Sun, May 08, 2005 - Page 8 News List

Chen mulls dangerous concessions

By the Liberty Times editorial

Taiwan's "China fever" has reached the boiling point. Right after Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Lien Chan (連戰) returned from his trip to China last Tuesday against a backdrop of skepticism from the Taiwanese people, People First Party (PFP) Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜) embarked on a similar trip. Perhaps more surprising, President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) was visiting allies in the South Pacific at the time.

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?

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