Fri, Jan 07, 2005 - Page 8 News List

Cross-strait talks will dominate Koo legacy

By Chin Heng-wei金恆煒

Koo Chen-fu (辜振甫) -- a tycoon and the chairman of Taiwan's semi-official Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF, 海基會) -- passed away on Jan. 3 at the age of 87.

Koo's death was not a big surprise. After all, he had been ill for quite some time. He even once said self-mockingly that he had only one organ left, and could die at any moment.

What deserves our discussion is how his death actually became the biggest news of the day, as both the print and electronic media ran massive reports about it. This shows that he was absolutely extraordinary.

Koo was not only an entrepreneur but also an influential political heavyweight. He had a hand in both the political and business circles, and was considered the best of the best in both.

Although some praised him as a true leader of industry, his greatest achievements lay in his contribution to cross-strait relations. His status would never have been considered so significant without the 1993 meeting with his Chinese counterpart, Wang Daohan (汪道涵), then chairman of China's Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait (ARATS, 海協會).

Koo's death caused a phenomenon. But he himself was also a phenomenon.

He personally suffered political oppression in his early years during the notorious White Terror era.

From the era of the two Chiangs' (兩蔣) to former president Lee Teng-hui's (李登輝) rule, he was an "evergreen tree" in politics and business. The Koo-Wang talks in Singapore consolidated his unshakable position.

Despite the nation's transition of power in 2000, he was still the only choice for the SEF's chairmanship, and he even stayed on in this post until he died.

We know that the Koo-Wang talks were in fact a historical opportunity for him.

After he died, some people may say that it was just like the disappearance of the Guanglin Verse (廣陵散) -- an ancient verse that died out after the execution of Ji Kang (嵇康), the last man capable of playing it.

Viewed from a historical perspective, the Koo-Wang meeting formed the last chapter in talks between the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

Looking back at the private meetings among China's and Taiwan's "secret envoys," the 1993 meeting, and then Chinese president Jiang Zemin's (江澤民) reception of Koo in 1998, we know that such talks actually took place under the framework of a KMT-CCP civil war (國共內戰).

And a more important proof: why were cross-strait exchanges and talks halted right after Lee proposed the "special state-to-state dictum" (兩國論) in 1999? Precisely because the dictum was proposed to break the evil curse of the KMT-CCP civil war.

In response to the dictum, China issued an official statement to severely warn the "Taiwanese separatist forces." By comparing Beijing's change in attitude, we can immediately see the politics behind its initial politeness, and later arrogance.

Since the Koo-Wang talks can also be seen as the finale of talks between the KMT and the CCP, it is impossible for them to take place again -- with or without Koo.

Moreover, the KMT has become an opposition party, and the DPP's long-term rule has crushed the KMT-CCP framework.

More importantly, it is already impossible for Taiwan to go back to the old path. Both the SEF and a future peace commission have to be aware of the new spirit in this new era.

Chin Heng-wei is the editor-in-chief of the Contemporary Monthly magazine, and a national policy adviser to the president.

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