During this year's Greater New York Region Overseas Taiwanese Pen Club New Years' day banquet, Ruan Ming (阮銘), senior national policy advisor to President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), produced the text of the president's New Year speech, which he had just downloaded from the Internet, and read it out for the other guests. The sections of the speech in which Chen called for a collective Taiwanese consciousness, and the part in which he said the time was now ripe for a referendum on a new constitution, were met with rapturous applause by the guests at the banquet.
This applause indicated not only how much the Taiwanese want both a new constitution and the rectification of the name of Taiwan, it also revealed the high expectations they have of the president. Furthermore, it demonstrated a certain degree of relief on their part. This was because before the president gave his speech, the pro-China press in Taiwan had been predicting that the Democratic Progressive Party's (DPP) defeat in the recent local elections would force it to adopt a stance that was more acceptable to the blue camp in terms of cross-strait policy, including the relaxation of restrictions on postal, transportation and trade links between Taiwan and China. Chen's speech put paid to these predictions, incurring the wrath of certain political heavyweights in Taiwan who expressed their frustration by threatening to recall the president.
The meeting between Chen and People First Party (PFP) Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜) following the DPP's poor performance in the legislative elections achieved very little. The PFP refused to compromise and the meeting also elicited violent reactions from within the green camp. Judging by the text of Chen's speech, the DPP has learnt its lesson and there will be no repeat of a Chen-Soong meeting.
It is hoped that in future the party will lend a more attentive ear to the expert opinions of people like Ruan, who has actual first-hand experience of the internal workings of the Chinese Communist Party, and who is well aware of how both Chinese Premier Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) and the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) think. If Chen is to "meet" with anyone, it should be the Taiwanese people and he must stand by DPP principles and ideals, and commit himself to the goal of reform. This is what has won him the support and admiration of the kind of people who want to make Taiwan their home, and the rapturous applause of the guests at the Overseas Taiwanese Pen Club banquet.
In the past couple of years I have had a lot of contact with the overseas Taiwanese community and I have been very impressed by the degree to which they care about the future of Taiwan. The Taiwanese Pen Club, established by Dr. Jung Tsai (蔡榮聰) and boasting over 100 members, is representative of this community. These learned people, who are aware that the press in Taiwan is largely controlled by pro-China elements, wish that more Taiwanese would take up the pen to make their opinions known.
Very few overseas Taiwanese are professional writers, but they do fall into two large groups: doctors, and people blacklisted by the KMT. At this banquet the former group were represented by Tsai, the neurosurgeon Huey-Jen Lee (李惠仁) ?(who was hosting the event) and anaesthetist Feng-chung Fan (樊豐忠). With KMT members dominating the legal, journalistic and political professions in Taiwan, these people chose instead to specialize in medicine, science and engineering.