An SEF Chairman qualified to be Premier
United Daily News Editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
April 16, 2008
Ma Ying-jeou's summed up the Hu Siew Meeting at the Boao Forum by saying, "This was a successful meeting." But he added, "We have merely melted the tip of the iceberg." Siew agreed, "The iceberg is huge. It will take a while for the melting water to become a torrent." Ma and Siew agree. Cross-strait relations should proceed slowly but surely.
Ma and Siew's remarks show that they do not have an inflated view of the significance of the Hu Siew Meeting. They remain cautious about future developments. They know that "above the abyss, is a thin layer of ice." They are unwilling to exaggerate their success. They have not ignored the risks. But neither are they flinching from the challenge. The public probably does not want the new leadership to make any rash moves.
Ma Ying-jeou has appointed Chiang Pin-kung SEF chairman. This means that cross-strait relations in the wake of the Boao Forum will be based on economic and trade exchange instead of bickering over political symbolism. Chiang Pin-kung was on the short list of candidates for Premier. To appoint Chiang Pin-kung SEF Chairman is to appoint someone qualified to be Premier to the position. Koo Chen-fu came from a background of wealth. He was appointed to high office. Chiang Pin-kung, by contrast, came from a humble background. He worked his way up the ladder of government, one step at a time. He is a workaholic highly experienced in public policy and government administration. Chiang Pin-kung is unlike Chang Chun-hsiung. Former premier Chang Chun-hsiung was also an SEF Chief. But Chang was a politician, a "hollow radish." Chiang Pin-kung, on the other hand, is a many year veteran of economic and trade matters. In recent years he has accumulated even more first hand experience with Taiwan businessmen. The Straits Exchange Foundation will have fewer people from Koo Chen-fu's era. It will also have fewer people from Chang Chun-hsiung's era. We expect to see an SEF Chief who is "Chief Cook and Bottle Washer."
The ice in the Taiwan Strait is melting. The SEF is getting an infusion of new blood. The ice in the Taiwan Strait is not being melted merely to solve problems faced by Taiwan businessmen. It is being melted to solve problems faced by everyone on Taiwan. Opening Taiwan to the mainland opens Taiwan to the world. The synergy will create a win/win scenario for all. Taiwan can no longer afford to lose its economic lifeblood. It must recirculate that economic lifeblood in order to nourish the main body.
Economic and trade issues are the tip of Taiwan's cross-strait relations iceberg. Cross-strait relations meanwhile, are the tip of Taiwan's political and economic iceberg. If Taiwan fails to break down cross-strait economic and trade barriers, it will not be able to solve Taiwan's economic problems. But if it merely breaks down barriers to cross-strait economic and trade, it still won't be able to solve Taiwan's economic problems. For example, almost every year the American Chamber of Commerce and the European Chamber of Commerce have urged Taiwan to open direct links to the mainland. Obviously relaxing cross-strait economic and trade barriers helps more than just Taiwan businessmen and mainland businessmen. It increases economic and trade opportunities. It normalizes economic and trade relations in the Taiwan Strait. It creates conditions necessary for the transformation of Taiwan into an Asia-Pacific Regional Hub. Taiwan's political and economic problems be resolved only through cross-strait relations. Only cross-strait relations will enable people on Taiwan to go beyond cross-strait relations. Only then will Taiwan find salvation. Only then will Taiwan find a way out.
The atmosphere in the wake of the Boao Forum is overly optimistic. The business community was not alone. Even local Green camp officials such as Chen Chu and Su Chi-feng wanted to get in on the act, wanted their share of the booty. Ma and Siew offered timely reminders that "Melting the ice too quickly would create a flood" and that "haste makes waste." The appointment of the workaholic Chiang Pin-kung as SEF Chief offered cautious optimism that the ice might melt sooner rather than later. Community leaders need cooler heads than the general public. They must not allow enthusiasm to get the better of them.
The SEF was originally "a pair of white gloves," i.e., an intermediary. Chiang Pin-kung may indeed play such a role. But Chiang Pin-kung is an economic and trade expert with hands-on mainland experience. His role would hardly be limited to "a pair of white gloves." The late Koo Chen-fu lacked Chiang Pin-kung's hands-on experience. Koo Chen-fu never set foot on the mainland until 1998. Chiang Pin-kung will be visiting the mainland prior to May 20 in his capacity as KMT Vice Chairman. He will be thanking Taiwan businessmen for supporting the Ma/Siew ticket. Times truly have changed. We celebrate these changes in the SEF leadership.
Chiang Pin-kung is an SEF Chairman qualified to be Premier. The public hopes he will promote peaceful cross-strait exchanges. Even more, it hopes he will make good use of warmer cross-strait relations to improve world trade, strengthen Taiwan's role, and help solve Taiwan's political problems. The SEF is not an "Association for the Betterment of Taiwan Businessmen." It is an agent of national reconstruction. Chiang Pin-kung is an SEF Chairman qualfied to be Premier. The public has good reason for optimism.
Chiang Pin-kung may actually be able to make a greater contribution to his country as SEF Chairman than as Premier.
2008.04.16 02:37 am