Chen Chu Breaks the Ice
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
May 22, 2009
Chen Chu departed from Kaohsiung In the morning. By the afternoon, she had arrived directly in Beijing and was meeting with Beijing Mayor Guo Jinlong. For the DPP, Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chu's visit to the Mainland was an ice-breaker. It meant that the Green Camp's unconditional opposition to Beijing has changed. It is time for the DPP's inconsistent Mainland policy to undergo a major revision.
Chen Chu's visit to the Mainland has aroused much concern. The public does not oppose her visit. But it has been taken aback by the DPP's peculiar double standard. After all, the Green Camp just took to the streets on May 17 to denounce Ma for "selling out Taiwan." Then on May 21, its highest ranking public official led a delegation to Beijing. Even party elders and Taiwan independence elements are gnashing their teeth. How is the DPP to explain itself to the general public? Chen Chu's mainland visit reveals that the May 17 protest march had a tough shell, but a brittle core. It also revealed that the DPP's tortured rhetoric can no longer conceal its internal contradictions.
In fact, the DPP has become increasingly aware of the need for exchanges with the CCP. But politically they cling to their anti-Beijing rhetoric. They remain determined to depict the KMT's efforts to improve cross-Strait relations as "betraying Taiwan." Even more incredibly, the DPP clearly knew of Chen Chu's plan to visit the Mainland. But to avoid embarrassment during the protest march they suppressed this information. They assumed their head the sand tactics would allow them to squeak by. In fact, their strategy of self-deception merely made fools of Deep Green True Believers, casting them into a bottomless abyss of lost faith.
Chen Chu's trip was full of twists and turns. She has a powerful desire to play the role of an ice-breaker. But she also knows she faces enormous resistance, particularly from the Green Camp. Therefore she sneaked around and repeatedly changed her story. On May 17 Chen Chu joined the pro-independence march in Kaohsiung mid-stream. Then, under the pretext she was heading north to join the march in Taipei, she ran off. She never appeared at the main venue in Kaohsiung. Her exceptionally low-keyed behavior was an effort to avoid spoiling her chance to visit the Mainland. It was also an effort to avoid intensifying outside criticism of the DPP for saying one thing and doing another.
Nor should we overlook the high degree of goodwill shown toward Chen Chu. This was also a breakthrough for Beijing authorities vis a vis the DPP. They even granted her the courtesy of clearing customs without a "Taiwan Compatriot Entry Permit." They allowed her to enter as the "Mayor of Kaohsiung." They even put up billboards on streets in downtown Beijing urging the public to "See the World Games in Kaohsiung." These were compromises the two sides reached for the sake of this ice-breaking visit. Therefore, even though the International Real Estate Federation Awards Ceremony was postponed, Chen Chu still valued this hard-won opportunity and chose to attend as planned. Clearly bilateral relations is not just a "kill or be killed" zero-sum game.
The Kaohsiung World Games forced the Democratic Progressive Party to deal with Beijing. Perhaps this was accidental. But for the Democratic Progressive Party it is also an opportunity to make a breakthrough. Promoting the games necessitates more extensive and direct cross-Strait contacts and exchanges. But so does promoting the economy, trade, tourism, and cultural exchanges. Chen Chu's visit furthers the overall interests of Kaohsiung citizens. But so does the Ma administration's promotion of cross-Strait personnel, capital, and educational exchanges. Why must the DPP smear Ma's policy as "betraying Taiwan?" Since Chen Chu visited the Mainland with such awe-inspiring righteousness, what are we to make of the Green Camp's habit of equating "visiting the Mainland" with "sympathizing with Beijing," and "sympathizing with Beijing" with "betraying Taiwan?" Isn't this kind of thinking ready for the shredder?
Actually, the Mayor of Kaohsiung's visit to the Mainland is nine years too late. In July 2000, then Kaohsiung Mayor Frank Hsieh wanted to visit Xiamen as part of a Sister Cities exchange. He was prevented from doing so by newly inaugurated President Chen Shui-bian and Mainland Affairs Council Chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen. The trip was aborted. The result was Chen Chu's ice-breaking visit nine years later. Nine years later, Taiwan independence player Chen Shui-bian is in prison for corruption. Party Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen has changed her position in support of Chen Chu's visit to the Mainland. From the DPP's perspective, it wasted nine years. As it waffled indecisively, it lost both political power and public support. Isn't it time the DPP amended its outdated Mainland policy?
For Taiwan, Chen Chu's visit carries greater significance than merely promoting the Kaohsiung World Games. It means the public interest is more important than personal ideology. With the participation of the Democratic Progressive Party, cross-Strait interaction will become more diverse. This is a plus. The DPP has stepped forward and met directly with Beijing. It is no longer hiding behind the KMT, sniping from the sidelines. This is something it must do to act responsibly. The only problem is, how will the Democratic Progressive Party convince grass-roots supporters to support Chen Chu's visit to the Mainland?
Chen Chu departed from Kaohsiung, made a detour to Ketagelan Boulevard, then arrived in Beijing. Chen Chu's ice-breaking trip was roundabout and rife with posturing. But the outside world should not rush to condemn the show Chen Chu put on. The bilateral strategic picture is clear. It will not unfold according to Chen Chu's personal whims.
2009.05.22 05:45 am