The true test for the success of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) government is two-fold: whether it can lift the country’s economy without resorting to corruption, and whether China will make concessions in response to increased cross-strait exchanges, said Graham Watson, the leader of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe in the European Parliament, in an interview with the Taipei Times on Tuesday.
Watson came to Taipei with an eight-person delegation from the parliament’s liberal group.
While the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) tried to establish more freedom and independence, the KMT wants to achieve the same thing through better relations with China, he said.
“I don’t know who’s right, we will see, but if the cross-strait policy of the current government is working well, then it will soon lead to meaningful participation for Taiwan in bodies such as the WHO because there should be some movement on the side of the PRC [People’s Republic of China], it should not only be movements on the Taiwan side,” he said.
“The tests would be fundamentally two things: One, can [the KMT] manage the economy properly without corruption coming back in, as was the case when they were last in power, and second, will their policy of closer relationships across the Strait lead to concessions by China towards Taiwan?” he said.
Watson said he had visited Taiwan at least eight times and “the reason for doing this is to show members of the European Parliament how impressive Taiwan’s achievements are, not only economically but also in terms of social development, [such as] the development of democracy since the lifting of martial law 21 years ago.”
Saying that he earlier had a good meeting with President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), Watson said Ma was “clearly a new-style Chinese Nationalist Party” member who is a good communicator and will represent Taiwan well to the outside world.
“[However,] in politics the test for all of us is how much we can convince our own people, and that will be his job for the next four years,” Watson said.
“[The improvement of relations between KMT and China] is a remarkable development,” Watson said. “President Ma stressed to us during our meeting that there would be no reunification — he also said no independence of course — [and] we must give the new government the chance to prove themselves.”
Watson also discussed Taiwan’s participation in international forums.
“It is our view that you cannot exclude a country as important as Taiwan from meaningful participation in things like world health talks … It makes sense that Taiwan should be involved in the WHO and I hope that the improvement in cross-strait relations will help achieve that.”
As for his thoughts on the opening of direct cross-strait flights across the Strait, Watson said: “Taiwan is already [economically] dependent on China — with US$60 billion worth of investment there. A good long-term strategy for Taiwan would be to diversify investments [from China] to other countries.”
Watson suggested Taiwan also needed to invest more in education so that it can better manage the transition from a manufacturing economy to a service economy.
Asked his views on reports of policemen reportedly trying to snatch national flags from civilians during the recent visit of a Chinese envoy, as well as the ensuing Wild Strawberry demonstration, Watson said in a democracy there has to be freedom for demonstrations.
“It’s very difficult for me to judge [the status of human rights] from outside the country, but I think everybody would recognize that Taiwan is much freer than most countries in Asia,” he said. “[As is the case with other democratic counties,] students are often in the vanguard of movements for civil freedom, [and] you have a vibrant democracy here.”
“If governments do not respond to public concern, in the end they are voted out of office. And that must be [Ma’s] choice how far he responds,” he said.
Watson said the delegation also talked with local politicians about opening up of government procurement policy to European countries, the issue of death penalty and the issue of visa waiver.
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