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March 30, 2004 TAIWAN ELECTION: CHEN'S 'RAZOR-THIN' WIN HIGHLIGHTS 'POLARIZATION'

March 30, 2004

TAIWAN ELECTION: CHEN'S 'RAZOR-THIN' WIN HIGHLIGHTS 'POLARIZATION'

KEY FINDINGS

 

** Chen backers in Taiwan urge an end to domestic "bitterness" after the 20 March election.

** Chen critics in Taiwan say "most people still support maintenance of the status quo."

** Mainland, Hong Kong dailies warn Taiwan's "split" electorate is causing "social chaos."

** Outside the region, dailies urge both sides to exercise the "utmost finesse" to avert conflict.

 

MAJOR THEMES

 

Taiwanese must 'strive for more solidarity'-- Pro-Chen Taiwanese dailies declared Chen's win a victory for "the new core values of Taiwan identity and democracy." The Taiwan News added that the "rise of a majoritarian consensus of Taiwanese identity" now favors "consolidating Taiwan's independence." These papers urged the opposition to "cease fueling public protests" over the vote, though the Taipei Times termed the demand for a recount "reasonable given the narrow margin" of Chen's victory. Other writers accused the opposition of seeking a "political coup" to topple "a government endorsed by a clear majority."

Referendum's defeat is a 'clear rejection' of Chen's 'anti-China positions'-- Pro-opposition writers said the failure of the "China-baiting referendum" proved Chen's "political trick could fool nobody." But they also pondered Taiwan's "image as a democracy"; centrist China Times warned that post-election "polarized confrontations" harmed "Taiwan's democratic foundations." Conservative United Daily News accepted Chen's success, acknowledging that the "Taiwan people identify with Taiwan as an entity," not China. Other writers cautioned Chen against new moves toward independence, with conservative China Post worrying about a "possible destructive war" if there is "change of the status quo."

The 'continued controversy' is turning Taiwan's democracy into a 'mockery'-- In China, papers split ideologically. Pro-PRC outlets in Macau and Hong Kong said the election "caused confrontations and divided society" and was a "fuse for social instability." Beijing's official Global Times alleged that "instability in Taiwan has caused its stock market to fall violently." Independent Hong Kong papers hoped an "early recount could bring normalcy," but labeled Chen's "paper-thin electoral victory...an unpleasant surprise to Beijing." Hong Kong dailies also worried that Taiwan's post-election "chaos" dealt a "heavy blow" to Hong Kong's desire for "democratic development and constitutional reform."

Chen must 'show restraint'-- In Asia, editorialists judged that the Taiwanese had "scant appetite for changing the status quo" and rejected "hasty demands for independence." Singapore's pro-government Straits Times concluded voters told Chen to "temper his zeal for taking China on"; Japan's conservative Sankei added that Chen's "major task" during his next term is to "improve relations with China." Euro outlets agreed, as Germany's centrist Der Tagesspiegel advised Chen to "pursue a moderate China policy" because "Taiwan's electorate has made clear that it does not wish further confrontation" with Beijing.

EDITOR: Ben Goldberg

 

EDITOR'S NOTE: Media Reaction reporting conveys the spectrum of foreign press sentiment. Posts select commentary to provide a representative picture of local editorial opinion. This report summarizes and interprets foreign editorial opinion and does not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Government. This analysis was based on 67 reports from 11 entities over 21 - 29 March 2004. Editorial excerpts from each entity are listed from the most recent date.

 

ASIA-PACIFIC

TAIWAN: "A Temporary Respite In Maintaining The Status Quo"

The conservative, pro-unification, English-language China Post editorialized (3/29): "Beijing and Washington may have heaved a sigh of relief to see Taiwan's first national referendum defeated, and the island's status quo spared. But the respite is only temporary, if the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party wins a mandate for another four years.... It is obvious that the real purpose of the referendum had nothing to do with either missile defense or cross-strait peace talks as president Chen had claimed. It had everything to do with the DPP's charter which enshrines referendum as the means to achieve the goal of Taiwan's independence.... The defeat of the referendum, which failed to pass the threshold 50 percent of all eligible voters in Taiwan, gave Beijing some cold comfort that referendum was not popular in Taiwan and Chen Shui-bian's political trick could fool nobody.... The failure, however, is no guarantee that the DPP and Chen will not try again. This is where the danger lies. The United States and mainland China must look at the danger seriously and seek some alternatives to avoid it. Such alternatives include initiatives to encourage Taiwan and mainland China to re-open dialogue, to discourage either side to change the status quo of the past five decades. George Bush or his successor must use his leverage over Beijing and Taipei to forestall a possible destructive war stemming from the change of the status quo."

"How Is Chen Shui-bian Going To Build A Consensus For Taiwan In The Next Four Years?"

