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Thursday, November 16, 2006

If you ask me...

A rather one-sided article appeared in today's Japan Times http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/eo20061115a1.html. Titled“Wasted chance as Taiwan's president”and written by one Sin-Ming Shaw, it's a distorted attack on Taiwan's president, Chen Shui-bian. For example, he blames Chen for the fact that many Taiwanese businessmen have moved operations to China, claiming it's because he failed to "de-bureaucratize and de-politicize" Taiwan's increasingly isolated economy. Actually, the flight to China has been going on since before Chen took office in 2000. He also criticizes Chen for squandering opportunities by "engag(ing) in polemics with opposition parties while he pandered to the extreme wing of the DPP and mobilized his government to "de-Sinicize" Taiwan culture." As most of us who live here in Taiwan know, it's been the opposition that has sought to frustrate Chen in the legislature at every opportunity, refusing to cooperate with his administration for the good of the country. Finally, Shaw's emphasis on Taiwan as a bastion of "unbroken adherence to the ancient (Chinese) culture" conveniently ignores the influence that 50 years of Japanese colonial rule has had on Taiwanese culture (not to mention the contributions from the native aboriginal peoples), and the fact that this promotion of an "unbroken…Chinese cultural tradition" was part of KMT propaganda to convince the locals to accept the rule of Chiang Kai-shek and his fellow mainlanders. 

And yet, Shaw does have a point. Chen has wasted the better part of six years as president of the R.O.C. I was here in 2000 when he took office, and I recall the optimism in the air, the feeling that great changes were about to be made for the betterment of Taiwan and its peoples. While the KMT and PFP opposition certainly deserves a large share of the blame for obstructing many of Chen's initiatives, Chen has been unable to convince the public of this fact. He has backed down on many issues (such as on his initial cancellation of the fourth nuclear power plant), and too often has resorted to grand gestures and pronouncements, rather than nuts-and-bolts policies and programs. His greatest failure has come in not seizing the chance to open up the files on the dark side of Taiwan's post-WWII history. There have been no investigations into 228 and the White Terror, for example. Neither has there been some kind of Truth Commission established to probe criminal acts committed by agents of the KMT government during the days when Taiwan was a one-party authoritarian state. Instead, we get the name of the airport changed from "Chiang Kai-shek International Airport" to "Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport", yet statues of Chiang still litter public parks all over the island. Should the KMT return to power in the 2008 presidential election, the door will shut on any chance to clean up the past in order to strengthen Taiwan's democratic future.

In the end, the responsibility for the failures of his administration lies with Chen. Allegations of corruption aside, if a President Annette Lu can be the person to re-energize the DPP in the remaining two years before the next election, perhaps Chen should think about stepping down.

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