Fri, Jan 14, 2005 - Page 8 News List

Guidelines are key to breakthrough

By C. V. Chen 陳長文

Koo Chen-fu (辜振甫), Taiwan's top negotiator with China and chairman of the Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF), died on Jan. 3. With his passing, the government has begun to concern itself with Koo's potential successor and public opinion has begun to reflect on whether to retain or abolish the foundation.

Regarding the former, I am sure that there is no comparable candidate for the post, for Koo had a gracious, generous and erudite personality with deep insight into cross-strait relations. Furthermore, with his insistence on keeping faith and the fact that he did not give his word lightly, Koo enjoyed the trust of the governments on both sides of the Taiwan Strait.

Koo's existence was a coincidence of history, and such people are not easily found. As to the fate of the SEF, it is really quite ironic, for it is possible that Koo's greatest regret was that the foundation was not abolished during his term there.

If we speak of the SEF in military terms, using the words "strategy" and "tactics" to describe cross-strait relations, the establishment of the SEF in 1991 was a product of "tactical" considerations. As for the strategic element, the SEF's policies were shaped by the Guidelines for National Unification (國統綱領), established in the same year.

According to the guidelines, the development of cross-strait relations is conditional, with the goal of achieving unification one step at a time: a short-term phase of exchanges and reciprocal benefits, a medium-term phase of mutual trust and cooperation, and a long-term phase of consultation and unification.

The SEF is an organization to meet the needs of the short-term phase. Its founding served to lubricate the machinery that could lead to government-to-government contact. Thus, the primary goal of the medium-term phase is to "set up channels of official communications between the two sides on the basis of parity."

When I was SEF secretary-general, I told all staff members that the SEF's greatest task was to complete its mission in the shortest time possible.

Over 13 years have passed and the SEF still has not completed its mission, its vitality strangled by the political situation. The foundation has not even achieved its goals of establishing exchanges and reciprocal benefits, to say nothing of bringing cross-strait relations into an era of "official communications." Cross-strait relations now, after 13 years of development, are even less advanced in certain aspects than during the early period of the SEF's existence.

Does all this sound absurd? It seems that I am running down the SEF, but if so, how can I, at the same time, hold Koo in such high esteem? Things may seem absurd at first, but in reality, they are not if explored in depth.

If government leaders over the past 13 years had merely lacked ability, Koo is certain to have achieved much. Unfortunately, the government has not so much been incompetent, as it has lacked a motive to take action. We can still remember the great success achieved in the early days of the SEF, due to Koo's charismatic leadership and also the eagerness for cross-strait exchanges on both sides.

When former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) decided to sideline the Guidelines for National Unification promulgated during his administrative term, his decision was motivated by hostility to China. With the strategic element (the guidelines) removed, what more could be achieved at a tactical level (SEF)?

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