Wu Tien-jung commented in centrist, pro-status quo China Times (3/28): "Chen should be fully aware that the DPP's success does not represent Taiwan's success and that his close victory is still overshadowed by the attempted assassination. Of course, the DPP can say that half of the voters who did not vote for Chen do not necessarily oppose him. But given the serious confrontations between the Pan-Blue and Pan-Green camps before the election as well as after the election outcome, the polarization of the public is quite evident.... Will Taiwan's democratic foundation be able to stand a test given such polarized confrontations?.... Another thing that [Chen] must be careful in dealing with is the state of cross-Strait relations. Just as has been observed by the international media, the March 20 election has demonstrated Taiwan's consciousness as a discrete entity. But even with the strong manipulation of the DPP government, Taiwan's first referendum still failed to win the required majority support. We cannot speak for those voters who refused to pick up their referendum ballots. But what we can be sure of is that most people still support the maintenance of the status quo. What's more important is that ethnic disputes in Taiwan seem to have gotten worse. Therefore, if Chen wants to really do something about cross-Strait relations in the future, he must first consider public consensus."

"Congratulations Remain The Same, But Time Has Changed And The Good Old Days Are Gone"

Norman Fu wrote in centrist, pro-status quo China Times (3/28): "It is definitely not due to negligence that President Bush did not personally congratulate Chen and Lu on their re-election. It must have been a conscious decision made by the U.S. government, and the message conveyed by such a move gives people much food for thought. Could it be that Bush is still angry at Chen's insistence on holding a referendum after he publicly criticized Chen in front of Wen Jiabao on December 9? Such a possibility cannot be ruled out. But national issues or decisions must go beyond personal feelings and resentment. If so, the message that the U.S. government sought to convey will not be so simple. Perhaps Washington's move is linked to Beijing's concerns about Taiwan's election irregularities. Is it not the case that Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing immediately called Secretary Colin Powell when Taiwan's election results came out? The State Department confirmed that Taiwan was indeed mentioned in the phone conversation between Li and Powell but was tight-lipped about the contents of their conversation."

"Annette Lu's Ultimatum To Bush"

Vincent Chang said in conservative, pro-unification United Daily News (3/27): "The attitude of the U.S. government always has a determining influence [on the international community]. If Washington withholds its congratulatory message [to Chen], many other major countries in the world will follow suit. Without the endorsement of the international community, the credibility of and atmosphere surrounding Chen's victory seems sort of bizarre. Washington sent its congratulatory message Saturday after the Central Election Commission completed its legal procedure by making a formal announcement of the President-elect. For people who are not aware of the situation, they might mistakenly think that such a prudent diplomatic action came about as a result of Annette Lu's loud request.... Perhaps that is why Annette was so anxious to give orders to Doug Paal. She not only named the U.S. in her request for a congratulatory message but also asked the U.S. to send a higher-ranking congratulatory delegation [than before]. Taipei has no diplomatic ties with Washington. Lu should already feel very happy if Washington sends an envoy as important as the respectful former House International Relations Committee Chairman Lee H. Hamilton, who came to Taiwan for Chen's inauguration four years ago."

"Chen Is Releasing 'No Change' Message To Washington and Beijing"

Liu Pao-chieh observed in conservative, pro-unification United Daily News (3/26): "The Pan-Blue supporters' continued gathering on Kaitakelan Avenue to protest and demand a ballot recount has naturally created tremendous pressure and a crisis for President Chen Shui-bian. On the other hand, however, the move also provided Chen with a stage on which he can demonstrate his tolerance and ability to deal with emergency situations as a national leader. It also offered him an opportunity to quench the anger in the hearts of his opponents.... In addition to eliminating public doubt, Chen has taken advantage of his three meetings with opinion leaders in society to demonstrate his broadness of mind to continue looking and moving ahead. He has not only conveyed the message calling for ethnic reconciliation, but also has agreed to embark on constitutional reforms under the condition that the [current] status quo will not be changed. To a certain extent, this means that Chen is sending a message of stability to Beijing and Washington."

"The Key Lies In Washington"

Ma Wei-ming said in centrist, pro-status quo China Times (3/26): "[Vice President] Annette Lu requested in public that the White House send a congratulatory message to Chen and her on their re-election, while the Pan-Blue camp sought to extend their protest front, at the risk of criticism by the general public. In the political storm that broke out in the wake of the March 20 election, both the Pan-Blue and Pan-Green camps not only fought on the political and judicial battlefields, but also made diplomacy a third battlefield, and likely to end up as the most crucial of all. Whether, when and how the U.S. expresses its attitude toward the Taiwan election will have a determining influence on its final result.... As a result, the current chaotic situation is expected to settle down, once the U.S. takes action. It is not difficult to tell that the wrestling between the two camps in Washington must be very harsh. Regardless of whether Washington does something or does nothing, the new Taipei government, in addition to its already intimate relations with Washington, will surely act more obediently toward the U.S. after May 20."

