The controversy over whether President Chen Shui-bian (
It is reported that Chen's move is aimed primarily at rebutting Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Ma Ying-jeou's (
As perhaps the most popular candidate from the pan-blue camp for the next presidential elections, Ma has no choice but to reveal his stance on cross-strait relations. Regretfully, Ma's comments on Taiwan's status quo and future relations with China demonstrates a huge lack of recognition of the cross-strait reality and a failure to consistently uphold democratic principles.
Ma's change of tone from initially "embracing unification as the sole option for Taiwan" to "the future of Taiwan should be decided by people across the Taiwan Strait" and then to "accepting independence as one of the options for Taiwan's future relationship with China" displayed the inconsistencies in his political philosophy.
Although the KMT clarified Ma's comments as meaning that "it is up to the Taiwanese people to decide whether to unify with or be independent from China, but the KMT still opposes independence and favors maintaining the status quo," there is an urgent need for both political parties to use the debate to generate a domestic consensus on how to safeguard the cross-strait status quo.
The key idea behind Chen's proposal to abolish the council and guidelines is consolidating the people's democratic right to freedom of choice. Chen and his Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) have long insisted on leaving the decision on the future of cross-strait relations to all the people of Taiwan. They oppose any individual or political party unilaterally deciding the nature of Taiwan's future ties with China.
As maintaining the status quo of Taiwan as an independent and sovereign nation is becoming the mainstream value domestically, it is understandable that Ma is testing the waters by throwing out the idea of respecting the people's freedom of choice.
Whether or not Ma is sincere enough to embrace this mainstream view remains to be seen. Ma and the KMT should put more effort toward condemning Beijing for deploying an increasing number of missiles targeting Taiwan -- currently 784 -- and stop placing all the blame for the cross-strait stalemate on the Chen administration.
Most importantly, Ma and his pan-blue colleagues should engage in constructive debate with the DPP on how to consolidate Taiwan's national security to defend against China's military expansion and the missiles it has targeted at Taiwan.
The opposition pan-blue camp's position in the new legislative session on the long-delayed arms procurement budget will determine whether a consensus on safeguarding national security can be reached. Hopefully, efforts to understand China's missile threat and the military balance across the Taiwan Strait can be further intensified.
The new legislative session provides an arena for cross-party debate. Apparently under pressure from Washington, Ma said earlier this month that the KMT will make public its proposal on the special arms sale bill.
Ma's ultimate willingness to deal with the issue of the arms purchase is conceivably a result of Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng's (王金平) recent stopover in Washington. The Bush administration has reportedly sent crucial messages to Ma denouncing the use of a "my way or the highway" approach in blocking the arms budget from being discussed in a legislative sub-committee.