Vice president-elect Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) is in great awe of China’s economic development. He recently said he has been studying the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) for 40 years and has come to the conclusion that China will become the richest country ever known to humankind.
After expressing his admiration for China’s great rise to power, news reports exalting Wu told us he would be visiting the US after going to China. These reports asserted that Wu’s visits would mark a new era because they would be the first instance in which a Taiwanese leader visited both China and the US. Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) legislators followed this up by complimenting Wu, saying that his visit to the US after attending the Boao Forum for Asia in China at a time when international relations are tense and a sense of opposition is prevalent shows that cross-strait relations are better than ever. They also said this is in line with the US’ policy goal of cross-strait peace, a major part of US international policy, as well as the US’ major policy interests in the Asia-Pacific region. Senior KMT members stressed that this represented the start of “a new era in trilateral relations between the US, China and Taiwan” — a great thing indeed.
Unexpectedly, as Wu was still off in “la-la land,” news of changes to his much-touted US visit surfaced. However, Wu said nothing had changed and that he could not visit the US because he had received the invitation to the forum in China “a long, long time ago.” How long ago? “About a month,” Wu said.
It is normally not considered a long time for invitations to transnational conferences to be given out six months in advance and there are cases in which invitations are given out one to two years ahead of time. Invitations given out one month in advance are normally considered very sudden, not early. This was a really poor excuse.
Wu said that, “since I have decided to take part in the 2012 Boao Forum for Asia, I have a lot of preparation to do, and that will take a lot of time,” and therefore he would have no time to visit the US. Wu truly is different from other people: Normal people prepare for a conference before it starts, but Wu prepares after it is over and consequently has no time to visit the US. This was thus an even worse excuse.
In the end, he said that after subjective and objective considerations, he had no plans to visit any other nations, although he was unable to explain what he meant by “subjective and objective considerations.”
Wu’s entire decisionmaking process was full of twists and turns and while the truth of the matter will never be disclosed, there are clues we can use to piece together what really happened. For example, when important leaders are visiting more than one country, great attention is paid to the sequence of the visits. Visiting China first and then the US may not have caused any tension, but singing the praises of China and then saying he would be placing China before the US in future, while pleasing to China, may not be something the US, still the world’s greatest power, will feel very comfortable with.
Things are indeed just like the KMT legislators said. International relations around the globe are tense. However, one of the most serious sources of this tension is the standoff between the US and China. In the light of this reality, the US does not want Taiwan to agitate China, as this would influence the US’ plans. However, the US will probably have a hard time accepting Taiwan being on even better terms with China than it is with the US. By far the most ridiculous statement was that Wu visiting China and the US would be the start of “a new era in trilateral relations between the US, China and Taiwan.” This smacks of rhetoric and of the stance that thanks to Ma and Wu, the US and China, who have always been at loggerheads, will start to get along and lead happy and peaceful times together with Taiwan. I cannot begin to stress how laughable this really is.
This whole thing has been one big, ridiculous dream and too many unsatisfactory remarks have been made. In the end, the US visit will never take place, and Wu has had to come up with a bunch of irrational excuses just to try and save face.
Lin Cho-shui is a former Democratic Progressive Party legislator.
Translated by Drew Cameron