Fri, May 02, 2008 - Page 3 News List

ANALYSIS : Impact of Lai appointment will be minimal: pundits

UNNECESSARY DRAMA Vincent Chen of National Chengchi University dismissed criticism of the choice, saying Lai would play the role of executor of Ma’s policies

By Mo Yan-Chih  /  STAFF REPORTER

President-elect Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) selection of former Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) legislator Lai Shin-yuan (賴幸媛) as Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) chairwoman will not have a major impact on cross-strait negotiations and the public should not overreact to the appointment, analysts said.

Lai’s pro-independence stance and reputation as a vocal critic of China made her appointment a shock to many, with political figures across party lines criticizing Ma for choosing Lai to win support from voters who opposed him.

Members of the KMT caucus have also condemned Ma for not appointing “loyal” members of his party who campaigned tirelessly for his presidential bid. Ma should prioritize party “faithful” for Cabinet appointments, KMT legislators said, with some even calling on Lai to turn down the post to avoid a negative impact on cross-strait relations.

Vincent Chen (陳文賢), a researcher at National Chengchi University’s Institute of International Relations, brushed off the reactions to Lai’s appointment as overly dramatic, saying that Lai would play the role of executor of Ma’s cross-strait policies and would not affect cross-strait negotiations.

“The function of the MAC is to execute the government’s cross-strait policies and so the main concern here should be the personnel’s execution skills, rather than her political stance,” Chen said.

Chen said Beijing would not pay too much attention to the appointment and would focus its energy on monitoring Ma’s cross-strait policies and decisions.

Li Weiyi (李維一), spokesperson for China’s Taiwan Affairs Office (TAO), declined to comment on Ma’s choice of Lai at a press conference on Wednesday and said Beijing only cared about developments in cross-strait relations.

Li went on to say Beijing looked forward to working with the new administration on improving cross-strait relations based on the so-called “1992 consensus,” calling it a “foundation to resolve practical matters” and solidify peace across the Taiwan Strait.

In response to concerns over the possible delay of the implementation of cross-strait charter flights in July because of Lai’s appointment, Li said China had put great effort into pursuing weekend charter flights and a higher quota for Chinese tourists and that Beijing expected both sides to continue cooperative efforts and implement the plans.

Chen said Li’s response reflected Beijing’s reluctance to ruin the atmosphere of cross-strait reconciliation following Ma’s election and that Ma’s views, rather than Lai’s, would be the key factor in cross-strait talks.

Tung Li-wen (董立文), a professor at Nanhua University’s Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies, said the function of the MAC was overemphasized and that Lai would not be a decision-maker on cross-strait policies in Ma’s administration.

Tung said the TAO’s comments showed that Beijing was only interested in Ma’s stance.

“The impact of the appointment of Lai has been exaggerated. China’s comments on Wednesday were meant to remind Ma that the implementation of his cross-strait promises would require cooperation from China,” Tung said.

Facing criticism over the appointment, Ma said that Lai would help his administration find common ground with the more than 5 million people who did not vote for him.

Ma praised Lai’s expertise in international and cross-strait affairs, adding that she supported his stance of “no independence, no unification and no use of force” and agreed with the “1992 consensus.”

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