Wed, Feb 02, 2005 - Page 8 News List

Chen is standing at the crossroads

By Emile Sheng 盛治仁

The Lunar New Year cross-strait chartered flights broke a 56-year-old political deadlock, offering for the first time direct flights that are two-way, mutual and non-stop. This shows that the national security concerns and political obstacles that stood in the way of such flights no longer are insurmountable. The biggest remaining obstacle for direct flights now probably exists only in the minds of the leaders in Taipei and Beijing.

Many people hope that these chartered flights will be the first of many attempts to break the ice, but given political realities this is by no means certain.

The cross-strait political deadlock, including everything from "one China" to the "anti-secession" legislation, will be very difficult to break through. However, Jia Qinglin's (賈慶林) speech on the anniversary of Jiang Zemin's (江澤民) "Eight Points," where he said that acknowledging the "1992 consensus" is one of the conditions that must be met in order to revive cross-strait talks, implies one possible way to break through the decade-long deadlock.

If Premier Frank Hsieh's (謝長廷) talk about the constitutional "one China" framework can be made part of the next Cabinet's policies, there is definite hope for peaceful dialogue.

The natural question following the realization of cross-strait flights is "What's next?" Are the flights a harbinger of direct flights, dialogue, exchanges and reconciliation, or are they just the calm before the storm that will follow the anti-secession legislation and a new constitution for Taiwan in 2008? The coverage on the flights in the international media contains much food for thought for both China's and Taiwan's leaders.

If China wants to effectively follow up on its talk of pinning its hope on the people of Taiwan, there is no way that they will be able to do so by passing anti-secession legislation. Such a law will only serve to alienate the people of Taiwan from Beijing and legitimize the desinicization that already is taking place in Taiwan.

It is said that the weaker must use intelligence when dealing with the stronger, and some of the more radical suggestions in Taiwan for expanding local opposition, such as enacting anti-annexation legislation and holding a referendum, are not in Taiwan's best interests.

Taiwan for its part should consider the following issues.

First, the government should review the charter flights and consider whether national interests have been protected, whether Taiwan's sovereignty and dignity have been respected, whether cross-strait tensions have been reduced and whether its people's interests have been guaranteed.

If these questions are answered in the affirmative, ways should be found to expand such flights and increase cross-strait exchanges in order to bring the people out of the shadow of war.

Second, we should discuss whether a democratic government exists to manage or to serve the public. The small details which show the government's "management" mindset, such as the fact that Taiwanese students were not allowed to travel on the flights and the government's use of the flights as an opportunity to punish those engaged in matters it does not encourage. Looking at the bigger issues, we are given to wonder how many businesspeople have wasted time and money on endless flight transfers every year? Isn't this something to which a government serving the people should try to find a solution?

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