"U.S. Has No Reason Not To Recognize Chen's Win"

Liu Kuan-teh noted in the pro-independence, English-language Taipei Times (3/26): "The Bush administration's adoption of the wait-and-see approach toward Taiwan's post-election change displayed a lack of respect to Chen as well as little understanding of Taiwan's election law.... [T]here is no justifiable reason not to recognize his presidency. Whether or not Washington's ambiguous reaction to the election is being manipulated by China or the pan-blue camp remains unknown, but such a vague gesture helps to reinforce the pan-blue camp's calls to invalidate the election. Both Lien and Soong have been telling their supporters that the U.S. has not sent a message to Chen because it also has doubts about the legitimacy of the results. Is this the consequence of the U.S.' non-involvement policy? Moreover, Washington's delay in congratulating Chen will prolong the dispute and could jeopardize the very progress Taiwan has made in becoming a stable liberal democracy. If the U.S. maintains this policy, it risks sending the wrong message to Taiwan and, potentially, to Beijing, that Washington does not recognize Chen's legitimacy. This would encourage both the pan-blue camp and the PRC government to sabotage Chen."

"Roles Played Wrong: Ruling Party's Followers Wave Green Flag While Opposition Party Supporters Hold National Flag"

Conservative, pro-unification United Daily News editorialized (3/26): "Taiwan society has suffered a serious split because of the March 20 election, and the split obviously occurred at the highest level of national identity. The election results show that half the citizens that waved the ROC national flag during the campaign lost the election, while the other half that held only the green flag and no ROC national flag won. How would such a country continue to operate when the ruling party's supporters wave the green flag and the opposition party followers wave the national flag? The outcome of the election also shows that the Taiwan independence ideology of the green citizens has been further deepened and more apparent. Is this development an asset or a drawback for Chen Shui-bian's administration? It is really difficult to predict whether Taiwan society can still afford it if Chen really wants to fulfill his commitment to a 'referendum on a new Constitution' and even to 'rectify Taiwan's name and

build a new country,' as advocated by Lee Teng-hui."

"Stand Fast, Green Taiwan"

The pro-independence, English-language Taiwan News asserted (3/26): "Faced with the shattering of their illusions of a comeback, the leaders of the defeated KMT camp have employed 'great Chinese nationalism' and deep suspicion of our democratic institutions to launch an attempted political coup against the DPP government to 'reverse the verdict' of the majority of the Taiwan people.... We hope the official ratification of the results by the Central Election Commission today will promote a rapid return to normalcy. The likely acknowledgement of the decision of the majority of the Taiwan people by the United States and other major foreign powers will aid in this process by denying legitimacy to the current extralegal actions of the Lien-Soong camp.... The Chen-Lu victory signifies the fact that the new core values of Taiwan identity and democracy have secured majority support among our 23 million people. This result cannot be reversed. Leaders of the KMT party-state remnant must now also recognize that there is no way back. The PRC authorities should also realize now that if five decades of resistance by the KMT party-state could not stop this trend, neither will their threats.... As for the future, our future task is clear: Continue to stand fast for a green, democratic Taiwan. The U.S. should send a congratulatory letter to Chen as soon as the commission certifies him to be the elected president. Do not let political considerations wound Taiwan's young democracy."

"DPP Plays Beijing Card To Request Congratulatory Message From U.S."

Liu Ping wrote in centrist, pro-status quo China Times Express (3/25): "Washington sources revealed that the DPP government is using Beijing's threats as a bargaining chip in asking the U.S. to send it a congratulatory message as early as possible. Currently, some people in Washington believe that the U.S. will wait quietly for Taiwan to complete its judicial procedures [over the election disputes], so it would not send congratulations to Chen in a hurry. But other people said Washington would likely take the next step when the Central Election Commission makes its formal announcement certifying the President-elect on Friday.... Washington sources said the U.S. knows that it is in a delicate position, and the moves taken by the Pan-Blue and Pan-Green camps in Taiwan also certified this fact. But just because of this, the U.S. is being especially prudent in what it does in order not to give people the impression that it is 'taking sides.' Some people also pointed out that the current stalemate has offered the U.S. more bargaining chips, because both the Blue and Green camps will definitely respect the U.S. more from now on. The U.S. will surely have a stronger say in issues like future cross-strait ties and Taiwan's exchanges with the U.S. For example, Taiwan will respect the U.S.'

intent more if it wants to hold a referendum in the future."

"Ethnic Divisions May Worsen in Post-Election Taiwan"

The conservative, pro-unification, English-language China Post opined (3/25): "President Chen Shui-bian once claimed that his being elected would help enhance ethnic harmony. Yet, careful observers of Taiwan society...testify that this has not been the case. The DPP is devoted to the permanent separation of Taiwan from mainland China, a goal enshrined in its platform. This ideological value of the party alone makes any call from President Chen for ethnic harmony a hollow one. A great many of the island's residents consider themselves Chinese and find it hard to agree with independence advocates. What makes the promotion of social harmony even harder is some politicians' tendency to exploit provincial differences to gain political gains. Chen, deplorably, is one of these men. The president has been using the ethnic card in electoral battles as a strategy to win over native voters. He has portrayed himself as representative of the Taiwanese, accusing his political rivals of siding with the leadership in Beijing.... The on-going islandwide protests over the outcome of the March 20 election may come to an end if a recount of the ballots shows he [i.e., Chen] is really the winner. But even if that happens, Taiwan could be in for four years of social unrest and ethnic discord."

