Fri, May 02, 2008 - Page 8 News List

Choosing Lai for MAC has blues seeing red

By Paul Lin 林保華

The controversy over former Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) legislator Lai Shin-yuan’s (賴幸媛) appointment as Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) chairwoman is significant because it involves sensitive cross-strait issues. The main problem, however, is the unspoken misunderstandings between the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and the TSU as well as between president-elect Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and former Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) chairman Lien Chan (連戰). It is to a certain extent also linked to former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝).

The DPP and the TSU have not seen eye to eye since the protests aimed at unseating President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) two years ago. There was even talk of a third force emerging. It was thought then that Lai was the person most able to influence Lee and the TSU. Her appointment has led to speculation that she and the TSU have colluded with Ma for a long time.

The KMT has reacted even more strongly than the DPP, with some even calling Lai’s appointment “the restoration of the ‘Lee Teng-hui path.’” Such reactions are understandable because the deep-blue members, in particular the Mainlander bigwigs, thought Ma’s visit to Lee was for show. They never thought that Ma could be discussing such an important post.

Lien and his supporters are also displeased. They could swallow Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) chairman nominee Chiang Pin-kung (江丙坤) not being given the premiership; after all, he is 76. But they find it unacceptable that Chiang would have to listen to Lai. How could they accept this? Could it be that the recent meeting between Lien and Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) was just for show?

Calling Lai’s appointment a restoration of the Lee Teng-hui path, however, is nonsensical. What does this mean? Lee broke with the DPP because he thinks the promotion of Taiwanese independence is no longer necessary. His role in the deep-green camp shifted two years ago. What version of Lee’s direction are they referring to?

Of course, Lai’s appointment is probably not what Ma said it was — a matter of letting Lai represent the 5.44 million voters who voted for the DPP. It is probably an attempt to use Lai to control Lien, only Ma cannot say this in public. Then there is the question of how long Lai will be able to keep the job.

What direction will Lai take? Although she said she agrees with the cross-strait policies of Ma and vice president-elect Vincent Siew (蕭萬長), these policies are changeable. Based on her work in connection to Taiwan’s accession to the WTO and her concerns as a legislator about the influx of Chinese products, we can assume that as MAC chairwoman, she will probably focus on economic issues while Ma will control the political direction.

When dealing with cross-strait economic issues, Lai will focus on pro-Taiwanese interests, and she will not agree with Lien’s “joining hands with China to prevent Taiwanese independence.”

Based on this interpretation, the DPP should conditionally support Lai’s appointment and support her when the blue-camp legislators create problems for her, rather than clinging to past misunderstandings with the TSU.

At any rate, the fact that Lai, rather than a KMT member, will head the MAC means there is less of a risk that Taiwan will surrender to China. At present, the KMT worships China and Taiwan is on the verge of a crisis. The pan-green camp should cast off old antagonism and cooperate with the TSU to prevent the KMT from controlling Taiwan by allying with the Chinese government.

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