Sat, Mar 05, 2005 - Page 8 News List

Chen, Soong affirmed 'middle way'

By Paul Lin林保華

The dust has begun to settle after the controversial meeting between President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) and People First Party (PFP) Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜). Calm and thorough analysis is now required as we cherish this hard-earned reconciliation. Pro-independence groups were not opposed to the summit prior to the meeting, although they felt uneasy about it. Pro-unification groups opposed it, and even protested outside the Taipei Guest House where Chen and Soong met.

This is evidence that the pan-green camp does not oppose inter-party reconciliation, while certain pro-unification politicians were against the summit, instead favoring reconciliation between the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). This is a reflection of their lack of interest in domestic reconciliation and their amity toward the CCP.

Taking a balanced view of the 10-point declaration made by Chen and Soong, we must recognize that it defines Taiwan's national status as moving neither toward unification nor independence. In other words, it takes the "middle road" position, which means that it recognizes the existence of the Republic of China (ROC), while also recognizing a Taiwan where sovereignty rests with the people.

This stance is, in my opinion, acceptable given Taiwan's current political situation. As to the future orientation of Taiwan, it will depend on the will of all Taiwanese people.

But I also have some reservations toward the 10-point consensus, especially that cross-strait economic, trade, cultural, academic and other exchanges, as well as the three direct links, are looked upon with optimism, with China's threats to Taiwan's security disregarded. Ignoring these issues will serve to make the already psychologically ill-prepared Taiwanese even more unprepared, and they will also negatively impact on the "effective management" policy.

The biggest controversy was evoked in the post-meeting press conference. Both Chen and Soong should have offered explanations and calmed their supporters. But it turned out that Chen did not do enough while Soong did too much.

Chen explained the issue of changing the national title by saying that though there would be no change, there would be no opposition to government agencies that wanted to adjust their names. It is indeed difficult to change the national title in the absence of a public consensus for such a change.

Former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) also recognized this problem, and he put forward the objective of obtaining the support of at least 75 percent of the people.

But Chen's comments about deceiving oneself hurt supporters' feelings, especially since he agreed with Soong's comments and thus appeared to turn his one-time enemy into a bosom buddy.

I believe this to be one of the reasons behind the strong reaction from pro-independence groups. If it was just a mistake, a slip of the tongue, Chen should explain himself immediately.

The problem is that Chen did not attend any activities commemorating the 228 Incident, which took aim at China. This was seen as Chen's attempt to "disengage" himself from pro-independence groups which has heightened tensions in their relationship. It is understandable that Chen showed humility toward the pan-blue camp for the good of inter-party reconciliation, but he, at least, should also extend equal humility toward his supporters.

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