"Blues' Distrust Of Democracy Evident"

The pro-independence, English-language Taipei Times editorialized (3/25): "As long as the confrontation does not subside, Lien and Soong can avoid taking responsibility for their election defeat and avoid internal criticism. Their plan to use the demonstrations to secure power is apparent in the conclusion reached at yesterday's KMT Central Standing Committee meeting. A party chairman who lost two elections would normally step down to allow a new leadership to carry out party reform. But yesterday the committee passed a resolution confirming Lien's leadership. One could almost admire the survivor instinct that has not only enabled Lien to remain at the helm of the KMT but has even seen his power consolidated. Once could admire it, if not for the realization that both Lien and Soong appear willing to sacrifice this nation's stability and international image for the sake of their own vanity and political ambitions."

"Taiwan Must Reject 'Blue' Violence"

The pro-independence, English-language Taiwan News contended (3/25): "The re-election of President Chen Shui-bian marks the rise of a majoritarian consensus of Taiwanese identity.... The growth of pan-green votes from 39.3 percent in March 2000 to over 50 percent Saturday will help the authorities of the People's Republic of China and international society to realize that Taiwan's mainstream public opinion has flowed in the direction of consolidating Taiwan's independence from China.... The Taiwanese people have made their intelligent choices by a rational process of voting, but these antiquated politicians [i.e., Lien Chan and James Soong] still try to linger and play their power games through irrational means.... Perhaps Lien and Soong believe that they can rely on the permanent generation and renewal of this clash to resist the mighty torrent of genuine democracy and postpone the inevitable factional struggle for power within their own camp. But their private desire to remain in play forces our society to pay the bill and may yet spark even more tragedies of physical as well as verbal violence results. In sum, this is the violence of the remnant 'pan-blue' camp, which is breeding anger, unfulfilable desires and frustrations and atrocities for the language that serves as the lubricant for dialogue in our society."

"What Course Will Future Cross-Strait Relations Take?"

Norman Fu commented in centrist, pro-status quo China Times (3/24): "Is war the only way to decide the future of cross-Strait relations? Chen Shui-bian is more qualified to answer this question than Beijing, because he holds the key to war and peace. If Chen plays by the timetable set by Lee Teng-hui to institute a new Constitution in 2006 and finish building a new country by 2008, war will be unavoidable. Some people may say this prediction resorts to sensationalism. But when 'Taiwan independence' moves closer and closer and corners Beijing, will China just await its doom and do nothing? Of course, some people believe that with U.S. protection of Taiwan, Beijing will not dare to easily start a war in the Taiwan Strait at the risk of conflict with Washington. But let's not forget that during the Korean War, China fought with the U.S. for the North Koreans and both sides drew, not to mention that this would be a sacred war [for China] to maintain 'sovereignty and territory.' Is there really no hope for cross-Strait ties in the aftermath of Taiwan's election? The writer does not think so. But Chen must demonstrate exceptional courage and wisdom in order to handle this problem that concerns Taiwan's safety and the well-being of future generations."

"Opposition Lawsuits Challenge Legitimacy Of Chen's Victory"

The conservative, pro-unification, English-language China Post declared (3/24): "Chen has a crucial role to play in the election lawsuits and must not shirk the responsibility on the grounds that the legal disputes are matters needing to be handled by the relevant courts of law. That is only partly true. The judicial institutions cannot address all of Lien's demands, some of which go beyond their authority and require the involvement of the president.... The challenge for Chen is that if he cannot appropriately respond to the opposition's demands, he would be unable to persuade the thousands of angry protesters to end their demonstrations staged in front of the presidential office since Saturday night.... The post-election political contests have already tarnished Taiwan's image as a democracy. The international community has been watching developments here with growing concern, worrying that a continuation of the contest will not only jeopardize domestic stability, but may also lead to greater tensions with Beijing. In fact, Chen's own credibility and interests are also at risk. Unless he can resolve the election disputes with the opposition properly, he might be unable to win recognition of his re-election by Washington and other foreign governments."

"Abiding By The Law"

The pro-independence English-language Taipei Times editorialized (3/24): "The pan-blue demonstrators' demand for a recount...is reasonable given the narrow margin of victory. With Chen already having given his consent and the Legislative Yuan having begun negotiations to pass the needed amendment, hopefully a recount procedure can be organized in the next few days. What is not reasonable is the demand by KMT Chairman Lien Chan, People First Party Chairman James Soong and others in the pan-blue camp that Chen throw out the rule of law and issue an emergency decree in order to resolve the controversy. They are urging him to act like a dictator--after spending the whole campaign attacking him for his supposed dictatorial ways. That the pan-blues should feel comfortable trying to return Taiwan to martial law should come as no surprise. It should also be no surprise that Chen and other members of the DPP, who spent a large part of their lives fighting the KMT autocratic rule, are not willing to see a return to such tactics and want the rule of law to prevail."

