Hong Kong media earlier this month reported that China plans to enlist the services of former Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) chairman Lien Chan (連戰) by appointing him vice president.
If true, it means China’s united front strategy toward the KMT has reached the point of pressing the party to surrender completely. China’s putative offer to co-opt Lien into government office is akin to the ancient practice of offering amnesty to bandits and enlisting their services, because in the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) view, as expressed in the so-called “one China” principle, they are the legitimate government and the KMT are “renegades.”
The “renegades” have responded to this latest offer by the “legitimate government” by quoting the Act Governing Relations Between the People of the Taiwan Area and the Mainland Area (臺灣地區與大陸地區人民關係條例), which stipulates that no Taiwanese is allowed to take up any official position in China, unless they renounce their Republic of China (ROC) citizenship.
However, the initiative in making such offers is in the hands of the Beijing authorities. In the 1980s, Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping (鄧小平) expressed his willingness to offer the vice presidency to Taiwan’s president at the time — Chiang Ching-kuo (蔣經國) — so it is not unimaginable that China would try the same thing again by offering Lien a “hereditary peerage.”
While Chiang was president, China was only willing to set aside a chair for him to sit in a secondary and purely symbolic role. Lien, on the other hand, is just a former chairman of an exiled party, and he is older than the retirement age for Chinese leaders, so offering him a secondary position is quite generous.
Chiang could have just ignored China’s offer, but he went further by proclaiming a policy of “no contact, no compromise and no negotiation” with the CCP. In contrast, the response of Lien and today’s KMT is simply “no comment,” while President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) government only said the law would not allow Lien to accept China’s offer. In effect, this means the KMT and the government do not completely exclude the possibility that Lien could accept the post.
Given Ma’s position that “one China” means the ROC, what’s to stop him setting up a chair in the presidential office so Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) can come in and keep Taiwan’s Vice President Vincent Siew (蕭萬長) company? Siew keeps a low profile and doesn’t say much, so Hu, as co-vice president, could do the same thing.
It’s hard to say how Lien feels about China’s offer. Perhaps he feels flattered, perhaps he would be too modest to accept or maybe he is worried that even being offered the post will mark him as a “red.” Or maybe he has sufficient moral integrity to put Taiwan first, hold to the principles of freedom and democracy, and turn his nose up at the offer.
Given Lien’s apparent admiration and envy of China’s “rise,” and his chummy relations and frequent communication with Hu, he might really like to take up the post. That would explain why he hasn’t openly refused, but merely declined to comment. If Lien can’t bring himself to say “no” to this offer emanating from the “red zone,” who but himself does he have to blame if people stick a “red” label on him?
Lien’s father was Taiwanese, but he was born in northern China, so you could say he is “sort of” Taiwanese. Lien never got to the top of Taiwan’s political order, reaching only premier and vice president. If he were to go to China and take up a secondary post, it would be neither a promotion nor a demotion, so he ought to be satisfied. However, on another level it would be a shoddy deal between the CCP and the KMT, made without regard for the rights of Taiwanese.
James Wang is a journalist based in Washington.
TRANSLATED BY JULIAN CLEGG
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