Thu, Aug 18, 2005 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: Lien trying to set state policy

Following Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Lien Chan's (連戰) visit to China in April, his party has been pushing ahead to cooperate with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

A number of organizations dominated by the KMT held talks with Beijing on Taiwanese agricultural exports that led Chinese authorities to unilaterally grant tariff-free entry for 18 kinds of fruit from Taiwan. Another delegation, made up of KMT members, visited Beijing to discuss direct charter flights with Chinese officials.

On Tuesday, Lien said that KMT chapters across the country could engage in exchanges with the CCP members between the end of this month and next month. The KMT is also planning to invite officials from China's Taiwan Affairs Office (TAO) to co-host an "economic development forum" in October to establish a platform for KMT-CCP cooperation.

As outgoing chairman, Lien has seen fit to made significant decisions about KMT-CCP exchanges. Has his successor, Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), who takes over the party's helm tomorrow, played any role in Lien's decision-making process? Lien's new cross-strait policies will force the party's new leadership to accept his own China policy preferences. This is disrespectful and unfair to the new leadership. It also raised the question of just who is going to call the shots on the KMT's China policy in the future.

Each time Lien calls a press conference to make a big announcement about the KMT's new direction, he creates problems for the future chairman. He also invites criticism from the public by repeatedly saying the wrong things. In a press conference on Tuesday, he criticized President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) for speaking poor English -- triggering a public backlash from Taiwanese who don't care about the president's foreign-language skills.

More important, however, is the question of the nature of the relationship between Taiwan and the People's Republic of China (PRC). If both sides of the Taiwan Strait were part of the same country, it would be natural for the KMT to build a relationship with the CCP. But Taiwan and the PRC are two different countries, neither of which holds any jurisdiction over the other.

Negotiations about the export of agricultural products to China or direct cross-strait charter flights -- which the KMT has busied itself with -- are perogatives of the government, not one political party. The KMT should not make up excuses to send delegations to negotiate with Chinese officials, nor should it use its private agreements with Beijing to trespass on the government's authority.

No one has any doubts that the KMT's effort to promote a cross-strait policy different from that of the government is simply a tool aimed at winning the 2008 presidential election.

The people of Taiwan must give serious thought to whether the policies pursued by Lien as KMT chairman, including the building of closer relations with China, direct links and agricultural exports, are designed to destroy Taiwan, or whether they can bring about peace and prosperity for both sides of the Strait. This is also a question to which the new leadership of the KMT should give serious consideration.

Whether the KMT's China policy is supported by the people will become evident in the year-end mayoral and county commissioner elections. Can Ma afford not to listen to the voice of voters?

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