Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Straits Exchange Foundation? Or Straits Election Foundation?

Straits Exchange Foundation? Or Straits Election Foundation?
Hong Chi-chang's appointment to SEF Chairman
United Daily News editorial
translated by Bevin Chu
July 3, 2007

It was unexpected, but not totally unexpected. Hong Chi-chang will take over as Chairman of the Straits Exchange Foundation. Hong Chi-chang is regarded as a member of the Democratic Progressive Party's (DPP) "west bound faction." His appointment to the Straits Exchange Foundation could be considered a logical move. But precisely because he holds certain views on cross-Straits economics and trade, "Go West Chang" has been branded one of the "Eleven Brigands" within the DPP. He was subjected to such vilification that he couldn't even win the party's nomination for the legislature.

This is the Hong Chi-chang who will be taking over the position of Straits Exchange Foundation chairman. He will be subjected to questions from all directions. Blue camp lawmakers will assume he won't be able to get much done. Green camp high officials will wonder out loud "Will he sell out Taiwan?" But the real question is: If Hong Chi-chang takes over at the Straits Exchange Foundation, will he be able to break the deadlock in cross-Straits relations? Or is his appointment merely a way to appeal to the New Tide Faction within the party, a way to win the votes of mainland-based Taiwan businessmen?

The Straits Exchange Foundation originally performed a cross-Straits intermediary role. If hands are willing to reach out across the Taiwan Straits, then such an intermediary role has its uses. The SEF's very first chairman was Koo Chen-fu. His prestige and influence during his term was so great it overshadowed the policy making Mainland Affairs Council. But if the government's policy is to no longer reach out across the Taiwan Straits, then such an intermediary becomes useless. The SEF's second chairman Chang Chun-hsiung, by contrast, had no achievements to speak of during his term. No wonder, as former Mainland Affairs Council Chairman Su Chi said, during the seven years in which the DPP has been in power, "The Mainland Affairs Council formulates no policies, and the Straits Exchange Foundation conducts no negotiations," therefore it makes no difference who occupies these positions.

The DPP party hierarchy has picked Hong Chi-chang, a New Tide Faction elder who was vilified during the party primaries, as chairman of the SEF, when "it makes no difference who occupies this position." Can "Go West Chang" really allow cross-Straits policy to "Go West?" Or as Hong himself asked, was he was appointed merely "to ensure party unity and cooperation with the government's policies?"

"Go West Chang" is a member of the "non-mainstream faction" within the DPP. He has the image of a reformer. He worked with People First Party lawmaker Liu Yi-ju to sponsor a bill to relax the upper limit on business investments on the mainland to 40%. The bill quickly made it into committee, and the business community eagerly anticipated its passage. Needless to say, this proposal, along with bills for weekend cross-Straits charter flights, air cargo chartered flights, mainland tourist visits all turned out to be false alarms. No progress has been made. The bill became one of the main charges leveled against Hong Chi-chang when he sought the party's nomination for the legislature.

During the controversy over former Premier Su Tseng-chang's "Revisionist Su" path, Hong Chi-chang spoke frankly, saying that a cross-Straits Open Door Policy was inevitable. In his capacity as director of the Taiwan Economy and Industry Association, he submitted a letter to the media. He stressed the rise of the region's economy, saying that "Taiwan may soon be marginalized." He aggressively pleaded on behalf of industry, saying that "Our financial industries have been preparing to go west for a long time. All they need is an East Wind. Let's give the financial industry an East Wind. Don't make them wait until its too late."

Hong Chi-chang is known within the DPP as a maverick proponent of an Open Door Policy. He now occupies an important position responsible for cross-Straits affairs. He once called for "providing an East Wind for the finance industry." He may not be able to call the shots at the Straits Exchange Foundation. But he is probably not devoid of all influence. The question is, will he emulate first SEF chairman Koo Chen-fu, a latter day Zhu Geliang adept at strategy? Or will he imitate second SEF chairman Chang Chun-hsiung's policy, in which "The Mainland Affairs Council formulates no policies, and the Straits Exchange Foundation conducts no negotiations?"

Larger currents have landed Taiwan in a dangerous dilemma. Yet the only strategies its leaders concern themselves with are election strategies. On the one hand Hong Chi-chang has met with the Straits Exchange Foundation in an attempt to win over Taiwan businessmen. On the other hand Yu Hsi-kuen is attempting to fan Deep Green mob sentiment with his "Resolution for a Normal Nation."

Hong Chi-chang has assumed the chairmanship of the Straits Exchange Foundation. Will he be able to take a stand and make a fight, on the understanding that "Unless Taiwan immediately opens up, it will be marginalized?" Or will it be business as usual, on the understanding that "The DPP must present a united front" and "cooperate with the government's policies?" The answer to this question will bear on considerably more than Hong's personal reputation.

Original Chinese below:

2007.07.03 04:12 am










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