Mon, Jan 31, 2005 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: Would-be quisling's no prodigal son

Saturday saw the much-awaited return of People First Party (PFP) Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜) from the US. Soong was in the Land of the Free as part of a massive sulk over how beastly the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) had treated his own in the run-up to last month's legislative election.

While in the US he paid a trip to Washington in the vain hope that officials there could restore his morale by treating him as a serious contender for Taiwan's presidency. Quite the reverse, they appear to have treated him rather as a serious pain in the neck, because of his party's opposition to purchasing the weapons the US has offered Taiwan.

We can only hope that on closer acquaintance the US better understands exactly whose interests Soong has at heart. The nature of those interests are quite plain: Soong wishes to go down as a great Chinese historical figure by accomplishing "reunification" -- handing Taiwan over to the People's Republic of China. And naturally he is opposed to anything that would interfere with this vision of his manifest destiny, such as Taiwan's democratic processes or US weapons.

There has been much ado about the Democratic Progressive Party's (DPP) trying to work together with Soong and the PFP to try to break the current political impasse. This idea seems to be dead, thank goodness.

The sensible option for the DPP was always to wait until KMT Chairman Lien Chan (連戰) steps down, and then see whether the KMT becomes more amenable to reason, once it is no longer hostage to Lien's colossal vanity and temper tantrums. After all, the KMT is largely localized and its core has a vested interest in seeing Taiwan work, which means resolving the gridlock.

Soong and the PFP, on the other hand, are not constructive in any way, representing as they do the rump of the Mainlander ascendency who, as John Tkacik so memorably said, prefer China rule Taiwan rather than Taiwanese rule Taiwan. The DPP's courting of Soong was either a publicity exercise of the deepest cynicism or, if seriously meant, a piece of folly for which the country might have paid dearly.

As for Soong, the degree of speculation over his intentions prior to his return, not to mention his feting at the airport only go to show the limits of Taiwan's much vaunted democratic transition.

The idea of spreading democracy promulgated by Western powers since the end of the Cold War has always centered on elections. Certainly free and fair elections are necessary to what we understand as liberal democracy, but they are far from sufficient. Other factors matter as well, especially the rule of law. If this can be flouted with impunity, then elections become little more than an argument over who should share the spoils.

Taiwan has great steps to take before we can say the rule of law effectively applies. Soong's very prominence gives the lie to any notion of the rule of law applying in this society. There is a wealth of evidence to show that Soong is a thief. He is known to have put NT$360 million of KMT funds illegally -- ie, without the consent of the party -- into his family members' bank accounts. That is theft. Since he had management of the funds at the time as the KMT's secretary general it is also breach of trust.

And this leads us to a bitter paradox: Taiwan will not enjoy the rule of law and will not be the liberal democracy it claims to be while the government is trying to woo someone like Soong. Taiwan will only be a real democracy when Soong is in jail.

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