Tue, Apr 17, 2007 - Page 4 News List

Newsmaker: Chen Ming-tong is part of the strategy

PERSONALITY Experienced in cross-strait affairs and once a close adviser to President Chen Shui-bian, the charismatic official is not just another bureaucrat

By Jewel Huang  /  STAFF REPORTER

An old hand in cross-strait affairs, Chen Ming-tong's (陳明通) return to the Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) indicates President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) determination to take the upper hand in cross-strait relations.

Chen Ming-tong, 52, served as the council vice chairman from 2000 to 2004 when Vice Premier Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) headed the council.

Before leading cross-strait policymaking, he was one of the president's closest advisers. He was one the drafters of the "white book" of Chen Shui-bian's China policy when he campaigned for the presidency in 2000.

Chen Ming-tong offered his policy ideas back when Chen Shui-bian served as Taipei mayor.

Being a reputed academic in cross-strait affairs, Chen Ming-tong has tried to develop a new interpretation of cross-strait relations to break the deadlock between Taiwan and China.

In addition to the "second republic constitution" that he proposed recently, "the theory of cross-strait integration" that Chen Shui-bian suggested in 2001 and the adoption of the "European Union" model proposed in 2005 were both innovations of Chen Ming-tong.

Although Chen Ming-tong left the Mainland Affairs Council, he has never been absent from the stage of cross-strait relations. After he left the council in May in 2004, he visited Beijing and Xiamen. He has also visited Washington several times along with the teams organized by the Cross-Strait Interflow Prospect Foundation.

In 2005, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Su Chi (蘇起) accused Chen Ming-tong of being a secret envoy sent by the president to Beijing after Beijing passed its "Anti-Secession" Law. At that time, Chen Ming-tong did not confirm or deny Su's accusations.

Chen Ming-tong

* 1955: Born in Taichung City.

* 1979: Earned a BA from the Department of Political Science at National Taiwan University (NTU).

* 1981: Earned a masters degree from NTU's Graduate School of Political Science.

* 1983-1984: Served as researcher in the Research, Development and Evaluation Commission of the Taipei City Government.

* 1991: Earned a PhD in Political Science from NTU.

* 1992-2000: Served as associate professor and professor at the Graduate Institute of National Development at NTU.

* 2000-2004: Served as vice chairman and spokesman of the Mainland Affairs Council (MAC).

* 2004: Went back to teach at NTU's Graduate Institute of National Development.

* 2005: Served as a representative of the National Assembly.

* 2007: Took over as chairman of the MAC.

Even Chen Ming-tong himself has claimed to be the MAC official who has visited China the most times.

People who have contact with Chen Ming-tong are impressed with his confident presence and outspoken style.

He is also one of the few government officials who would call certain questions by reporters "silly" or "ignorant" at a news conference.

But some for it is Chen Ming-tong's character that makes him different from many government bureaucrats. His frank and open attitude won the approval of many Beijing's high-ranking officials.

Chen Ming-tong's personality actually reminds many in Beijing of Chen Shui-bian, according to a Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) source. And that might be one reason that Chen Ming-tong oftentimes is treated as the president's spokesman.

Chen is proud of his ancestry of Pazeh, one clan of the Pingpu people (平埔族, literally, the Aborigines living on the plains), and he likes to share his understanding of the history of Pingpu with others.

Chang Jung-kung (張榮恭), director of the KMT's Mainland Affairs Division, said that Chen Ming-tong's appointment shows that President Chen's administration is going to change its China policy because Chen Ming-tong has been a signature figure who does not conceal his support for Taiwan's independence.

Chang said that it was obvious that Chen Shui-bian has unfolded his new political arrangement by linking the "four imperative, one non-issue" with the appointment of Chen Ming-tong's predecessor Joseph Wu (吳釗燮) and himself.

"The issues of constitutional reforms and the second republic constitution will be two topics the DPP will exploit to arouse momentum during the 2008 presidential election," Chang said.

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