Sun, Jan 22, 2006 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: Cabinet must live up to its potential

The new Cabinet, led by incoming premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌), will officially take over tomorrow. Among the new Cabinet members that have been announced, vice premier Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) and secretary-general Liu Yu-shan (劉玉山) have been a pleasant surprise. The pair's professional backgrounds, expertise and image has given the public high hopes for the new team.

The appointment of Tsai indicates that cross-strait relations will continue to be at the core of President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) policy-making for the rest of his term. Tsai is an at-large Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislator. She previously served as head of the Mainland Affairs Council, and is well-known as a savvy negotiator and an expert in cross-strait relations, law and and economic affairs.

Tsai is believed to have been the person who masterminded the "special state-to-state relationship" model used by former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) to describe cross-strait relations. She is known to have strong and committed views that do not easily succumb to external pressure -- even from Chen.

For example, approximately one month after Chen became president, he expressed an inclination to accept the so-called "1992 consensus," in which the sides agreed on the "one China" principle but retained their own interpretations of what that term meant. Tsai called a press conference the day after to deny that there had been any cross-strait "consensus." On the other hand, in the 2003 debates over adopting a new constitution and establishing a mechanism for referendums, Tsai backed Chen's policies all the way. Therefore, many believe that the Tsai's appointment means that the nation will continue its conservative approach to cross-strait affairs.

Tsai has a professional, academic and impartial image that makes her immensely popular with the general public. This is especially helpful to Chen's government, whose image took a nose-dive when scandals involving former presidential aide Chen Che-nan's (陳哲男) erupted last year. Tsai joined the DPP about two years ago after the party finally persuaded her to accept a nomination to an at-large seat. But for most of her political career she did not belong to any party. Therefore she does not have a strong association any specific DPP faction. This lack of factional involvement is good for her image and also places fewer restraints on her future role. But the downside is that without the backing of a faction she may find it difficult to survive.

The appointment of Liu is also refreshing, for two important reasons. Liu is no longer a member of any political party. He was previously a Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) member, but did not renew his membership two years ago. His appointment reinforces the impression that the Chen government, and Su in particular, is willing to promote individuals based on their talent, even if they have to reach across party lines to do so. Liu served as the deputy secretary-general of the Cabinet in 1999, when the KMT was in power and Vincent Siew (蕭萬長) was the premier. He survived the change in ruling parties and five premiers. His expertise and familiarity with the Cabinet's affairs are unquestionable.

Now, for the sake of the Taiwanese people, Tsai, Liu and the rest of the new Cabinet must strive to fulfill the public's high expectations.

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