Thu, May 05, 2005 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: Keep pandas away from politics

Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Lien Chan (連戰) completed his "Betray Taiwan Tour" on Tuesday. As expected, the Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) and its supporters were at the CKS International Airport waiting to pelt him with eggs, but because police maintained strict order, the protests came to nothing. But make no mistake about it: Many Taiwanese are describing Lien's trip to China as a "Betray Taiwan Tour."

News of Lien's visit has filled almost every TV news show and most newspapers. Public opinion polls associated with these reports show Lien enjoying a huge surge in his prestige. It would seem that Lien has been able, in one trip, to resolve the half-century long stand-off across the Taiwan Strait and that peace and unification with China are now just around the corner.

This is a big joke and is no more than an illusion perpetrated by the media. To interpret this situation, we must first understand Taiwan's media environment. Apart from a few public TV stations, almost all TV stations in Taiwan are controlled by forces close to the pan-blue camp. That the two major newspapers established by KMT Central Standing Committee members favor the pan-blue camp goes without saying. When has an opinion poll by a Taiwanese media outlet ever been accurate? Which poll has not had its results predetermined by political concerns? Are the polls concerning Lien's visit to China any more credible?

Of all the Chinese-language media, only the Liberty Times and the Taiwan Daily continue to put Taiwan first, and Lien is using every media outlet at his disposal to drown them out. How can the outside world perceive the truth of Taiwan's politics when the media keeps a muzzle on dissenting opinion? OK, so pan-green voters may not have their own media outlets, but there is still the vast realm of the Internet. The only way to get an understanding of the Taiwanese people's thoughts regarding Lien's visit to China is to log on to the Internet and see first-hand Taiwanese people's derision.

On Tuesday, China gave Lien a gift of three ways to buy votes. They offered to lift travel restrictions for tourists visiting Taiwan, remove tariffs on the import of Taiwanese fruits such as mangos and wax apples and give Taiwan two pandas -- its most cherished endangered species. Note that mangos and wax apples are predominantly farmed in the south, the electoral base of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).

It is ironic that when President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) invited Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) to visit Taiwan, he was met with a cool response, with Wang Zaixi (王在希), deputy director of China's Taiwan Affairs Office (TAO), saying that acceptance of any such offer would be conditional on the DPP first abandoning its independence platform.

This goes to show that Lien has failed to resolve the discrimination and political gridlock across the Strait, and has only taken China's attempts to help the pan-blue camp buy votes one step further. There is no need to point out that it is pan-blue politicians, who have a deep understanding of Taiwan's political system, who are visiting China to offer tactical advice, teaching the government in Beijing ways to manipulate Taiwan's democratic system and make use of its vote-buying culture to help get the pan-blue camp back into power.

Although Lien has returned, there remains the issue of the pandas. Those who want them and those who don't are already up in arms. Putting aside conservation issues, we believe that as the most fundamental aspects of the cross-strait issue have yet to be resolved, and the "Anti-Secession" Law that authorizes war as a means to settle the cross-strait conflict has not been struck down, it is best if the pandas stay at home.

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