Fri, Sep 22, 2006 - Page 8 News List

Will the future be any different?

By Nat Bellocchi 白樂崎

These past weeks, many have participated in a campaign calling for the removal of President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), while others have defended him. There has been one unsuccessful formal effort to recall the president through the Legislative Yuan.

There have been several requests made to determine if Chen has violated the law, but no probes have been completed.

There may be more efforts in the months ahead to topple Chen, but the purpose is more to force the ruling party to remain on the defensive until election day in 2008 -- not necessarily to change the government now. We are seeing the beginning of campaigning for the next round of elections, though it already seems to be a poll that will result in one party holding the legislature and the executive.

It may well end up a more vigorous battle over national identity than ever before, a battle more open and messy and which may corrode the inclination of voters and politicians to support the ambiguous status quo.

China, which has not done well in getting what it wants out of Taiwan, is beginning to hope again. The US seems more nervous -- rightly -- about how this will play out.

In the midst of all the domestic political turbulence, the chairmen of the two main political parties -- Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairman Yu Shyi-kun -- have visited the US to spell out policies that might be of interest to Washington.

There is still a year and a half before the election for president is held. Personal stances may change, events in other parts of the world may impact on an important issue, or political party leaders might decide to change a policy. The presentations we hear now may change with all this, but the broad direction each party is taking will continue.

Last week, Yu stated that the only way China will ever become a responsible stakeholder in the world is by rising democratically. Taiwan is the first democratic Chinese society, and the one most likely to influence China's democratic development.

If Taiwan were to take a pro-China approach, however, not only would the power balance in the region face a great challenge, but also the security and development of all democratic forces in East Asia would be affected.

The DPP is based in democratic principles and naturally stands on the side of Western democratic countries, which is not the same as the KMT, which envisages Taiwan's future more in terms of Chinese expectations. If the latter is elected in 2008, this could weaken Taiwan-Japan relations.

In March, Ma said that his party would stick to the "five noes": no declaration of independence; no change to Taiwan's name, flag or anthem; no writing about "two states" in the Constitution; no referendum to change the status quo of cross-strait relations; and no abolishing of the National Unification Council.

He added the "five dos." First, he would resume negotiations on the basis of the (fictional) "1992 consensus" -- one China, with different interpretations on what this meant. He would negotiate a peace agreement with China that would include confidence-building measures. He would facilitate economic exchanges leading eventually to the creation of a common market. And he would increase Taiwan's international space based on pragmatism instead of a zero-sum game.

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