Since taking office last year, President Chen Shuibian has accomplished little, and his Democratic Progressive Party suffered a serious setback in last year’s legislative elections, which gave the Pan-Blue alliance a slim legislative majority. That slim majority has been all the Pan Blues have needed to stand in the way of Chen and the DPP accomplishing a number of their objectives, most notably the passing of the Arms Procurement Budget so that Taiwan could purchase weapons from the US to use for its defense.
Undoubtedly, part of the reason for the Pan Blues’ opposition to anything the DPP wants lies in their anger over the results of the 2004 presidential election. Lien Zhan himself is a bitter, selfish, and inept has-been, a loser of two consecutive presidential elections who spent his final months as Guomindang Chairman attempting to boost his lagging credibility, most notably by visiting China and pretending he was the leader of Taiwan.
It wasn’t hard to see through Lien’s plan, and even if he’s right that talks with China need to begin, he never should have tried go over the head of Taiwan’s president, not if he cared about the country anyway. He proved himself to be a divider of the Taiwanese people, and not a unifier, much the way Chen is.
As much as Lien’s visit may deserve to be condemned, it also would help to look at why it happened. Lien’s selfish motivations aside, he’s absolutely right that talks with China need to begin, in one form or another. The hostile standoff that’s been going on for years can’t continue forever, and engaging in a genuine arms race with China is futile, there’s no question about it. Whether purchasing some sophisticated weaponry would deter a potential Chinese attack is up for debate. It’s certainly a costly expenditure.
In any case, the fact is, President Chen’s and the DPP’s vision of an independent Taiwan is as good as dead. Taiwan independence is about as likely as Tibetan independence, and Chen’s antagonistic and blowhard proclamations about the topic, and his talk of changing the country’s name and the constitution certainly contributed to the PRC’s decision to pass the Anti-Secession Law.
The Anti-Secession Law deserves to be condemned for what it is: blatant hostility and aggression from the PRC directed at Taiwan. But to say that it came unprovoked would be ridiculous. Chen and his cohorts have taken great pleasure in provoking the PRC over the years, but perhaps they didn’t expect that their loud mouths would anger the PRC enough to pass the Anti-Secession Law.
From all sides of the Taiwan Strait, Chen Shuibian and the DPP are liabilities, liabilities because they make ridiculous promises that they know they cannot keep, upsetting the people that voted for them and undermining confidence in Taiwan’s democracy, and at the same time infuriating the Communist aggressor on the other side of the Strait.
To make matters worse, Chen has no idea how to conduct diplomacy, and his bungling of the Lien/Song visits showed it. He didn’t know what to say about Lien’s visit, first condemning it, then wishing him luck, and he actually tried to give a message to Song to deliver to Hu Jintao. Why Chen would somehow think Song would be willing to help him when their political views are so different is anyone’s guess, perhaps because of the 10-point agreeement they signed. In any event, it certainly undermined Chen’s credibility. It helps to make clear that Chen made empty promises about independence to win votes in 2004, when he knew very well that it was impossible.
So when the Guomindang says that Chen’s so-called “offers to talk with China” are empty words, they are right. Chen makes the offers knowing full well the PRC has no intention of talking to him. It just gives him an excuse to pat himself on the back as being the good guy whose only true desire is peace. He usually peppers his offers to Hu with some tired sayings about how China should democratize. Yup, and the UN should let Taiwan into the UN too, right? I agree that both would be great, but they are not feasible. I hope Chen isn’t holding his breath. He squandered his chances long ago by establishing himself as a loud-mouth independence advocate lacking diplomatic skills and finesse.
Chen and his associates either haven’t realized or refuse to accept that talks with China require that Taiwan send people to the table with strong diplomatic skills, people who are capable of finessing things, and who won’t be pushed around by China the way Lien and Song allowed themselves to be, but at the same time, won’t make the empty offers that Chen does. Chen’s offers to Hu amount to absolutely nothing except a dull article in the Taipei Times about how China should democratize.
I believe the Taiwanese people are tired of the stand-off, and tired of the DPP’s lagging localization efforts. The more the DPP tries to defend its policies, the less credible they seem. Chen and the DPP are backed into a corner, and can feel the tide turning against them. Hence the relentless barrage of attacks on Ma Yingjiu that appeared in the Taipei Times as soon as he stepped into the roll of Guomindang Chairman.
It’s up to the Guomindang to pursue intelligent policies in the years leading up to the next election that show they are fit to lead the country to a peaceful and prosperous future. The DPP, with its current outlook, stands no chance of talking to China. The Guomindang may be able to, however. But the Guomindang needs to show the Taiwanese people that it’s capable of being the responsible leader of the nation, and not a bunch of disgruntled, reactionary rogues with no respect for the democratic process.
Taiwanese people have shown that what is most important to them is peace, the well-being of their families, and their personal fortunes, not political ideology. “Peace” also doesn’t mean handing Taiwan over to an aggressive China. It means an eventual agreement acceptable to both parties. If they feel that eventual negotiations with China will bring that to them and prevent conflict, they will vote for the Guomindang candidate in 2008. Chen and the DPP have squandered their opportunities. It’s high time for a change.