Sun, Mar 06, 2005 - Page 8 News List

Taiwan the biggest loser after Chen-Soong tryst

By Chang Kuo-tsai 張國財

The meeting between President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) and People First Party (PFP) Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜) -- which made the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) jealous, the PFP hesitant, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) excited and pro-independence activists worried -- finally became a reality on Feb. 24.

Before the meeting, Chen presented a gift to Soong. Inscribed on it was the Chinese characters for "sincerity." In response to Chen's courtesy, Soong gave the president a colored glass snail and made some polite remarks. But reading between the lines, we can assume "those who came were not friendly; those who are friendly did not come."

After the meeting, Chen and Soong signed a 10-point consensus. In the statement, the president acknowledges the status of the Republic of China (ROC) and commits not to declaring independence, change the national title, push the "state-to-state" dictum in the ROC Constitution or launch a referendum on the unification-independence issue. The statement leaves Taiwan entangled with the ROC, and the ROC with the People's Republic of China. His commitment has confused the international community, and has placated the pan-blue camp. But it was a slap in the face of those who wish to change the nation's name and create a new constitution.

As for the proposed direct cargo flights, following up on the "successful model of the chartered passenger flights" during the Lunar New Year, what is the definition of "successful" anyway? From the aspect of opening commercial routes across the Strait, the model was certainly successful. But, from the aspect of effective management, the model failed, as foreign maids and tour groups were also allowed to board the flights intended for Taiwanese businesspeople alone.

After the legislative elections in December, the PFP lost 12 seats, the poorest performance of any party. But as the situation changes, the DPP has been flirting with the PFP to lure it over to its side, while the KMT is also casting friendly glances at its pan-blue ally. So the party is gaining advantage from both sides. The meeting with Chen boosted Soong's value even more.

Although KMT Chairman Lien Chan (連戰) commented that it is wrong for Soong to cooperate with those with completely different ideologies, such words may be sour grapes after Soong had the sweet taste of success this time.

But it is absolutely appropriate for the pan-green camp's supporters to advise Chen with Lien's words.

What did Chen gain from the meeting? Undoubtedly, his campaign promise of making a new constitution by 2006 and implementing it by 2008 will not be carried out. What did he gain in exchange for showing his goodwill by admitting that the ROC is in fact the "greatest common denominator" for the two sides of the Taiwan Strait? Only Soong's self-satisfied claim that independence is not an option.

I do not intend to blame Soong, because he has not changed. He has not altered his ideals opposing independence or promoting unification under the "one China" roof. What has changed is Chen, who has turned from a promoter of national title rectification and a new constitution into a protector of the ROC.

The meeting cruelly shows that Chen is leaning towards Soong, while Soong is leaning towards the ROC. Through the meeting, the ROC has become the biggest winner while Taiwan has become the biggest loser.

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