Tue, Dec 14, 2004 - Page 8 News List

Why the US prefers more gridlock

By Lin Cheng-yi 林正義

In the past, the outcomes of the legislative elections in Taiwan have hardly been a decisive factor in US-Taiwan relations. Although the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and People First Party (PFP) jointly won a majority in the legislative election in 2001 following the transition of power in 2000, society remained fractured and its political institutions in disarray due to the deep divide between the pan-blue and pan-green camps.

Now that pan-blue camp has retained the legislative majority in Saturday's election, the highly politicized situation looks likely to continue, and political struggles are likely to persist over issues such as the government's budget, nomination of Control Yuan members, a Cabinet reshuffle, constitutional reform and rectification of the country's name.

If the pan-green camp had won a majority, the government would have encountered less opposition from the legislature and there would have been a more consistent approach. It would have allowed the DPP for the first time to be in control of the legislature as well as the executive, and enjoy the advantages the KMT had held over a long period of time.

The failure of the pan-green camp and the victory of the pan-blue in this legislative election, however, will put greater pressure on President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) administration in its attempt to construct a Taiwan identity.

Beijing is certainly pleased to see an outcome like this. The US government has mixed feelings toward both the pan-green and pan-blue camps, one the one hand worrying that the pan-greens might push the sovereignty issue too hard, but disliking the blue camp's obstruction of the US arms-purchase budget.

Less than 100 days into his first term, US President George W. Bush showed his goodwill toward Taiwan by approving the sale of advanced weapons and other measures to help Taiwan defend itself. US-Taiwan relations reached their highest point at this time. In the last year, however, the relationship has been strained. This is the result of a lack of a direct communication channel between the leaders of the two countries. In addition, Taiwan's political agenda has progressed so rapidly that the bureaucracy has been unable to keep pace with decision-makers, and policies have lagged behind the rapidly changing political situation.

Mutual trust between Taiwan and the US has been undermined, and both sides must bear some responsibility for this. In the past, the US supported the democratization of Taiwan, yet it is now worried about the unrestrained development of that democracy. Rather than just observing Taiwan's development, it is now inclined to interfere. On Taiwan's side, there is the postponement of the US arms procurement deal, as well as government inefficiency and the priority of political considerations by the pan-green and pan-blue camps, which has meant that public policy issues that should be at the top of the political agenda have been stalled.

The purchase of submarines, long-range anti-submarine aircraft and Patriot missiles have long been called for by Taiwan's leaders, the Ministry of National Defense and defense analysts in Taiwan. Of course, the pan-blue camp has different considerations and retired generals are entitled to change their minds, but the result is that Taiwan's national defense needs and even the need to maintain a level of mutual trust with the US has been ignored.

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