"We Must Not Bow To Attempted Coup"

The pro-independence English-language Taiwan News opined (3/24): "In a word, the intent is to engineer a political coup of state that would remove a government endorsed by a clear majority of citizens and allow the pan-KMT alliance to regain through mass political pressure what they could not regain at the ballot box--a restoration of their autocratic control over Taiwan. Foreign governments should take note that the refusal of the KMT-PFP alliance to accept the DPP government's proposal for a rapid legislative-administrative recount and match Chen's commitment to abide by the result of such a recount has torn away the last shreds of legitimacy of their objections.... President Chen must resolutely defend these gains [of hard-won democracy] by refusing to bow to the demands by the KMT-PFP camp to reverse the people's verdict by agreeing to any form of a declaration of a state of emergency or to step down from office.... The main hopes for a solution to the current crisis rest with the wisdom and resolution of the vast majority of our citizens, including those who voted for Lien and Soong, to refuse to support this dangerous adventure so that Taiwan can successfully move through this crisis of transition to a full and consolidated democratic system."

"Both Sides Foster Maintenance And Development Of 'Status Quo'"

Conservative, pro-unification United Daily News editorialized (3/23): "A major achievement regarding the cross-Strait relations has been attained during this March 20 election, namely, the recognition and securing of the 'status quo'.... Washington, Tokyo, and Beijing all advocated that 'the status quo must not be altered.' To strike a balance, President Chen, even though having hinted or implied during his campaign manipulations that 'status quo may be changed,' still concluded in the end that 'the status quo will not be altered' [which]...means that Taiwan continues to maintain its constitutional system as 'the Republic of China.' In contrast...the so-called 'change in the status quo'...basically means the Taiwan independence movement.... Through the debates during the campaign, it is generally acknowledged by all sides that the 'status quo' must and can be accepted. It means that all sides have agreed that under the constitutional operations of the 'Republic of China,' Taiwan and 'Taiwan independence' are not the same. If 'to maintain the status quo' is the common factor that can be acknowledged and accepted by all sides, how to 'maintain the status quo' will then be the joint responsibility of leaders of both sides of the Taiwan Strait."

"Reflections Following Election--Future Taipei-Washington Ties"

Norman Fu wrote in centrist, pro-status quo China Times (3/23): "Without doubt, Chen 's strong promotion of his referendum plan during the March 20 election has indeed upset the U.S., even though it did not harm Washington's firm commitment toward Taiwan's security.... As a result, it will be Chen's priority to repair Washington's trust and faith in Taipei..... This November's U.S. presidential election will lend definite uncertainty to the future Taipei-Washington ties.... No matter who heads the White House, the U.S.' one China policy and its basic position in maintaining Taiwan's freedom, democracy and security will remain the same. But it is uncertain whether the relations and communication channels between Taipei and Washington will remain to be as smooth as they are now."

"Restoring A Broken Mirror"

Conservative, pro-unification, English-language China Post commented (3/23): "Taiwan is in the grip of grave disparities. The island's first and China-baiting referendum, ostensibly for defense and peace purposes as President Chen had vigorously promoted was invalidated for lack of public support.... It was the people's clear rejection of the president's anti-China positions...failing to meet the valid requirement of support from at least half of the voting public. The president has voted to go it alone anyway.... Protests and demonstrations against foul play and an unfair election will gradually ease. But people's doubts and questions about their leaders' integrity and the government's credibility will linger if no satisfactory explanations are given in time."

"It's Time To Make Peace"

Pro-independence, English-language Taipei Times had this view (3/23): "With widespread coverage being given to blue-camp protests in the international media, governments the world over, including those of the U.S. and Japan, have refrained from recognizing the election outcome in the manner they would prefer, instead waiting until the result is confirmed. With unrest on the streets, and international silence regarding his presidency, the road ahead certainly does not look smooth for Chen's administration.... Lien and Soong should respect the wish of all people for stability, put their trust in the legal system and cease fueling public protests. Chen should continue to play down his victory and work towards securing harmonious relations between the political parties. The end of the election should be accompanied by an end to the bitterness that is injuring all of us."

"'Pan-Blue' Actions Harm Taiwan's Democracy"

Pro-independence, English-language Taiwan News noted (3/23): "[T]he protests instigated by Lien and Soong have had incurred serious damage to Taiwan.... The consequence of this deliberate attempt to surpass the rule of law will weaken Taiwan's ability to say 'no' to Beijing based on the soundness of our legal system. In coping with the threat from a rising China, Taiwan's people have to strive for more solidarity instead of undermining the foundations of our common project to build democracy and maintain social stability and setting aside the common effort to build a clean and efficient government based on the rule of law to make the country a strong competitor in the international market. From this angle, what Lien and Soong threaten to shatter is not just the legitimacy of our legal system, but the foundations of democracy and the rule of law as our most important defensive mechanism to protect Taiwan."

