President Chen Shui-bian's (
The Chinese Nationalist Party's (KMT) recent ad in the Liberty Times, the Taipei Times' sister paper, declared that the public have the option to choose independence for Taiwan, unification with China or to maintain the status quo. Although KMT Chairman Ma Ying-jeou (
Similarly, when Chen declared that the NUC and the national unification guidelines will cease to function, he also eliminated a preconceived idea, determined for the public by the previous KMT government. This is a manifestation of the democratic spirit. The change is only a recognition of possibilities that may lead to changes in the future -- there is no need for the international community to fret over the matter.
There is certainly a degree of conflict between Chen's announcement that the NUC and the guidelines will cease to function and the "four noes" he outlined in his inauguration speeches in 2000 and 2004, and that hurts his credibility. In both speeches, however, Chen stressed that his promise was made on the condition that China renounce the use of force against Taiwan -- a fact that has often been ignored. As China aims an increasing number of missiles at Taiwan, the premise on which the "four noes" were predicated has ceased to exist. Still, the US and the international community continue to ignore China's ongoing changes to the "status quo," preferring instead to place Taiwan's actions under the microscope. This is entirely unreasonable.
Beijing has frequently criticized Chen's intentions to abolish the NUC and the guidelines, despite doing nothing to achieve the goals they outline: cross-strait exchanges and, eventually, direct links. Instead, Beijing works constantly to isolate Taiwan in the international community, repeatedly blocks its bids to enter the World Health Organization and has passed the "Anti-Secession" Law. These actions cause only resentment in Taiwan -- China has done nothing to bring the two sides closer together. When the Taiwanese government was willing to discuss cross-strait flights and tourism, Beijing refused to negotiate.
In truth, China has never cared about the guidelines, for it wants only unconditional surrender. Taiwan, however, refuses to surrender and has now rejected the unification guidelines, causing China to lose face -- the real source of Beijing's displeasure.
By announcing that the NUC and the guidelines will "cease to function," rather than be "abolished," Chen has tried to achieve a political compromise. The president has moved in the right direction, but the timing is unfortunate. The right time to make the announcement would have been during his 2000 inauguration.