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Experts: Pan-blue camp makes dangerous U-turn
( 2004-01-08 08:29) (China Daily By Xing Zhigang)

Taiwan's recent political developments ahead of the March "presidential'' elections has raised deep concern in Beijing as two major opposition parties on the island made a U-turn on their mainland policy in a bid to woo votes.

Lien Chan (L), chairman of the main opposition Kuomintang Party  and candidate for the March 20 'presidential' election, with his running mate James Soong are at a news conference. [AFP] 
The Kuomintang Party (KMT) and its spin-off People First Party (PFP), which used to favour eventual reunification with the mainland, have dramatically drifted away from their stance.

Leading mainland experts on Taiwan studies describe the policy about-face as "a dangerous trend'' that is set to pose a great challenge to Beijing's sacred goal of reunifying Taiwan and the mainland.

In late November, the pan-blue camp consisting of the KMT and PFP first made a major policy reversal by supporting the referendum legislation proposed by the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) headed by Taiwan leader Chen Shui-bian.

The policy shift contrasted with the pan-blue camp's initial opposition to Chen's referendum plan, which it accused of being too provocative

Although the island's legislature finally passed a watered-down version of the referendum law, the bill does enshrine a "defensive referendum'' clause which gives the Taiwan leader the power to hold an independence plebiscite in case of an imminent "external threat''.

Lien shifts stance

KMT Chairman Lien Chan, the presidential candidate, and his running mate James Soong, have been playing down their parties"reunification platform.

"We oppose the so-called immediate independence, but we are also opposed to being labelled so-called reunificationists,'' Lien told Taiwan-based foreign media on December 16.

He stressed that maintaining the cross-Straits status quo is essential.

"We are not capable of making a decision to decide the future of both sides of the Straits in this particular election,'' Lien told the press conference.

"That's why we will leave this issue "as important and crucial as it is "to our future generations.''

While putting reunification on the back-burner, Lien also suggested the KMT and PFP will no longer advocate the "992 consensus'' to avoid being painted by the DPP as pro-mainland.

The consensus refers to a 1992 verbal agreement under which both Taipei and Beijing acknowledge that there is only "one China'' in the world but hold different interpretation of the phrase's meaning.

"If you emphasize that consensus now, 90 days before the election, Chen Shui-bian will put a political duncecap on your head,'' Lien said.

"He will use it to paint us in red. And we do not want to be painted that way.''

Earlier, the island's "legislative speaker'' Wang Jin-pyng, also director-general of the pan-blue alliance's campaign, claimed his camp would not rule out the option of an independent Taiwan.

Then, Lien went as far to endorse Chen's view that there are independent countries on each side of the Taiwan Straits in a campaign statement on December 20.

The opposition parties used to repeatedly warn that Chen's advocacy of the "one country at each side'' of the Straits would snuff out any hopes of starting peace negotiations with the mainland.

Tilt towards independence

When Chen first announced his new formulation in August 2002, Lien and his KMT blasted the leader for being a reckless supporter of Taiwan independence.

Lien argued that "Taiwan is already an independent sovereignty and there is no problem of independence or reunification.''

"If you put it simply as each side has one country, there should be no problem,'' he told a crowd of supporters in Taipei.

Professor Li Yihu at Peking University says the KMT's recent departure from its pro-reunification stance signals a delicate tilt towards independence.

"By sticking to the one-China principle in the past, the KMT once tended to support reunification and oppose Taiwan independence,'' he said.

"But now it has indicated its potential support for formal independence in the future.''

The professor adds that the current KMT leadership seems to have stepped onto the same road as former Taiwan leader Lee Teng-hui.

Lee, who stepped down as KMT chairman in 2000, introduced the notorious "two states'' theory in July, 1999, which defines cross-Straits ties as a "state-to-state'' relationship.

Chen Kongli, a senior researcher with the Taiwan Research Institute at Xiamen University, sees the KMT policy change as more than campaign politicking to steal votes from Chen Shui-bian.

He says a review of recent developments proves that the KMT's policy adjustment is more a strategic change than a political one.

"The mainland acknowledges only the stance and policy rather than an individual politician or political party,'' the researcher says.

"Beijing is strongly opposed to anyone who engages in pro-independence activities, whether it is Lien Chan or Chen Shui-bian."

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