Mon, May 09, 2005 - Page 8 News List

All's not quiet on the 'united front'

By Mark Kennedy

It has been widely noted in these pages that Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Lien Chan's (連戰) China visit and the agreement he reached with Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) undercuts the authority of the Taiwanese government, is a vain attempt by a has-been politician to remain politically relevant, and will put pressure on President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) to adopt the trade arrangements fleshed out in that agreement.

But what has been addressed only with cynicism is how Beijing's pampering of Lien and People First Party (PFP) Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜), is part of the so-called "united front" strategy, of which eventual unification is the aim.

If we take seriously the notion that Lien is conspiring with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to "sell out" the country, then we must take seriously the threat this poses to Taiwan's security and autonomy.

Despite all his rhetoric about the importance of the cross-strait status quo -- frequently invoked in slogans during elections -- one doesn't have to read too closely between the lines before Lien's unificationist credentials emerge.

The lofty objectives outlined in the Lien-Hu communique are predicated on the "1992 consensus;" founded on the idea that there is but "one China," of which Taiwan is a part, but what is meant by "China" can be interpreted in different ways. The Lien-Hu agreement seeks to create peace and prosperity not for "Taiwan and China," but for the "Chinese nation," the term used in the agreement to collectively describe both sides of the Taiwan Strait. Such unificationist vocabulary leaves little room for recognizing the authority of the Taiwanese government or the self-determination of its people.

Lien's own words also give away his thinly-veiled contempt for Taiwan's sovereignty and its liberal democratic system. Addressing students at Peking University, the KMT chairman said Taiwan's democracy was threatened by the ever-fearful growth of populism, spawned by independence forces that threatened the well-being of the nation. He even went so far as to suggest that the system was so flawed that there isn't even a genuine democracy to be threatened.

The KMT chairman's role in the united front strategy is conspicuous not only in what he has said, but also what he failed to say -- and even promised to say -- when he met with Hu. Lien sat down in cordial meetings with a leadership that barely a month earlier passed the "Anti-Secession" Law, which threatens military action against the country in which he lives (but does not really consider home).

Not once did he condemn or even criticize the law or the rationale behind it. Not one word was uttered against the law that aims to bring Taiwan into the Chinese fold at any cost.

Nor did Lien take Hu to task over the growing number of missiles China has pointed at Taiwan -- an issue the KMT chairman said he would bring up when he met with the Chinese president. Recent reports indicate that the People's Liberation Army plans to deploy 200 land-attack cruise missiles later this year, and will have up to 1,000 ballistic missiles within striking distance of Taiwan by the end of next year. China's seriousness about unification by any and all means necessary can't be made any more clear than by the amount of firepower it has aimed at Taiwan.

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