Sun, Jun 25, 2006 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: Chen must review leadership style

In an interview with the United Arab Emirates newspaper the Khaleej Times on Friday, President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) said he was considering the direction Taiwan will take after Tuesday's legislative recall vote.

Chen said he wants to hold domestic political talks and initiate cross-strait peace talks. While it is good to extend olive branches, the opposition and media remain unimpressed. This reaction should be a warning to Chen, and regardless of the outcome of the recall vote, he should review his leadership style.

Chen has talked about domestic political negotiations and cross-strait peace talks many times since his election in 2000. Over the six years since, he has met People First Party Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜) twice and former Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) chairman Lien Chan (連戰) once. The meetings did not lead to reconciliation but rather deepened distrust between Chen and both Lien and Soong, further cementing the nation's political standoff.

The meeting between Chen and Lien took place after Chen's 2000 inauguration. Although Lien said construction of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant should be handled cautiously, the Cabinet announced that construction would be halted almost before Lien had returned home from the meeting. To Lien, this was humiliating and he has never met Chen again.

The first of Chen's meetings with Soong, also in 2000, resulted in rumors that Soong would become premier. The second meeting took place early last year, with the conclusions of the meeting supposed to be the basis for negotiations when Soong took a message from Chen to Beijing. Not long after the meeting, however, Chen claimed Soong had met Chen Yunlin (陳雲林), head of China's Taiwan Affairs Office, in the US. The Chen-Soong relationship soured and Soong even took Chen to court over the matter. Although Soong's bid for Taipei mayor may be the main reason behind his insistence on the recall motion and a no confidence vote in the Cabinet, personal animosity between him and Chen is an important factor.

The meeting between KMT Chairman Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and Chen was likewise an unpleasant experience. Chen's support rating plunged after the cessation of the National Unification Council (NUC) and its guidelines early this year. After visiting Europe and the US, Ma met Chen to deliver advice from friends abroad. Surprisingly, Chen lectured Ma during the broadcast meeting, resulting in a decline in Ma's support rating while the president's increased slightly. Chen later expressed interest in meeting Ma again, but Ma refused to be further used by Chen.

Perhaps Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng ( 金平) is the only opposition leader who could meet Chen without suffering as a consequence. Meetings between the government and opposition always end in a fight, and now that Chen seeks to negotiate with the opposition over current tensions, neither they nor the public take him seriously.

Chen's cross-strait policy has also constantly changed. With the cessation of the NUC, only "four noes" now remain of the "four noes, one without" policy proposed in his 2000 inaugural speech. He announced the "active opening, effective management" policy in 2001, and changed it to "active management, effective opening" this year. A lack of stability makes the public tend to take a wait-and-see attitude to cross-strait policy.

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