The "Global Times," Lien Chan and Taiwan's Growing Identity

  Previous  |  Next  

Friday April 20, by Jerome F. Keating Ph.D.

Developments in Taiwan's complex identity and national direction once again came to the fore when not long ago the "Global Times" had an interview with Taiwan's Lien Chan. Since the Global Times falls under the umbrella of the People's Daily the party paper of People's Republic of China (PRC), the interview was of no great surprise to many. Lien Chan is one of the most senior and most prominent members of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT). Among his most recent positions have been those of vice-president under Lee Teng-hui (1996-2000), past Chairman of the KMT (2000-2005). And though a twice-failed candidate for the Presidency of Taiwan (2000 & 2004), he was the KMT's clear candidate. He subsequently travelled to China (2005) becoming the most prominent KMT member to visit China since the KMT was driven out after losing its Civil War with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in 1949. Thus while the interview had some logic to it, nonetheless questions still arose as to why now in 2012? Some wondered was the "Global Times" simply paying Lien Chan a rewarding compliment, or was it a prelude to something greater? That question gained more credence when the CCP subsequently came up with the request that the KMT host a 2012 Cross-Strait Economic Trade and Culture Forum in Taiwan,

This particular Cross-Strait Forum, begun in 2006, has for a variety of reasons (some obvious and others not) always been held in China each of seven times. Further, while it treats economic and cultural exchanges, it has also always served as an inter-party platform between the KMT and the CCP. So, with KMT Ma Ying-jeou re-elected, the timing for inter-party discussions on Taiwan's home soil seemed auspicious. The senior KMT member Lien Chan would spout appropriate views on communication and inter-party talks, which he did in his interview, and this could move along the thorny solution to the "one China" issue while keeping it solely within the hands of the two parties. A good plan, but as Lien's answers would prove it was a miscalculation and lack of awareness by both the CCP and Lien Chan of the continuing democratic developments in Taiwan

Lien Chan remains the classic example of a man bewildered by understanding the differences between the KMT's old way of doing things in a one-party state and the free choice inherent in a democratic system. He is thus caught in the mystifying syndrome of "Who moved my cheese?" By all rights in his mind, he should have been rewarded with the presidency in 2000, but somehow James Soong entered the fray and split the KMT vote. In 2004, with Soong on his side, Lien Chan could feel secure since he and Soong combined had garnered over 60 per cent of the vote in 2000. Unfortunately he lost again; this time Chen Shui-bian garnered 50.1 per cent instead of his past 39.6 per cent (2000). Who moved the cheese?

Lien Chan's interview bore this out; he repeatedly expressed how he could not understand how Chen "stole" the 2004 election. Even though the event has been eight years past, Lien Chan could still not let it go. After all, the KMT had been the master thieves and manipulators with their one-party state, so how could an upstart outsider steal from the masters of the art? There had to be fraud, but Lien could not figure out where. The assassination attempt on Chen Shui-bian has always been the KMT suspicion but what proved more revealing in Lien Chan's interview by the Global Times was the fact that both dwelt so much on what happened eight years ago, but totally avoided any discussion of the "dirty laundry" assassination/shooting of Lien Chan's son in the recent multi-city elections in Taoyuan in 2010. Sean Lien claims he was the shooter's target; the shooter claims otherwise; but more interesting is the fact that Lien Chan himself has never given any opinion or comment one way or another on this most recent event. And the Global Times also avoided what would be a most natural question. "Why would someone want to shoot your son? If it was a real attempt, why?"

In the interview, other indications of Lien Chan's affinity to China came out; in one breath he seemed to be crying "poor boy" as he complained at how difficult Chen had made it for him to arrange his 2005 trip to China. Hu Jintao had invited him in March and it took him all the way until April to bring the final arrangements to fruition. Should that be considered lengthy for a high level person like him in such a sensitive position and with so much at stake between the two countries?

Lien Chan even seemed out of touch with his own party's history. He stated that both sides must now work together to formally end the state of hostilities and reach peace. Is he unaware that Lee Teng-hui formally declared the termination of the Period of National Mobilization for Suppression of the Communist Rebellion in 1991? Is he unaware that it is only the PRC that threatens to invade Taiwan if it does not accept its terms? Is he unaware that the constantly increasing number of missiles pointed at the other side is only happening on one side of the Taiwan Strait? Lien Chan seemed to be crying to the "Global Times" and through it to the Chinese people, "See how hard I have been trying, but no one listens to me."

Chen Shui-bian continued to be Lien's apparent villain in the interview. Chen Shui-bian was suggesting numerous things like proposals for constitutional amendments and referendums - things that are common place in a democracy, but for Lien Chan they were obviously too "provocative" to their neighbor China.

Lien Chan finally justified his trip to China in 2005; he went because he wanted to express what he felt was the voice of the "majority of the people in Taiwan" to be heard in China. Could not the people of China simply read the pan-blue dominated media reports coming from Taiwan? Was there such a firewall under Chen Shui-bian that no news from Taiwan could reach the other side of the Taiwan Strait? With all the money of the KMT and the fact that it always controlled the Legislative Yuan, was Chen Shui-bian somehow still thwarting all their efforts?

Ma's government did decline to host the Cross-Straits Economic and Culture Forum despite Lien's efforts. And with the surveys continually run by National Chengchi University indicating that an ever-increasing number of Taiwanese oppose unification, one can only wonder is Lien Chan the only one who is asking "Who moved the Taiwan cheese?" Perhaps the "Global Times" and the CCP should be asking the same question. What are the changing attitudes of the people in Taiwan about democracy? Why does Taiwanese identity continue to grow? What matters most to the people of Taiwan? They may not like the answer, but avoiding the question won't help.