Tue, Oct 21, 2003 - Page 8 News List

Lien Chan on tour isa cause for real shame

By Liu Kuan-teh 劉冠德

On his recent trip to Britain, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Lien Chan (連戰) lashed out at three adverse tendencies that he said had emerged since the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) took power in May 2000. According to Lien, these are China's intensified military buildup, the nation's prolonged economic stagnation and what he called the DPP administration's failure to adopt a more prudent and moderate approach in dealing with cross-strait affairs.

Lien's statements remind us of the criticisms he made two years ago on a visit to Washington. On that trip, Lien emphasized that the world would be confronted with a potentially explosive crisis if President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) were re-elected. The only way to defuse such a crisis, he said, would be for the KMT to win next year's presidential election.

Without specifying how he would accommodate Beijing in regard to the so-called "one China" principle, Lien pledged in Cambridge that if he wins next year's election, his administration, while countering Beijing's military threat and political pressure, will avoid provoking China in order to maintain regional stability.

Lien's comments also recall the week before the 2000 election, when the KMT launched a series of attacks on Chen. The KMT portrayed Chen as the only candidate who would ignite a war across the Taiwan Strait. In one campaign ad, it warned people not to vote for Chen, otherwise they would have to send their sons to war.

The KMT's incorporation of the so-called "stability card" proved invalid not only because Lien lost the election but also because of the relatively stable situation between Taiwan and China that Chen has been able to maintain since he took office.

The accusation that Chen failed to adopt a more prudent and moderate policy toward China is incorrect. The "five nos" Chen pledged in his inaugural speech opened up a fresh opportunity for Taipei and Beijing to resume dialogue. Chen's later call for both sides to jointly pursue political integration in 2001 should have been treated seriously by the Chinese leaders as a good-will gesture. His administration's gradual opening of the "small three links" was another manifest olive branch. Were these moves not prudent and moderate?

Lien should not overlook the efforts that Chen has made to normalize cross-strait relations. Instead, he should take a close look at how Beijing has sabotaged Taiwan in international arenas such as the World Health Organization and its attempts to downgrade Taiwan's status by buying out Taipei's diplomatic allies.

In a mature democracy, it is often odd to witness a former vice president criticizing the incumbent president so harshly, as if he himself were not a citizen. Former US president Bill Clinton never attacks President George W. Bush over his handling of domestic and foreign affairs. Even former US vice president Al Gore, who lost to Bush by a slight margin, did not point his finger at Bush during his recent trip to Taipei.

Lien's denigration of the Chen administration displays a lack of democratic morality.

Moreover, in any democracy, checks and balances between political parties are normal. A dutiful opposition certainly may criticize the administration and articulate its opinions in order to win the next election. The truth and fairness of its criticisms are open to public judgement. How-ever, it is inappropriate to exaggerate or misinterpret the principle of inter-party checks and balances, let alone attack the government while abroad.

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