Wed, Aug 31, 2005 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: Hero or villain? Lien must decide

The answer to whether there will be war or peace in the Taiwan Strait does not rest with Taipei, but with Beijing. Unless it is for the sake of self-defense, Taiwan will never send troops to attack China. Beijing's position, however, is different. It has a history of saber-rattling and sending troops to neighboring countries to teach them a lesson.

Former Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) chairman Lien Chan (連戰) plans to raise NT$300 million (US$9.2 million) to set up a Taiwan Strait "peace foundation."

The purpose seems noble, but the focus of its activities should be to lobby Chinese leaders, not locals.

In order to achieve his "goal of lasting peace" across the Taiwan Strait, Lien should concentrate on convincing Beijing that regardless of what happens on the political stage in Taiwan, it must not give in to rash impulses and launch an attack. Every effort must be made to find peaceful and rational ways of negotiating a solution to any cross-strait political or military conflict, and this is the message that he should be carrying.

As long as Lien is willing to play this role and enlighten Beijing and the Chinese people on the importance of peace, his efforts might do more good than harm.

However, over the past few months, Lien and his party have adopted the wrong approach on any number of matters: resuming cross-strait negotiations and signing a "peace accord" on a party-to-party basis, promoting cross-strait exchanges without the input of the government and improving communication between the KMT and the Chinese Communist Party.

Following the meeting between Lien and Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤), it became clear that the KMT had focused its attention on the promotion of Taiwan's agricultural produce in China. Then, last week, the KMT inaugurated a liaison office for Taiwanese businessmen working in China. The party is also planning to host a cross-strait economic forum in Taipei in October.

It appears to be turning out, then, that Lien is only interested in changing the attitude of Taiwanese rather than of the Chinese who are threatening them.

As unlikely as it is, if Lien is able to reduce Chinese prejudice and create a situation in which Beijing agrees to some form of genuinely respectful understanding or agreement, and does so without damaging Taiwan's dignity or national security, then Lien's peace foundation will have a certain meaning and value.

But if Lien wishes to use his foundation as a political weapon, drawing on economic and political support from China in an attempt to undermine Taiwan's democracy and assist the KMT regain power, as is most likely, then he and it should be condemned.

Lien's foundation could make a positive contribution to cross-strait peace, but it could also serve to further disrupt Taiwan's politics.

All depends on the decisions he will have to make. A slight difference in direction can have markedly different consequences, and there is often only a very fine line between the heroes and the villains of history.

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