Late last year I was visited by a former student who I hadn't seen for some 30 years. Now teaching at a reputable university in the southern US -- having gone there on a Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) sponsored Sun Yat-sen scholarship -- he has reached the top of his field, his articles printed in major periodicals several times a year.
During the course of our conversation, he expressed his disappointment with the KMT, saying that the party was submissive in its cross-strait policy, and that this had harmed his dignity as a Taiwanese. Also, he said the party's obstruction of the arms procurement budget made it difficult for him to continue supporting it, and he has become gradually more sympathetic to the localization factions.
I was very surprised to hear these words coming from a former recipient of a Sun Yat-sen scholarship. To me, the remarks meant that should the KMT be hoping to win and maintain the support of the majority of the electorate, and even to win back the reins of government by pressing on with these policies, they have a long and arduous road ahead of them.
A wave of optimism has spread through the pan-blue camp and several years of accumulated resentment has been swept away by their strong showing in the local government elections held at the end of last month. They also have the pan-greens on the run in the legislature. The expectations born of this success have given rise to a kind of "political bubble" in which they believe they only have to bear the situation until the 2008 presidential election, at which point KMT Chairman Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) will ride to victory and the blue sky will press down on the green lands below.
It is possible that the pan-blue camp will only be roused from this childish optimism when the pendulum has swung to the other extreme.
Over the past few years -- if you put aside for a moment a few relatively trivial events such as the offer of the gift of two pandas to Taipei -- we have received only callous pressure and petty actions from Beijing. But who among the many political figures in the pan-blue camp has actually stood up and criticized Beijing?
The most obvious example of this that springs to mind is how Beijing snapped up diplomatic relations with Senegal, one of our major diplomatic allies in Africa, forcing them to break relations with Taiwan, during then KMT chairman Lien Chan's (連戰) visit to China. This was like a slap in the face, but not even the tiniest response was heard from the pan-blue camp.
If they are willing to keep their lips sealed in the interests of the "favorable development" of cross-strait relations, it is no wonder that 40 percent of the electorate remains suspicious of them and believes they may sell Taiwan down the river if they are ever returned to power.
The insult meted out during Lien's visit was just the most prominent example. We can also see how Beijing has laid siege to Taiwan politically and economically, for example preventing it from participating in the International Pledging Conference on Avian and Human Influenza held in Beijing on Jan. 17 and 18. Is this what they mean by "placing their hopes in their Taiwanese compatriots?" The pan-blues cannot continue treating the electorate in this way.
If prominent intellectuals nurtured by the KMT find their policies unacceptable, how can the party expect the man on the street to accept it? It is true that there are those in the pan-blue camp that do business, study or cultivate personal relationships in China, but is it really possible that not one person is willing to stand up and say what needs to be said?