Wed, May 04, 2005 - Page 8 News List

The tragic farce of Lien Chan

By William Wolfe

Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Lien Chan (連戰) must be auditioning for a new career as a comedian. How else to explain his assertion in Beijing that recent "reforms" in China have closed the political gap between China and Taiwan? He must have had the audience rolling in the aisles.

Sadly, there's nothing funny about Lien's misguided attempt to submerge ongoing democratic efforts here in Taiwan. His visit to Beijing is an embarrassment to anyone who believes in democracy.

It's also an embarrassment -- or should be -- to the KMT and its supporters. This visit signals the KMT's unwillingness to accept its role as the current "other" party in Taiwanese politics. It also signals a serious misunderstanding of the workings of the democratic process.

When a party loses an election, it bides its time until the next cycle of elections comes around. In the meantime, it shores up its weaknesses and sorts out its message for the next election. It solidifies its base and recruits new members. With luck and hard work, it comes out on top and gets its people in office. That's what it should take to get what you want in a democracy.

But what Lien is doing is thumbing his nose at the process. The KMT's actions in this instance have done nothing more than signal to China that if it comes here on the military march, there are leaders ready to bend over and take whatever China offers by way of policy for its newest "province."

Lien's visit to Beijing has an uglier, potentially more dangerous message than that one, however. By visiting China, he has also implied to KMT supporters here in Taiwan that it is acceptable for them to turn their backs on democracy if it doesn't give them what they want, when they want it. His visit tells his party's supporters that when they lose elections, they need not worry. There's no political problem here that a few pucker-up-and-kiss missions to Beijing won't solve.

Looking for irony in Lien's visit is an easy task. He offered up yet another knee-slapper to an audience at Peking University when he said, "We can't stay in the past forever." How did they contain their laughter?

By resorting to dirty, backdoor politics, it's Lien who is resorting to old methods. Admittedly, Taiwan's democracy is young and still forming, but President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) was fairly and democratically elected by a majority of citizens in a society that has moved on from the days of one-party, totalitarian rule. It's just a shame that a man like Lien, whose party just can't seem to tolerate the ups and downs of democratic life, has so quickly and sadly dragged that same society back into a past that no one is interested in reliving.

William Wolfe


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