Sat, Feb 11, 2006 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: Time for a healthy debate on China

In the wake of President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) call for a cross-strait policy based on "active management, effective opening" and his proposal on Jan. 29 to scrap the National Unification Council (NUC) and the National Unification Guidelines, which has drawn flak from various quarters including the US, the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) has decided to hold an open debate on the party's China policy next month.

Despite the scheduled date, opinion among the party's heavyweights on whether there is a need to hold such a debate is divided.

While some argue that it is good and necessary to have an open debate on the party's line on China in order to forge a consensus, other party big guns such as Vice President Annette Lu (呂秀蓮) and former premier Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) have voiced opposition to this.

While holding a debate is laudable as it would allow other voices in the party to be heard, it is worth keeping in mind that action still speaks louder than words.

The party must not get bogged down in fruitless debate and end up talking the talk but failing to walk the walk, especially as the president has already clearly outlined the core values for the administration's China policy.

Add the fact that following Chen's New Year's Day address, in which he said the government would adopt a tougher stance toward China by promoting an "active management, effective opening" approach on cross-strait economic and trade exchanges, the new Cabinet under Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) has vowed to implement the president's pledge to better manage the country's trade and investment with China.

It is all too predictable how the nation's pro-China media and the pan-blue camp would most likely take advantage of the DPP's debate to tout the value of investing in China and attempt to swing public opinion in this regard.

Both Chen's "active management, effective opening" policy and the proposal to scrap the NUC and the national unification guidelines are a wake-up call to direct the Taiwanese people's attention to the nation's growing trade imbalance with China and the importance of upholding the spirit of democracy in which the fate of Taiwan must be decided by its own people.

The National Unification Council was a government agency founded in 1990 by the then-Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) regime to promote Taiwan's eventual unification with China.

The government cannot violate the spirit of democracy by making unification with China the only option for its people. Taiwan's future should be determined by its 23 million people, whether the result be unification with China or an independent Taiwan.

The DPP must guard against the pan-blues' attempt to co-opt any debate on the party's China policy and let the government's policy be shaken again -- as the opposition had done many times during the past six years of Chen's presidency.

The government must live up to its pledge to secure Taiwan's national interests and not let Chen's "active management, effective opening" approach and other initiatives on China policy end up as empty political slogans.

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