Tue, Jan 03, 2006 - Page 8 News List

Letter: The problem of leadership

By Huang Jei-hsuan

Questions regarding the best person to lead the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) following the debacle in the recent local government elections are being raised in earnest. But people must first ponder the necessary qualifications of such a leader lest history be repeated.

The uniqueness of Taiwan's security needs dictates that the first order of business for a pan-green-camp president is to minimize the US government's anxiety over conflict with China while allowing Taiwan to protect its democratization.

It is therefore imperative that the next pan-green-camp presidential candidate possess international experience in addition to domestic appeal.

In particular, the new candidate should have a solid grounding in US politics as well as the skill to forge a rapport with Washington.

Most importantly, this person must be capable of earning respect. Only respect can be translated into trust. One of the worst things a Taiwanese president could do internationally is to lose credibility.

It's worth noting that heads of state who have wavered under US pressure often find themselves losing the trust of not only their own constituents but also, surprisingly, the US government.

That helps to explain why, of all Taiwanese politicians, former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝), who insisted on continuing democratization while occasionally frustrating US government officials, is the most revered figure in the US.

The bottom line is that the US does not trust a politician who lacks conviction.

A new pan-green-camp president could advocate democratization just short of crossing the line, a line that admittedly has never been clearly marked out. Yet there exists no compelling reason why this line could not stop short at a new name and a new flag.

Caution voiced by Washington on Taiwan's continuing democratization has been invariably justified in the context of maintaining the ever-elusive "status quo," while reflecting no motivation other than an arbitrary interpretation of the antiquated "one China" policy or, worse, knee-jerk reactions to pressure from Beijing.

More often than not, the effects of meddling with Taiwan's democratization have impeded Washington's long-term security interests.

The new president, therefore, should be able to promote changing the name of the country just shy of giving it a new name, as well as pursue an overhaul of the Constitution up to and including a clarification on territorial claims.

Trust between Taipei and Washington is the key to success in these endeavors.

The new pan-green-camp leader could also tell the public that although there remain limitations on issues of sovereignty for the time being, Taiwan should always be ready to grasp the opportunity for an unequivocal declaration of sovereignty if it arises.

In sharp contrast, a party-state established by the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) will never take advantage of such an opportunity.

One need not look any further than the precedent set in 1971 when the KMT refused to consider a UN seat for Taiwan following its loss of the China seat to Beijing.

All of this only helps to illustrate how hopes for continuing democratization can only emerge with the arrival of a new pan-green-camp leader.

Bitter experience, however, tends to call into question the adequacy of the DPP's faction-brokered approach to installing one.

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