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 (
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.
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 (
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.
"I think the tension between Taiwan, China and the US will escalate in the next year," Chang said.
But the director of the DPP's department of Chinese Affairs, Lai I-chung (賴怡忠), did not agree with Chang.
Lai said the president's approach to cross-strait affairs is consistent, which could be observed two years ago when he stressed that the second republic constitution needed consensus between the governing and opposition parties and could not be pushed only by the DPP.
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