Saturday, December 15, 2007

Chen Shui-bian has Taiwan Bamboozled

Many observers on both sides of the Taiwan Straits are worried that recent actions by Taiwan president Chen Shui-bian aims at misdirection, deploying one of 36 ancient Chinese strategies called “pointing east while attacking west.”

He has publicly avowed that he would not declare martial law in Taiwan and would never roll back the democratic process on the people of Taiwan. His critics fear that all his actions point to just the opposite.

Chen has repeatedly promised not to change the official name from Republic of China, not to declare independence, not to call a referendum that will change Taiwan’s status, and not to change the Constitution from the one-state doctrine.

But Chen has already removed the R.O.C. name from the passports, claimed de facto independence for Taiwan when such claims suited his purpose, and called referendum in past presidential elections that were repudiated by the voters. He has also obliterated public evidence of former president Chiang Kai-shek and rewritten the history of Taiwan.

Chen has been personally driving the referendum on whether Taiwan should apply for UN membership under the name of Taiwan. He wants to stage the referendum at the same time as the next presidential election in coming March.

The U.S. State Department has publicly and privately asked Chen to cease and desist because his actions will only raise tension across the Taiwan Straits. Chen insisted that he is merely following the will of the Taiwan people.

The opposition parties object to holding the referendum at the same time as the presidential election. Chen is persisting despite polls that predict resounding defeat for the referendum, because his objective is just to get enough votes cast--no matter for or against--to legitimize his referendum.

A frustrated Chen recently threatened to call martial law in order to have his way of holding the referendum. He publicly withdrew the threat the next day. It’s hard to know whether he tipped his hand prematurely or he was up to another misdirection ploy.

His latest gambit is to announce to the public of receiving repeated anonymous threats to harm himself, his wife and his family. To offset these alleged threats, he has called for heightened security about the presidential palace. In the meantime, his daughter apparently did not let the threats deter her from visiting Disneyland in Los Angeles.

Many in Taiwan, including the daughter of former president Lee Teng-hui, has asked Chen to stop creating more problems for people of Taiwan but to start solving some of the problems facing Taiwan. Taiwan is rife with speculation as to what Chen has up his sleeves.

Particularly worrying to people of Taiwan is that Chen has replaced all the senior generals in the armed forces with his appointees. His new minister of defense, Lee Tien-yu, admitted in his testimony before Taiwan’s parliament that he placed his loyalty to Chen ahead of loyalty to Taiwan’s constitution.

Chen’s threat is no idle bluff.

If Taiwan’s March election is held as scheduled, Chen would be out of the office by May 2008 and would face jail time for corruption charges. His claim of presidential immunity has protected him so far.

In his re-election bid in 2004, he was heading toward certain defeat by the reunited opposition when his belly was grazed by a mysterious assassin bullet on election eve. The military and police were put on alert. Most of them favored the opposition but could not go off duty to vote.

Chen with a bandage on his tummy squeaked through by the merest margins and took oath for office despite opposition charges of misconduct that were still pending in the courts.

He cannot run again and must think of another way to stay out of judicial trouble. Declaring martial law and canceling the next election would be one way out. Some in Taiwan even believe that Chen is capable of starting a military provocation with the mainland.

Unfortunately Washington has also been guilty of misdirection. On the one hand, State Department’s Thomas Christensen was the most recent spokesperson to ask Chen to abandon the referendum. On the other, the Bush Administration has recently announced sale of advanced ground to air missiles to Taiwan.

No wonder Chen has been assuming that the U.S. will come to his aid.

Considered the best of the 36 strategies, zou wei shang ji, which loosely translates into “getting the hell out when you can,” is also the best way out for Chen, the U.S., China and Taiwan.

Let the U.S. offer Chen, say, Los Angeles as the destination for exile in the manner former Philippines president Ferdinand Marcos found refuge in Hawaii. The threat of military conflict across the straits would vanish and the rest of world can collectively exhale in relief.
Go to here, for review of Chen's earlier deception

No comments: