Taiwanese premier in new tack on Beijing


Taiwanese premier in new tack on Beijing
Signalling a softening of Chen’s line on trade, he urges cross-strait pragmatism


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Taiwanese Premier Su Tseng-chang yesterday signalled he would adopt a pragmatic approach in dealing with the mainland - a day after President Chen Shui-bian shocked the island by saying he would cede powers to the premier amid a snowballing insider trading scandal.

Mr Su’s declaration came as two powerful aides of Mr Chen resigned. The embattled president, who has been forced to apologise publicly over the scandal involving his son-in-law, approved their resignations.

Mr Su said that while it was right for Taiwan to be cautious over security concerns in cross-strait policy, the government must have confidence in dealing with the mainland.

“Such a confidence has been a decisive factor that has made Taiwan an international business hub in the past 400 years,” Mr Su told mainland-based Taiwanese businessmen.

Mainland Affairs Council chairman Joseph Wu Jau-shieh told the gathering he expected to see regular cross-strait passenger charter flights and the opening of the island for mainland tourists in four to five months.

Observers said the declaration by Mr Su was a departure from Mr Chen’s hardline trade policy towards the mainland, indicating Mr Su would pursue a pragmatic policy in dealing with Beijing.

The Presidential Office said yesterday the deputy presidential secretary-general, Ma Yung-cheng, and National Security Council Advisory Body member Lin Ching-chang had tendered their resignations, which were approved by the president.

Opposition legislators and critics said Mr Ma had been forced to resign because President Chen feared that he might be hurt further by new scandals that would come to light soon involving the presidential aide.

“Ma Yung-cheng is allegedly involved in a number of influence-peddling cases, including the personnel changes of some banking and state-run enterprises,” alleged opposition Kuomintang legislator Chiu Yi.

Political commentator Hu Chung-hsin said Mr Chen was afraid that allegations against Mr Ma might once again drag him into troubled waters, and he had made Mr Ma resign as a result.

Mr Ma, known as the president’s most powerful aide, had been a loyal assistant of Mr Chen for 15 years, dating back to the time when the island’s leader was still a legislator. Mr Lin, also a highly influential aide, served as information chief of the Taipei city government when Mr Chen was mayor and was the chief speech writer for the president.

On Wednesday night, Mr Chen announced he would relinquish some powers to Premier Su, in a surprise move critics saw as an attempt to head off mounting calls for him to step down after his physician son-in-law, Chao Chien-ming, was arrested over an insider trading scandal.

Dr Chao’s alleged involvement in the scandal has fuelled the wrath of the public.

James Soong Chu-yu, head of the opposition People First Party, said yesterday his party would mobilise tens of thousands of supporters to protest in front of the Presidential Office tomorrow to demand that Mr Chen step down. He said it was absurd for Mr Chen to say he would cede powers to the premier because he should never have held the powers belonging to the premier in the first place.

Is Su Tseng-chang trying to steal Mayor Ma thunder, by getting invited to Beijing to sign a 50 year peace treaty?

If Su consistently takes a pragmatic approach to Beijing, which seems to be the case here, he could pose a significant challenge to Ma in 2008 by acting as the DPP’s pragmatic equivalent of Ma.

A lot of Taiwanese businessmen on the mainland have pro-Green tendencies, albeit a moderate, pragmatic one that puts business ahead of idealism. Su’s conciliatory approach to Beijing could appeal to them, and earn him a following on the mainland.

If he is consistent in this new approach, 2008 could be a very close election.

If Su even last at the positon till 2007 you mean. No one has lasted more than a year in that position in recent times.

If the LY doesn’t drag Su down, eventually CSB ego will drag Su down.

I am no fan of the Presidential ‘boy scouts’ as my numerous posts about working for Taiwan’s international development agency have repeatedly demonstrated.

While I am glad Su is taking a more pragmatic pro-business approach, I can hardly take Lawrence Chung’s writings seriously. As an ex-Straits Times journalist, I can honestly say he is Felix Soh’s pro-blue lapdog.