"The Next Four Years"

Journalist Liu Yung-hsing observed in the conservative, pro-unification United Daily News (3/22): "in the wake of political democratization, no political figure interested in the presidency can neglect the fact that Taiwan people identify with Taiwan as an entity. Emphasizing Taiwan's independent international status in contrast to that of China will be common language shared by both the ruling and opposition parties."

"Challenges Of the 'New Chen Shui-Bian Era'"

Journalist Chang Rei-chang commented in the centrist, pro-status quo China Times (3/21): "Judging from Taiwan's democratic development process, the March 20 election marks an very important watershed. Chen Shui-bian's victory, after all, shows that DPP rule will not be short-lived. After four years of a chaotic political situation and the restrictions faced by 'a minority ruling party against a majority opposition party,' DPP rule for the next four years symbolizes that the first Taiwanized political party to be established after World War II has passed the test of the majority vote."

CHINA: "Taiwanese Society Falls Into Chaos"

Lian Jintian, Wu Yaming and Wu Wei commented in official Communist Party-run international Global Times (Huanqiu Shibao) (3/26): "Questionable points regarding the gun-shooting accident are: first, the spot report revealed that there was a large bloodstain on the right corner of Chen Shuibian's coat after he was shot, but the bloodstain disappeared on the photo of him stepping into hospital. Second, he went to the more distant hospital rather than the closer one. Third, Chen Shui-bian had no 'feeling' of pain. If a wound is in the stomach, he should not be able to wear a suit or belt. But on the 20th Chen wore a suit and he even made a full bow to his supporters. Fourth, the bullet 'walked' around his stomach. After the shooting, everybody looked for the bullet and finally found it in Chen's clothes. Police said since Chen habitually wears his trousers loose, the bullet fell out from the wound. Fifth, the bodyguards were very 'careless.' Many media have questions about why Chen Shuibian and Lu Xiulian would be in the same car. The tragedy caused by the election and wave of emigration is now bothering Taiwan.... Fear of the pilots flying away has brought a halt to training. Instability in Taiwan has caused its stock market to fall violently."

"Taiwan's 'Referendum' Plot Fails"

Li Tianfang commented in the official Communist Party international news publication Global Times (Huanqiu Shibao) (3/22): "Chen Shui-bian's '3/20 referendum' is finished.... Because the vote did not achieve a majority, the 'referendum' is not valid. The CCP Central Committee's Taiwan Affairs Office and State Council's Taiwan Affairs Office issued a declaration on the issue: 'On March 20, the Taiwan Authorities persisted in holding a 'peace referendum,' trying to ignite cross-Strait relations and split the country. The results of the referendum were ineffectual. Facts prove that illegal behavior can't gain people's support. Any intention to separate Taiwan from China is destined to fail.'... There are various reasons for the 'referendum' being negated. First, the Taiwanese worried that were the 'referendum' to pass, Chen Shui-bian could have access to 'setting up a country through a referendum.' Then a cross-Strait war will be unavoidable.... Second, the 'referendum' is the result of a political fight on the island; it is a 'political protection' tool for Chen Shui-bian.... And ordinary Taiwanese found out that there was no alternative option for the two referendum themes, and therefore they thought there was no reason to hold the 'referendum.' Third, the Taiwan 'referendum' encountered various criticisms from the U.S., Japan, EU and Southeast Asia."

CHINA (HONG KONG SAR): "Taiwan Election Lays Obstacles For Hong Kong Democracy"

Independent Chinese-language Ming Pao Daily News opined (3/29): "Taiwan's presidential election has undergone twists and turns. The surprising outcome triggered a constitutional crisis. Amid the Taiwan election, Hong Kong is having heated debates over its constitutional development. The Central government has not yet made up its mind.... The close contest in the Taiwan election between the blue and green camps has seriously split society. Due to the Taiwan election, Beijing is believed to be on guard against universal suffrage in Hong Kong. Last Friday, the National People's Congress Standing Committee suddenly announced that it would reinterpret the laws regarding Hong Kong's constitutional reform. This is just the latest example of Beijing wariness.... The elections in Taiwan set a bad example for Hong Kong. Before and after the Taiwan election, there were societal divisions and confrontations. Public feelings were aroused and violence was on the verge of breaking out. The political instability caused the stock market to dive. The Taiwanese currency was under pressure. Beijing and some Hong Kong businessmen who reject universal suffrage may think that if Hong Kong elects its Chief Executive, similar instability will occur in Hong Kong. Capital will flow out, which will jeopardize the Hong Kong economy. On the surface, the worry caused by Taiwan's election is reasonable. However, Hong Kong's situation is, after all, quite different from Taiwan. To assume that the obstacles faced by Taiwan in developing democracy will be the same faced by Hong Kong is unfair and unscientific."

