Tue, Jan 25, 2005 - Page 3 News List

Lee keeps his eyes firmly on the future

Since leaving office in 2000, former president Lee Teng-hui has dedicated his time to promoting Taiwan's democratization, as well as helping to build a sense of national identity. Lee sat down with Taipei Times reporter Huang Tai-lin in Taipei last Friday and shared his thoughts on Taiwan's international situation as well as the domestic political environment following last month's elections

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Former president Lee Teng-hui gestures to stress a point during his interview with the ``Taipei Times'' last Friday.

PHOTO: CHIANG YING-YING, TAIPEI TIMES

Taipei Times: What were your impressions of Japan during your recent visit there? What do you think should be done to enhance bilateral ties and further mutual understandings? On what issues do you think Taiwan could strengthen its cooperation or interaction with Japan to cope with China's ambition in the Asian region?

Lee Teng-hui (李登輝): Taiwan-Japan relations are close though it does not seem that way on the surface. On how to enhance bilateral ties, I think it is best to do more rather than saying much.

Although the Japanese media dubbed my recent trip as "a journey of silence," it was significant, however, and it was an indication that Taiwan-Japan relations are in good shape.

During my visit to Japan, I visited the tomb of Japanese author Ryutaro Shiba on Jan. 2, during which I spoke a little bit to the media, expressing my gratitude for the kind care given to me by the Japanese government, its people and Taiwanese expatriates there.

Although the visit was short, it allowed me a chance to substantially experience the people's way of living there and Japanese culture -- the result of which was fruitful.

My message [to reporters in Japan] had two points: one was that Japan has held fast to its traditions despite the remarkable achievements it has made on the path of progress. The second point was that Taiwan-Japan relations remain stable.

Japan has really developed a good deal during this past 60 years. Yet it did not forget its traditions. That was the one thing that made the deepest impression on me during my visit.

While it might sound contradictory to have tradition and progress co-exist, this is not the case. The significance is that by appreciating tradition, progress departs from within -- and finds something innovative from it, and thus pedals forward in the course of pursuing advancement.

How did Japan get through years of having its government and people pushed around by the US and China? During those times, the Japanese government had no say in its policies except in the area of developing its economy, which later rose to become the world's No. 2 economic giant.

As for Taiwan, the questions "Who am I?" "What is Taiwan?" and "What road and what direction are we to take?" are important questions we need to address ourselves.

During my visit to Japan this time, I witnessed the remarkable progress Japan had made during these past 60 years. For instance, its services are very good.

Take its Sinkansen [bullet train] as an example. You wait on the platform as the Sinkansen arrives, you see its car doors stopping precisely where the marks are indicated on the platform. When you ride on it, it is so steady that you barely notice the train is moving. When you visit its restroom, you note its cleanliness and tidiness.

All these seem like minor points yet they demonstrate the consideration and attentiveness with which the Japanese care for things and tackle problems. It shows their attention to detail.

Japan, after 60 years or so of exercising restraint, is slowly starting to gain its potency when dealing with China. It used to exercise "kowtow diplomacy" when it came to dealing with China, but Japan is now slowly turning away from this.

For instance, prior to my visit, the Chinese ambassador to Japan, Wang Yi (王毅), used harsh words in his criticism against me -- China was exasperated by the fact that the Japanese government had issued me a visa. The Japanese didn't buy it, brushed it off and dismissed it.

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