Wed, Aug 17, 2005 - Page 8 News List

US needs `Taiwan hands'

By Sing Young

It is refreshing for Nat Bellocchi to honestly point out that "China and the US may want to involve themselves in the next presidential election -- both in terms of developing platforms and the choice of candidates -- much earlier than they have done in the past. They should write their plans in pencil, not ink." ("Identity issue raises its head again," Aug 10, page 8).

Bellocchi's advice would be best delivered directly to the US government, because China definitely does not need it to jump into the game.

For years now, China has succeeded in seizing Taiwan's Mainlander-dominated mass media, those Chiang-era monopoly remnants which still dominate the nation's media market. Several major media outlets in Taiwan are now awash in "red cash" and are totally or partially under China's control. These media outlets have created and have been actively marketing the brand of "China, the rising future" with repetitive soundbites of "Taiwan, the fallen desert."

Such branding efforts have provided Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and People First Party (PFP) chairmen with a "red, bright" image to package their trips to China, where they have been officially crowned as China's proxies in Taiwan. Not all Taiwanese fall for it; but many do, especially the younger ones. Now, China is aggressively utilizing its proxies in Taiwan to gradually become the agenda-setter within Taiwan, hoping to eventually become the effective ruler of Taiwan while tolerating a nominally elected ruling machine.

In the mean time, the US has been letting the Taiwan situation run on auto-pilot. The media's reports of US President Bush referring to President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) as an S.O.B. without any denial from the US, Bush's public accusation that Chen was "willing to unilaterally change the status quo" and the meeting of the US representative in Taiwan, Douglas Paal, with the foul-crying candidates of the KMT and PFP right after last year's presidential election while avoiding contact with the incumbent candidate -- all of these public displays of the US have discredited Chen and the DPP; resulting in swing voters tilting towards the pro-China camp. One of the effects was the DPP not gaining a majority in the legislature in last December's election; thus, the continuing deadlock on the defense budget. And yet, there have been reports recently about the US suspecting that the DPP is behind the deadlock, again without denial from the US.

As a person who shares most of the US' values, I can't help but wonder what the US wants or whether the US knows what it wants at all.

Chen and DPP officials definitely deserve their share of the blame for the Taiwanese government's almost disastrous relationship with the US. Their faults are more behavioral in nature than intentional. As a citizen, I have vehemently criticized Chen and the DPP.

However, as a people, the Taiwanese have never had the chance to be in the governing position until the year 2000. There has been no political culture and sophistication within the Taiwanese tradition to facilitate an effective government. We as a people have been fighting against rulers from outside for the past 400 years or so. The Manchu rulers deemed us "unruly" due to the headaches our ancestors caused with "a minor rebellion every three years and a major one every five years." We have been able to fight the rulers, but we have never had the chance to establish the collective ability and tradition of ruling ourselves. This is an unrecognized but profound factor in today's Taiwanese political landscape -- and a fact the US needs to realize.

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