"Taiwanese People Can Raise Their Heads, Can The Taiwanese President Do The Same"

Independent Chinese-language Hong Kong Economic Times commented (3/29): "Five hundred thousand Taiwanese people held a large-scale rally on Saturday to demand justice in the presidential election. The rally concluded in a rational and peaceful manner. It demonstrated the high-degree of democratic accomplishment of the Taiwanese people. However, if Taiwan wants to remove the blemish on democracy caused by the election, it must rely on the performance of the Taiwanese political parties.... In the past, Ah-bian, who was also a street fighter, condemned the autocracy of the person in power. Now, Ah-bian is in power. Does he have leniency to let people protest in the street? The Taiwanese people's peaceful rally has won respect from all over the world.... As long as the person in power can safeguard a fair election and reveal the truth behind the shooting, Taiwan society will be saved from further division and the democratic image of Taiwan will be saved."

"Ah-bian Wins The Election; Taiwan Loses Democracy"

Center-left Chinese-language Sing Pao Daily News declared (3/28): "After Chen Shui-bian won a razor-thin victory, the Kuomintang-People First Party alliance immediately called for a recount and an investigation of the shooting. However, Chen Shui-bian took no notice of it. Yesterday, the Central Election Commission, which is controlled by the Democratic Progressive Party, announced the election of Chen Shui-bian.... Originally, the Kuomintang-People First Party alliance hoped that the self-claimed 'democratic protector'--the U.S.--would uphold justice. However, after weighing their interests, the U.S. has openly taken the side of Chen Shui-bian. This is a heavy blow to the pan-blue camp.... The international community has always seen the Taiwan election as an example of the democratic development of Chinese society.... This election has dealt a heavy blow not only to Taiwan but also to Hong Kong, which has been pushing for democratic development and constitutional reform, and to all Chinese people."

"Taiwanese Independence Or Democracy, Which Is More Important?"

Independent Chinese-language Sing Tao Daily News remarked (3/28): "Disputes over Taiwan's election have lasted for a week. Yesterday, some five hundred thousand supporters for the Kuomintang-People First Party alliance took to the street to question the outcome of the election. The parties' struggle over the presidential election will, of course, split Taiwan society. People will then ask if Chen Shui-bian, who always upholds democracy, will put Taiwanese independence or democracy first.... A democratic system should be fair and just. In the past, Ah-bian wrapped himself in democracy to win western democratic powers' support, including the U.S. However, in this power struggle, it can be seen that democracy is just a tool Ah-bian is using to achieve his personal goals. This kind of mindset should not be supported--all people who are concerned about the future of Taiwan should think carefully about it."

"Democracy In Action? What A Disappointment"

C.K. Lau remarked in the independent English-language South China Morning Post (3/26): "Taiwan is the only Chinese society that has become a full democracy. But the conduct of its presidential poll last Saturday was a great disappointment to all Chinese who had hoped that the island would set an example for the democratization of the mainland and Hong Kong.... Sadly, largely because of the legacy of the era of one-party rule by the KMT, which had used its executive authority to manipulate the systems in its favor when it was in power, that trust is lacking. And what has transpired before and after the latest poll, which suggests that the DPP is just as manipulative, is not conducive to bringing that about. Desperate to win, both parties' strategists do not seem to mind engaging in unscrupulous practices that are narrowly within the limits of the law. As things stand, the KMT and the DPP are still locked in a zero-sum game that neither can afford to lose. Whether by executive or judicial order, a recount is almost certain to take place. The disconcerting prospect is that whether it is going to confirm Mr. Chen as the winner or install Mr. Lien as president, about half the island's population will not be pleased."

"Don't Rule Out A Military Showdown Over Taiwan"

Michael Richardson held in the independent English-language South China Morning Post (3/26): "Even if the political crisis is resolved in Mr. Chen's favor, another storm cloud with a far wider shadow looms. It is the prospect of a showdown with mainland China in the next few years on the issue of independence.... The key question is where Mr. Chen will try to take Taiwan in the next four years if his political opponents fail in their legal challenges. The narrowness of his win suggests that he will have to move carefully because he cannot claim a sweeping mandate.... But Mr. Chen is unlikely to abandon his quest to secure independent status for the island, which is self-governing, democratic and has a far higher per capita gross national product than mainland China. Taiwan will hold legislative and local elections over the next two years. If Mr. Chen is to mobilize the DPP support base, he will need to talk tough on mainland China.... But Beijing will be in a stronger position to threaten Taiwan within the next few years and the Chinese military buildup will intensify further if the island appears intent on formalizing its separation.... The U.S. accepted the one China principle when it established relations with Beijing in 1979, but has also promised to help defend Taiwan against a military attack. Whoever becomes the next U.S. president may find that reconciling these two commitments will be a difficult task."

"How Can The Democratic Progressive Party Get By So Easily"

Pro-PRC Chinese-language Wen Wei Po declared (3/26): "Just when people inside and outside Taiwan are concerned about how the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) will address suspicions sparked by the election, Taiwanese Vice President and DPP candidate, Lu Hsiu-lien, yesterday publicly pushed the U.S. by saying 'We hope that we can receive a formal congratulation from U.S. President Bush before tomorrow.' She also said that 'Chen and Lu will certainly get the certificate of election from Taiwan's Central Election Commission by tomorrow.' All this shows that the DPP is determined to make 'Chen-Lu's reelection' an established fact before addressing the doubts. If the DPP authority ignores the wide-ranging doubts inside and outside Taiwan and clings obstinately to this course, not only will the confrontations and clashes in the island become more acute, but Taiwan will also lose the confidence of the world."

