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Commentary: Chen makes matters worse
( 2003-08-29 09:36) (China Daily)

The assessment report on the impact of direct cross-Straits transportation, unveiled by Taiwan's "cabinet" - the "executive yuan" - on August 15, completely serves as a political tool for Taiwan "president" Chen Shui-bian.

Chen had earlier put forward a three-stage plan for direct air and sea links between Taiwan and the mainland. In the plan, Chen said only through the three stages of "preparedness, consultation, and realization," could direct cross-Straits transportation be achieved.

The 20,000-word report, with Chen's "one state on each side" theory, a statement he dished out last August, at the core, tries to defend Chen's acts of impeding direct cross-Straits transportation and acquiring more ballots in the forthcoming "presidential" election.

The report had a primary emphasis upon the negative impact of direct cross-Straits links on the island's politics, economy, society, and security. It says direct transportation with the mainland would speed up Taiwan's brain drain; raise its unemployment rate; stimulate outflow of capital; as well as bring down its real estate prices.

The report says that direct transportation would benefit the mainland's united front tactics against Taiwan, and obstruct the island's efforts to win over international opinion.

Claiming that direct cross-Straits transportation would benefit the mainland's air and sea penetration into Taiwan, the report said the plan would endanger the island's air, maritime, and land security.

The report cautions if Taiwan submits to the mainland's position, the direct transportation between the two sides should be treated as a country's internal affair, its "national sovereignty" would be severely damaged and international status lowered.

Thus, the report concludes that the island should not push for direct cross-Straits transportation on the basis of wishful thinking and it should strive for the goal with its dignity maintained and its "sovereignty," security, and economic development guaranteed.

The lengthy report is essentially a result of Chen Shui-bian's pro-independence policy.

It is a well-known fact Chen has demonstrated no sincerity for direct air and maritime links with the mainland since he came to power in 2000.

Polls show that 67 per cent of Taiwan people disbelieve Chen's claim to realize direct cross-Straits transportation by the end of next year.

The reason why Chen Shui-bian has pushed for direct transportation in a pretentious manner is that he attempts to acquire necessary support from Taiwan voters by making a clamour in this regard.

Chen should gain another 20 per cent of ballots from the middle voters besides consolidating 30 per cent from his staunch pro-independence forces if he wants to win a victory with more than 50 per cent of ballots in the approaching "presidential election."

In his 2000 "presidential election," Chen once definitely promised to promote direct three links (trade, transportation, and postal service) with the mainland. But so far he has not put his money where his mouth is, provoking strong dissatisfaction within the island's industrial and commercial circles.

Currently, direct cross-Straits transportation has been regarded as a golden key to rejuvenating the island's flagging economy.

Given that more than 55 per cent of Taiwan people insist that direct cross-Straits transportation should be unconditionally opened, the issue undoubtedly plays a very important role in next year's "presidential election."

It has also become Chen's opposition parties' effective chips to attack Chen in the election.

Under these circumstances, Chen, who has contributed no appreciable achievements to the island's economy, merged his pro-independence "one state on each side" theory into his three-stage direct transportation plan, to safeguard his political platform of "maintaining the island's sovereignty and security," and consolidate his approval foundation among his pro-independence forces.

Another reason for Chen to do this is trying to win support from the island's industrial and commercial circles who long for direct navigation with the mainland, to alleviate his huge pressures from various circles and avoid being plunged into a disadvantageous position.

Chen was also trying to woo the Americans. US businessmen investing in the island also demand Taiwan authorities open direct transportation links with the mainland.

More than 200 US enterprises have already withdrawn funds from the island due to the absence of such links between the two sides of the Taiwan Straits.

In the eyes of Taiwan authorities, by raising the direct cross-Straits transportation plan on the eve of the general election in the United States and the island, it can pose a posture for easing cross-Straits ties to the United States, to lighten Washington's dissatisfaction towards the island, and finally win support from it for Chen's re-election.

Chen gives people a false impression that he wants to push for direct cross-Straits transportation by putting forward a three-stage plan.

But a careful analysis on the assessment report by the "executive yuan" will find that Taiwan authorities have absolutely no sincerity for direct cross-Straits transportation and put numerous obstacles in the way to stop its materialization.

First, Chen's "one country on each side" theory, the man-made prerequisite for direct transportation, makes the programme fundamentally impossible. Chen openly stresses that his main slogan for the next year's "presidential election" was his "one state on each side" theory.

The report bases its framework on such a theory, insisting that Taiwan cannot concede to the mainland concerning "sovereignty," and direct cross-Straits transportation should be defined as a international issue.

The position is completely different from the mainland's proposal that cross-Straits navigation line is a domestic issue, thus entirely destroying the atmosphere of "resuming talks and consultations" for direct three links.

Taiwan authorities' act of combining the direct cross-Straits transportation plan with "one country on each side" theory will undoubtedly make the former become Chen's political victim, according to the island's mainstream opinion.

Second, various restrictions and conditions make it difficult for talks on direct cross-Straits navigation to make headway. The Taiwan authorities stress that direct transportation is decided by the fact that the island has achieved a common consensus on the issue, has necessary co-ordinated measures, and cross-Straits ties have improved.

However, Chen's independence ambitions have already made the improvement of cross-Straits relations impossible.

And there is no common consensus even within Chen's pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).

Third, the report's exaggeration of the impact of direct cross-Straits transportation upon the island's politics, economy, and security, undoubtedly pours cold water on the programme.

Flaunting Taiwan authorities's sincerity for direct transportation, the report, however, deliberately overstates direct cross-Straits links' negative effects upon the island in various aspects.

But the Taiwan authorities' attempt to obstruct direct cross-Straits transportation links will only aggravate the island's economic and political crisis and damage the fundamental interests of the masses of Taiwan.

The author is director of the Comprehensive Department of the Institute of Taiwan Studies under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences

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