When President Chen Shui-bian (
When the news of this first broke, a displeased Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Ma Ying-jeou (
With globalization, regional cooperation has become a way to promote friendly competition between neighboring countries. Levels of development are uneven throughout the Asia-Pacific region. Countries such as the US, Canada, Japan and Australia are highly developed economically, while Taiwan, South Korea and Singapore are moving into the ranks of developed nations. China, Thailand, Malaysia and Vietnam are working hard to catch up.
Politically, the nations come in every shade -- from free and democratic to dictatorships. But unless these political and economic imbalances are dealt with effectively, they may well become a source of friction that could lead to war or terrorism, thus throwing the region into turmoil.
These concerns were the reasons for the establishment of APEC. In the case of Taiwan, taking into account its location at the geographical center of the Asia-Pacific region and its successful experience of political and economic development, it could use regional exchanges to strengthen cooperation, promote welfare and raise living standards within the Asia-Pacific region. This is why APEC needs Taiwan.
China, however, will not relent in its suppression of Taiwan just because APEC is an economic forum. When China joined APEC in 1991, it signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the organization that said Taiwan could only send its minister in charge of APEC-related economic affairs to attend the meeting. The memorandum also stated that Taiwan's minister and deputy minister of foreign affairs were not allowed to attend since they are symbols of national sovereignty.
Since then, Taiwan has only been able to attend the leaders summit and the meeting of APEC foreign ministers, the two most important meetings at the summit, through a proxy. As a result, the only Taiwanese representatives to the previous APEC leaders summits have been Vincent Siew (蕭萬長), former chairman of the Council for Economic Planning and Development (CEPD), the late Koo Chen-fu (辜振甫), senior adviser to the president, Chiang Pyng-kun (江丙坤), who is also a CEPD chairman, Perng Fai-nan (彭淮南), governor of the central bank and Lee Yuan-tseh (李遠哲), president of Academia Sinica.
Neither Chen nor former president Lee Teng-hui (
We can take consolation from the fact that on this occasion, the KMT has not found it necessary to "oppose for the sake of opposition" Chen's appointment of Wang. In 2000, when Chen wanted to appoint Siew -- also a former premier -- as Taiwan's representative, this was categorically rejected by then KMT chairman Lien Chan (
This was the first time Taiwan faced a combined attack by the KMT and China on the diplomatic battlefield. On that occasion, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) sought to enlist Siew for the summit because he had prior APEC experience and his presence would be to Taiwan's advantage. It came as a great surprise when the KMT -- still smarting after an election defeat -- let selfish motives override the national interest and refused to allow Siew to participate.
Superficially, Lien's action might be viewed as a blow aimed at the DPP government, but it simply damaged the public's faith in the KMT. The Lien-Soong ticket's defeat in last year's election might be attributed to the fact that the pan-blue camp remains unable to operate as a loyal opposition.
After the transition of power, the confrontation between the pan-green and pan-blue camps became cut-throat, with each side working to obliterate their opponent, no matter how low they had to sink to achieve it.
For this reason, the fact that the KMT has not rejected Wang's appointment as APEC envoy is a matter for considerable optimism. We are sure that many members of the public are delighted that the two political camps can now, on some issues at least, have some degree of positive cooperation.
Such cooperation is necessary in foreign affairs to avoid making Taiwan an international laughing stock. The public has become fed up with the conflict between the government and the opposition. If the two camps are able to consider national interests and the welfare of the people as their primary objectives, then both the nation and its people will prosper.
Translated by Ian Bartholomew
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