Taiwan's "China fever" has reached the boiling point. Right after Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Lien Chan (
As if he feared being left behind by Lien and Soong, Chen said in an interview with the Wall Street Journal that Lien and Soong's trips are only a prelude, and that the main show is yet to come. Chen also said that the schedule of cross-strait dialogue may be advanced.
These developments convey an unnerving message. The opposition and ruling camps, which are in constant conflict, have apparently found a common denominator as a result of infection by the "China fever" virus. Regardless of how much difference lies between Chen, Lien and Soong, as long as their hearts all long for China, they are all the same -- varying only in the degree of their affection.
The timing and manner of Lien's visit is inappropriate, and he truly deserves to be condemned for selling out Taiwan. But the KMT is, after all, only an opposition party. Any cross-strait affairs that involve the exercise of government power require the approval of the ruling party. Therefore, Lien's trip to China may be ill-conceived, but his fling with Beijing is not likely to lead to catastrophe.
However, with respect to Soong's trip, Taiwan must be on high alert. While Soong denies that he is Chen's envoy or messenger, he does have the so-called 10-point consensus he reached with Chen in writing. In addition, Chen has openly said that he will send some unspecified messages to Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) through Soong.
Under the circumstances, what is the under-the-table deal behind Soong's trip? Will any secret pact be made with the other side of the Taiwan Strait? The people of Taiwan must be on guard.
Lien has never concealed his preference for unification. During his trip to China, it was expected that he would blend right in with the officials and the people of the other side. Soong, on the other hand, deliberately built up a down-to-earth, grassroots image through frequent trips to counties, townships and villages all over Taiwan. Although in his heart he never forgot about "Greater China," he constantly reminded audiences that he grew up on "Taiwanese water and Taiwanese rice" and that his heart belongs to Taiwan. This was a clear attempt to win broad support from both the unification and independence camps.
In addition, Soong is a master of political strategy. Once in China, Soong -- driven by his competition with Lien and over-confident in the consensus he reached with Chen -- may well make some major mistakes that will jeopardize the interests and welfare of the Taiwanese people. This is truly worrisome.
Before his trip, Soong openly stated that the PFP continues to oppose Taiwan independence and supports "one China" as defined by the Constitution. Obviously, he is no different from Lien when it comes to opposing Taiwan consciousness.
His trip to "bridge" the two sides of the Taiwan Strait may end in the betrayal of the Taiwanese people. How can Chen entrust him with the task of messenger? What is Chen thinking?
With respect to the opposition parties' "China fever," we simply feel regretful. However, with respect to Chen's self-contradictory and ambiguous statements in recent days, most Taiwanese people cannot help but feel uneasy. Chen's cross-strait policy seems to have gotten caught in a dilemma in which he can neither move forward nor backward.
Prior to Lien's trip, Chen warned the KMT chairman against turning his back on Taiwan or signing any unauthorized agreement with China. Chen also cautioned Lien to report to the government about his visit. But within a matter of days, Chen had a drastic change of attitude. Not only was Lien's "reporting" to the government carried out in a brief phone call, but Chen also gave Lien his support and blessing.
As for Soong's trip, Chen seems to have even more hope. Chen's intention, judging by his remarks, is to preserve a gray area in the exact relationship between him and Soong. He has not hidden his intention to have Soong pass on his messages to Beijing. He clearly hopes to push for a resumption of cross-strait talks without any preconditions involving Taiwan's sovereignty.
After Chen took over the presidency in 2000, his policies have shifted sharply, leaving his supporters at a loss about how to react. In particular, on cross-strait relations, Chen seems to lack any core values or central ideology. He has focused only on short-term tactics.
Some commentators have said that Chen's personality swings between being too proud and too humble. What an apt description. Sometimes Chen can humbly commit to China on "five noes," promising that there shall be no change of the status quo.
At other times, Chen passionately calls the two sides of the Taiwan Strait "one country on each side" and elaborates on idealistic goals such as drafting a new constitution and rectifying Taiwan's name.
After the elections are over, he then confesses that, actually, name rectification and the adoption of a new constitution cannot be accomplished, and that it is self-delusional to think we can change the name of this country.
Sometimes he says Lien and Soong are guilty of selling out Taiwan and depicts them as committing unforgivable sins. At other times -- like the very next day -- he becomes humble and conciliatory, calling for a summit meeting between the leaders of the political parties.
Amid the recent wave of China fever, Chen put his foot down by threatening to harshly deal with anyone who violated the law. But days later he is full of "blessing, support and recognition" for the opposition leaders. He even gave the impression that a Chen-Hu meeting could be held as soon as Hu snaps his fingers.
Chen's shiftiness may be explained by a hope to not waste the remaining three years of his presidential term. That intention can be understood, but not forgiven. While reconciliation between the governing and opposition camps is a good thing, it cannot be achieved at the cost of national identification and the welfare of the Taiwanese people.
Chen's concessions on national identification in order to accomplish cross-party reconciliation have jeopardized the very foundation of Taiwan's long-term survival. People supported Chen's presidency because they supported what he represented -- the nativization path -- and worried about Taiwan's survival.
If Chen compromises with groups that represent the "Great China" path, that is a betrayal of the voters who supported him. Recently, some grassroots Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) supporters have voiced a demand for Chen to withdraw from the party.
Polls indicate that the level of support for the DPP has dropped by 7 percent. DPP politicians also feel unable to accept Chen's ever-changing China policies.
All of this indicates that if Chen betrays the people of Taiwan by walking down a red carpet rolled out by China, the curtain will go down on his political career.
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