Lien Chan vs. Lee Teng-hui: Dragon Whisperer vs. Dragon Slayer
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
September 13, 2012
Summary: Politicians must not engage in the arrogant abuse of power. They must wisely ride the currents of history. Lee Teng-hui enjoyed momentary success. But in the end he was swept into the dustbin of history. Lien Chan suffered momentary defeat. But in the end he successfully altered the course of history. Lien Chan and Lee Teng-hui left behind very different historical legacies. One was a failed dragonslayer. The other was a successful "dragon whisperer."
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Lee Teng-hui has long insisted that "Diaoyutai belongs to Japan." Yesterday Lee commented publicly on the Japanese government's "purchase" of the Diaoyutai Islands. Lee said, "If the son of some family is marrying a beautiful bride, what concern is it of ours?"
At the same moment, Lien Chan was leading a delegation to the APEC summit in Haishengwei (aka Vladivostok). He personally met with Mainland President Hu Jintao. He also met with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, and Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. Fifty-two years ago, Chiang Kai-shek met with Dwight Eisenhower. Suddenly Lien Chan was participating in the first meeting between ROC and USA leaders in 52 years. He reopened the door to TIFA negotiations. Suddenly he was participating in the first meeting between ROC and Japanese leaders in 55 years. He was negotiating fisheries issues. These events all originated with Lien Chan's 2005 "ice-breaking journey" to Beijing, when he met with met Hu Jintao.
Lien Chan's political life "owed its success to Lee Teng-hui," but also "owed its failure to Lee Teng-hui." In the end however, Lien was able to reverse his fortunes. He was able to rise from where he had fallen. Lien fell because of Lee Teng-hui. In 2000, Lee Teng-hui fully supported Lien Chan. Lien Chan was his designated successor. But the chaos brought upon by Lee Teng-hui pulled the rug out from under the KMT. Naturally it also pulled the rug out from under Lien Chan. History shows that the KMT's failure in 2000 was Lee Teng-hui's failure. Lien Chan was the fall guy who unjustly suffered the consequences.
Contrast Lien Chan and Lee Teng-hui. Lien Chan rode the currents of history and made a comeback. Lee Teng-hui misread history. He abused his power. He sowed the seeds of his own destruction. Lee Teng-hui occupied the office of president for 12 years. He expanded his powers far beyond their lawful limits. He thought he could distort history. In the end however history had the final word and Lee fell from grace. Lee Teng-hui undermined Lien Chan. He caused his failure. But when Lien Chan fell from power and hit rock bottom, he accurately read history. He wisely rode the currents of history. He became the former national leader who exerted the greatest influence on history since the lifting of martial law.
Contrast this with Lee Teng-hui's incoherent babbling and Chen Shui-bian's physical incarceration. Whether a politician is a success or a failure is not determined by how much power he might have wielded at one time. It is determined by whether he can accurately read history and successfully direct the course of history.
Lien Chan's 2005 "ice-breaking trip" was an example of directing history and making history. Hu Jintao responded to Lien Chan. The two guided the two sides toward the "five visions of peaceful development." They directed history and made history. As a result Lien Chan became the clear choice for APEC leader. At Haishengwei he and the outgoing Hu Jintao will hold their final meeting as heads of state. Lien Chan has made history. The future of cross-Strait history will be written in the language of the 2005 Lien/Hu summit.
Now look back at Lee Teng-hui. He is a headless fly, lost in the fog of history. At his height he was credited with the "National Unification Guidelines." He later demoted himself to "Godfather of Taiwan independence." He nearly destroyed the Kuomintang. Fortunately it was saved by Lien Chan. He held Chen Shui-bian hostage and destroyed the DPP. He insisted that "Diaoyutai belongs to Japan." He insisted that the "Republic of China no longer exists." In 2007, Lee Teng-hui watched as Ma Ying-jeou was elected president. He told the Hong Kong media that "I am not the Godfather of Taiwan independence. I never advocated Taiwan independence." When the Ma administration stumbled, he reversed himself. He clung to Tsai Ing-wen's apron strings. When Ma Ying-jeou won a second term, and the cross-Strait situation stabilized, Lee said "Shouting Taiwan independence is useless." What is this but the behavior of a fly with its head cut off?
Lee Teng-hui's political philosophy values power above all else. It assumes that if one wields enough power, one can ignore history. It assumes that any history one does not like can be cast as a fire-breathing dragon, to be slain by a self-appointed dragonslayer. Lien Chan's political philosophy is different. He had no desire to pose as dragonslayer. He chose instead to climb onto the back of the dragon. He chose to ride the dragon. He chose to ride the currents of history. Today, self-styled dragonslayer Lee Teng-hui is black and blue all over. He is hiding in a corner. He denies ever behing a dragonslayer. Lien Chan never presumed to be a dragonslayer. Instead, he turned out to be a skilled "dragon whisperer." No one can deny that he brought about cross-Strait "peaceful development."
Lee Teng-hui destroyed himself. He nearly undermined an entire generation of Blue and Green political talent, including Chen Shui-bian. Lien Chan and Ma Ying-jeou may be the only two political leaders not destroyed by Lee Teng-hui. Lien Chan escaped from the smouldering ruins left behind by Lee Teng-hui. He turned Lee Teng-hui's failure into his own success. The opportunities created by cross-Strait "peaceful development" enabled Ma Ying-jeou to stand on Lien Chan's shoulders. Lien Chan says, "My conscience is clear." Who can deny the truth of that?
Politicians must not engage in the arrogant abuse of power. They must wisely ride the currents of history. Lee Teng-hui enjoyed momentary success. But in the end he was swept into the dustbin of history. Lien Chan suffered momentary defeat. But in the end he successfully altered the course of history. Lien Chan and Lee Teng-hui left behind very different historical legacies. One was a failed dragonslayer. The other was a successful "dragon whisperer."
History is full of paradoxes. Lee Teng-hui said that Diaoyutai belongs to Japan. Will a future historian wonder whether Lee Teng-hui actually belonged to Taiwan?