Faced with formidable challenges ahead, Taiwan's next leaders must be determined and sharp, especially in dealing with Chinese aggression, former president Lee Teng-hui (
"No matter who becomes president next year, they will face overwhelming challenges," Lee said. "The person must be very sharp in dealing with China, which is becoming increasingly strong, economically and politically."
Lee made the remarks yesterday afternoon while addressing graduates of the Lee Teng-hui Academy. Yesterday marked the fourth anniversary of the school.
Lee urged the electorate to be wise while selecting the nation's next leaders and said the leaders must be prepared to handle all kinds of situations.
Lee said Taiwan was bound to face colossal challenges in the future, as the US is preoccupied with the war in Iraq and China and Japan are jockeying for regional domination.
In addition to castigating the two bigger parties for engaging in infighting at the expense of people's livelihoods, Lee urged the public to support the "third force," moderate voices, in the upcoming legislative and presidential elections, so that the nation's next leaders will speak for the disadvantaged and the middle class.
The ferocious rivalry between the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) has created an M-shaped society, in which the distribution of income has polarized, Lee said.
Taking the government's budget as an example, Lee said the two parties refused to pass the budget simply because of their individual interests. The two parties take the lion's share of resources, leaving smaller parties with little, he said.
"I am asking parties with centrist positions to stop the two extreme forces from ruining the country," he said. "We need someone to speak out for the middle and lower classes and resolve their problems."
As the guiding voice of the Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU), Lee said he was glad to see the party stage protests pressuring the legislature to pass the government budgets. Lee said the TSU was transforming into a center-left party dedicated to improving the welfare of the underprivileged.
The TSU may be a small party, but it is more important to use wisdom to win the game, Lee said.
"When I was president, I did not have much power, but how did I deal with those people?" he said. "You've got to use your brain."
Lee said it has always been his goal to protect Taiwan and support a localized government, meaning a government led by people born in Taiwan. Yet supporting such a government never meant blindly standing behind those born in Taiwan, but rather seeking out and supporting those who were not corrupt and could improve living standards.
"I am sorry to see that the DPP administration is failing to do a good job in this regard," he said.
While some have questioned whether Lee has softened his pro-independence stance, Lee dismissed the speculation.
Lee said some have vigorously campaigned for de jure independence, but Taiwan is a de facto independent democracy, arguing that what the country truly needs is a Taiwan-centered consciousness and national identity.
Citing the example of Moses leading the Israelites out of Egypt, Lee said it could take generations to build a new country, and since Taiwanese had never been allowed to lead the country before the DPP won the presidency, "somebody thought he was the king when he was elected president."
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