Sat, Nov 25, 2006 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: `Chen denial' and Chinese silence

It doesn't get any more ironic than this.

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is spending considerable time and effort courting the pan-blue camp in preparation for what it sees as an eventual China-friendly legislature and executive.

This courtship runs the gamut of ideology, inducement and espionage; its targets are prominent (the pan-blue leadership) and obscure (pro-blue-camp businesspeople and elements in the military).

All too often the activities of these pro-Beijing politicians and others provide Chinese media outlets with a positive slant on Beijing's bottom line of annexation. One might expect, therefore, that this strategy would include feverish denunciations of President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) and his allies at the moment of their greatest vulnerability.

But this is not the case. The corruption probe into the activities of the first family has resulted in a telling silence from the official hacks who tell Chinese what to think.

Confirming weeks of overseas speculation, sources have told Reuters that official media are not permitted to report on Chen's miseries because of the fear that average Chinese will put two and two together and demand accountability from their own local governments.

It appears, therefore, that governance in China is so riddled with graft and its beneficiaries so detested by ordinary people that the misfortunes of Chen and his family pose a direct threat to the authority of the CCP.

Indeed, it is now in Beijing's propaganda interests that Chen stay in office until his term expires, and not just because his vice president is unpredictable and also pro-independence: Chen's downfall would present the most inconvenient of symbols for China's millions of potentially restive peasants and workers when the Chinese economy reaches the end of its boom phase.

What this also demonstrates is that the Chinese government does not trust its population to distinguish between different modes and scales of graft. If Taiwan's first family takes a beating for the alleged misuse of government funds, then it seems that the CCP vultures who squeeze and steal land from peasants are more vulnerable to retaliation.

In promoting Taiwan as an eternal part of the Chinese state and its people as eternally "Chinese," Beijing's spin doctors normally attempt to lecture Taiwanese on what should be thought, said and done. But they also run the inevitable risk of infecting the person on the Chinese street with the bilateral reasoning that what Taiwanese do is also what Chinese can do.

If this is the case, then the CCP has every reason to worry, and every reason to continue portraying Taiwan as a bumpkin-filled backwater that should have had Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Lien Chan (連戰) as president.

China backing Chen Shui-bian: This gem of irony, if nothing else, should provide the beleaguered Chen with a little comfort. He may have lost the support of most Taiwanese, but his travails are rapidly emerging as a model of suffering for a population across the Strait hungry for scapegoats of their own.

This paradox also shows up the pan-blue camp for the yoked "Greater China" partner that it is: In the end, when Beijing's interests clash with those of the KMT and its splinter parties, Beijing's interests must prevail.

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