Mon, May 13, 2002 - Page 3 News List

Chen's olive branch scores points, but promises little

SOUNDS NICE While the president's recent comments on China were welcomed in the international community, the likelihood his plans will improve cross-strait ties is slim

By Lin Chieh-yu  /  STAFF REPORTER

Recent remarks by President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) on cross-strait ties have scored points at home and abroad but have done little to move relations with China forward, observers say.

"Through the opportunity of leading a group of media executives on a two-day tour around the country, President Chen released three general guidelines -- pushing for dialogue between the ruling DPP and the Chinese Communist Party, speeding up trade liberalization and maintaining the goal of future political integration -- on cross-strait relations. That important announcement has had the effect of setting the agenda [for cross-strait affairs] both in terms of media exposure and political implications," said Chin Heng-wei (金恆煒) editor in chief of Contemporary magazine.

While Chin, who attended the tour, said that Chen's ideas are not very feasible and may not change the course of cross-strait relations, he said they did help Chen gain an upper hand in the international propaganda war by reinforcing his rational image and goodwill toward China.

"The president extended his goodwill by reiterating political integration in the future first and using the expansion of the `small three links' as a bargaining chip. In fact, he wanted to sell his idea of cross-strait inter-party contact to the international community, demonstrating Taiwan's flexibility and sincerity in comparison with China's stubbornness and high-handedness," Chin said.

Chin added that Chen also gained domestically, as opposition parties were pressured into adjusting their strategies.

Byron Weng (翁松燃), a national policy adviser to the president and a professor in the department of Public Policy and Administration at National Chi Nan University, said that with Chinese Vice President Hu Jintao's (胡錦濤) recent visit to the US dominating the international media, the time was ripe for Taiwan to capture some of the spotlight.

"It is also noteworthy that the China Daily ... recently printed an article which was highly critical of President Chen and accused Chen of playing dual tactics. In addition, there is the `Campaign to Rectify the Name of Taiwan' going on in Taiwan at the moment. It seems like China is preparing to wage a propaganda war against Chen just as they did against former president Lee [Teng-hui (李登輝)] in 1995. President Chen's goodwill overture at this juncture is an intriguing contrast," Weng said.

"For China, inter-party contact has become a new subject that it needs to ponder," Weng said.

Though Chen's statements in Tatan, an islet and military outpost under Kinmen's jurisdiction, were aimed at testing the possibility for resuming official talks with China, the significance of his comments lies in his emphasis on "contact between the two ruling parties."

With his use of "political party," the president suggested a new medium for talks and thereby bypassed the conventional channels of the Strait Exchange Foundation and the Mainland Affairs Council (MAC).

The new medium may, once Chen takes up the DPP chairmanship in August, offer him a forceful starting point to realize the idea of "synchronizing the party and the administration" (黨政同步) and allow him to show his own will as the man wielding the power.

Su Chi (蘇起), former MAC chairman, wondered when the public would see the results of Chen's comments, saying that for Chen to carry out the promise of cross-strait contact, he needs more substantially more political support.

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