own, which should themselves accord with the platform of the party that won the election.

Chen's contribution to this was Delphic to say the least. The government, said a statement from Chen's office, cannot go against the voice of the populous. Is that pro-two states or pro-Tsai? It should of course be the first, but we fear in the current atmosphere of cravenness it probably means the latter. And the advocates of "one China," that pathetic failure of a policy which has left Taiwan on its knees, seem to be riding as high in the new government as they did in the old.

A week ago in this very space we argued that while Chen's China policy was looking a little disappointing, we recognized that he had a difficult job living down his earlier Taiwan independence hotheadedness to be able to seem a plausible leader, especially in Washington.

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