Fri, Aug 15, 2003 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: Cross-strait ties key to election win

On Wednesday, President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) indicated he will launch a three-phase project, under which direct links could be implemented by the end of next year. To fully grasp Chen's comments, one must first realize the role that timing plays to the talk - both in terms of when the talk was made and when the direct links are scheduled to begin.

Only a day earlier Chen had indicated during a DPP Central Standing Committee meeting that "one country on each side [of the Taiwan Strait]" and "national referendums" are the central spirits of the party. Of course, who can forget there is the presidential election coming up next March. While no one doubts that Chen's comments on Wednesday are important components of his campaign platform, some people are confused about how "one country on each side" and "direct links before the end of next year" -- two seemingly conflicting concepts -- can accommodate each other?

Co-convener of the KMT-PFP alliance's publicity panel Su Chi (蘇起), a former Mainland Affairs Council chairman, reflected this view when he said that Chen's talk was an either or option between the two concepts. This view is correct, so long as Beijing insists that Taipei must first accept its "one China" principle before negotiations on direct links can be held.

So, the question then becomes what could possibly change China's mind between now and the end of next year? The answer is the re-election of Chen. In view of Beijing's stubborn insistence on the issue, that is of course only a possibility and not a sure thing. But, that possibility won't even exist with the election of the pan-blue candidates -- KMT Chairman Lien Chan (連戰) and PFP Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜) -- who continue to embrace Beijing's "one China" principle.

With "one country on each side" as the main theme of his campaign platform, Chen's re-election would send a strong message to Beijing about what the people of Taiwan really think about the "one China" principle. This is what some people, including Chen, believe could change Beijing's mind, or at least stop it from making acceptance of its "one China" principle a precondition for negotiations.

Interestingly, although the pan-blue camp continues to criticize Chen's cross-strait policies, it has decided to focus its campaign platform on domestic issues. This is due to the fact that domestic issues are the Chen administration's biggest vulnerability and the pan-blue camp's realization that it is treading on a very thin line in terms of public appeals by adopting such a meek and self-demeaning stance in the cross-strait relationship. While people prefer positive and constructive cross-strait relationships, they also cannot help but find political parties that roll over to each and every command and wish of Beijing

repulsive.

The pan-blues will find out pretty soon that their plan to shy away from discussion about the cross-strait relationship and sovereignty issues in the presidential campaign simply won't work. This is not only because the DPP won't let it, but also because these issues are on the top of the people's priority list. To achieve a mutually beneficial and stable relationship with China and at the same time not compromise Taiwan's sovereignty is a tough job. At the very least Chen has accomplished the latter. As for the former, cooperation from Beijing will be

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