President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) has transited through the US on each of his past visits to Latin America. His most recent journey to Paraguay, however, came in the wake of the changes to the National Unification Council and guidelines, and the visits to the US by Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤). The transit issue was therefore especially sensitive.
Before Chen's departure, observers were dizzied by the constantly changing information regarding the location and mode of the transit. In the end, Chen broke with tradition and chose to stop in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
The US is trying to sell arms to Taiwan at extremely high prices so that Taiwan can handle its enemies. Taiwan, however, has only ever had one enemy: China. And while the US is not telling China to withdraw the missiles it has aimed at Taiwan, it is attempting to stop the Taiwanese from launching a referendum to decide their own future.
For the sake of maintaining its dominant position in the UN, it has now even yielded to China by embarrassing Chen. To Washington's surprise, Chen steeled himself and chose not to transit through the US.
While the pan-blue camp laughed at the pan-green camp's misfortune and demanded that Chen apologize for humiliating the nation, it became apparent that the visits to the UAE by Minister of Foreign Affairs James Huang (黃志芳), Minister of Transportation and Communications Kuo Yao-chi (郭瑤琪) and their families not long ago -- which drew strong criticism -- were actually a diplomatic achievement disguised as a holiday trip, as was demonstrated by Chen's transit through Abu Dhabi.
This means the transit through the UAE was the successful implementation of Plan B, and not a mistake resulting from panic, as the pan-blue camp claimed.
We are positively surprised by Chen's maturing diplomatic strategies and want to ask the pan-blue camp to offer a public apology for their fictitious claims of Chen's confused odyssey.
More significantly, Chen decided that he would no longer endure humiliations and orders from the US. The greatest pride of Americans -- their belief in freedom and democracy -- is a complex issue, and their pride at times is somewhat misplaced. In particular, situations where the US' economic interests conflict with its belief in justice are a problem for the US.
Taiwan and the US are two independent countries with their own respective national interests. When these overlap, the two can cooperate, but when they conflict, Taiwan must not hesitate to follow its own path.
Chen is adopting the style he used during his term as Taipei mayor. Taiwan's diplomatic problems are not of his doing, but it takes considerable intelligence to resolve them while upholding the nation's dignity.
We were glad to see Chen's brave and resourceful display. The performance was also a signal to anyone with ambitions to lead the nation in future: They must manifest the will to lead Taiwan down its own path to win public respect and support.
Chen Gau-tzu is deputy director of the Northern Taiwan Society.
Translated by Eddy Chang and Perry Svensson