Sun, Oct 04, 2009 - Page 14 News List

Hardcover: UK: A window on the KMT’s perception of China-Taiwan relations

Su Chi, sometime government official, sometime academic, shows his political colors in his treatise on cross-strait ties under Lee Teng-hui and Chen Shui-bian

By J. Michael cole  /  STAFF REPORTER

Su, who was Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) chairman at the time, laments that he was kept in the dark, and argues that “Mr Democracy” — a nickname given to Lee — had set up “his own mini government” for the exercise, which he says either received intellectual contributions from pro-independence elements in the DPP, or at minimum “laid the policy foundations” for the Chen administration that came into office the following year. Nevertheless, it is DPP Chairwoman Tsai Ying-wen (蔡英文), rather than Lee, who emerges as the main antagonist in Su’s description of the process.

Thus ends a period in cross-strait relations that Su perceives as offering great opportunities for rapprochement.

It also opens a section of the book where Su becomes far more overtly politicized, sounding like a KMT apparatchik and using ideologically laden language. For example, while the great majority of his sources come from pan-blue (ie, pro-KMT) media, on the few occasions where he quotes from papers that are more favorable to the DPP, he invariably prefaces the passage with “pan-green” or “pro-green,” as if their credibility were more questionable as a result.

Su also joins the chorus of voices claiming that Beijing was acting rationally while the Chen administration was acting irrationally, its members following their “hearts” rather than their “heads.”

He portrays the DPP as intransigent, increasingly radical (on the independence issue) and opposed to cross-strait economic development, while conveniently ignoring the fact that by 2006, official two-way trade between Taiwan and China had almost tripled from the 1999 figure, as did approved investment in China, however difficult it is to determine the exact numbers.

Su also repeats the line that the DPP hurt Taiwan’s economy, while making no mention of China’s efforts to throttle it, or the global financial downturn that began in 2001. He is also silent on the KMT’s domination of the Legislature and the many budgets — including the MAC’s — that it froze.

This said, his analysis of the Chen Cabinet’s failure to reassess Taiwan’s position in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the US is helpful and less objectionable. Chen’s national security team indeed “failed at its mission during this period” and by doing so managed to irritate Washington at a time when its focus was on Afghanistan and the Middle East.

That Taipei’s “irrational” troublemaking stemmed from a fear that Taiwan’s interests risked being ignored by the shift in US focus and Washington’s growing reliance on Beijing, however, is unexplored by Su, who prefers to believe that Chen et al could only think of themselves. His assessment of DPP diplomats, whom he does not hold in high esteem, fails to take into consideration the fact that the DPP had never been in power, did not have the web of contacts the KMT had enjoyed abroad for half a century, and that for decades the KMT had repressed and depleted the future leaders of the opposition in Taiwan.

In all, Su’s is a very informative book, which besides presenting large amounts of hard-to-find data opens a window on the KMT’s perception of the political environment. That achievement, however, is undermined by bias language — the Two States “theory” vs One China “policy” — and an often self-serving selection of sources, especially in his coverage of the March 19, 2004, election eve shooting incident.

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