"What Leads To The Serious Social Division In Taiwan?"

Pro-PRC Chinese-language Macau Daily News maintained (3/25): "The election has put the two camps in a dangerous game that neither can afford to lose. They are not just 'leaders' of an election but are fighting for their own living space, lifestyle and ideology. No place except Taiwan could have such a life-or-death election. This is the election culture in Taiwan. And this is what Taiwan calls 'democracy'.... Every time Taiwan holds an election, Taiwan society is divided. People can admire or pursue 'one man one vote,' however, if the legal system or the ethics of the society fail to prevent vote rigging, 'one man one vote' is no longer sacred. On the contrary, it will become the fuse for social instability and clashes. That's why people criticize Taiwan's 'democracy' as full of populism and fanaticism. Under the manipulation of politicians who have ulterior motives, 'democracy' to those kind-hearted voters changed color a long time ago. It has become the tool for politicians to satisfy individual or political party interests."

"Taiwan Needs A Speedy Recount"

The independent English-language South China Morning Post said (3/24): "By all accounts, the polling was free and fair--despite the conspiracy theories about last Friday's attempted assassination of incumbent Chen Shui-bian and his running mate. Mr. Chen, declared the winner by the electoral commission on Saturday night, would have much to gain from a quick, authoritative recount that could confirm his victory.... There are dangers in the retrospective amendment being proposed by Mr. Chen's party. In general, retrospective lawmaking is shunned throughout the world: someone who is acting lawfully one day should not suddenly find that the act has been declared illegal. Taiwan will need to be careful about setting a precedent that would make this easier to accomplish in the future. Then there is the question of the mechanism for an automatic recount in any election where the margin is 1 per cent or less. It is not clear that this is called for.... As for the shooting that caused minor injuries to Mr. Chen and Vice-President Annette Lu Hsiu-lien, the investigation should be allowed to take its course. It is a separate issue from the contested election results and should be seen as such. Continued controversy over the results of Saturday's voting stands to make a mockery of Taiwan's democratic institutions and bring economic uncertainty. An early recount, agreed upon by both parties, will help restore normalcy."

"How To Win Over Taiwan"

Frank Ching contended in the independent English-language South China Morning Post (3/24): "President Chen Shui-bian's paper-thin electoral victory comes as an unpleasant surprise to Beijing. The mainland had, understandably, expected his challenger, Kuomintang chairman Lien Chan, to become Taiwan's new leader, which could have meant that Taiwan would return to the one China principle, even if Taiwan's interpretation differed from that of Beijing. Now, Beijing is faced with four more years of Democratic Progressive Party rule in Taiwan, with the pro-independence party determined to write a new constitution for Taiwan two years from now, and to have that charter come into effect in 2008. Despite Mr. Chen's denial, this scenario has been condemned by the mainland as a timetable for Taiwan independence.... Beijing needs to reverse its priorities. It must accord priority to the welfare of the Taiwanese people.... To show the people of Taiwan that it is indeed solicitous of their welfare, Beijing should give Taiwan as much international space as possible. Taiwan should be allowed, indeed encouraged, to take part in international organizations, as long as statehood is not a requirement. The current policy of isolating Taiwan only creates anger and frustration among people it calls compatriots. It does not help Beijing win friends and influence people in Taiwan.... If Beijing can help them do this now, it will be able to reap a bountiful harvest in terms of goodwill in the future. A hardline policy will be dangerous and counterproductive."

"Ah-bian And Lien-Soong Can Lose, But Not Taiwan's Democracy"

Independent Chinese-language Hong Kong Economic Times commented (3/24): "The most important thing for democracy is not who will win and who will lose. The essence of democracy is a just and open process that enables every candidate to enjoy fair competition. Voters use their rationale and free will to choose the best candidate. A just process will convince the loser and safeguard the winner. However, the Taiwan election this time is all about vote rigging. The odd shooting incident has twisted the results.... Three days after the election, countries in Europe and the U.S. have not yet congratulated Chen Shui-bian. The reason behind this is that they have doubts about Taiwan's democracy.... Taiwan's democratic development does not only have significant meaning for the Taiwanese people and Taiwan's international image, it is also important to democratic development in China and Hong Kong."

"Give Taiwanese Democracy A Clean Record"

Independent Chinese-language Ming Pao Daily News stated (3/24): "If the constitutional crisis continues to get worse and fails to be resolved, the outside world will question whether or not the development of Taiwan's democracy has faltered. Now, Chen Shui-bian finally makes an open declaration that he will accept a recount. Although it comes a few days late, his proposal is reasonable. It will help resolve the constitutional crisis properly.... If Taiwan can pull through this constitutional crisis peacefully and rationally, it will show that Taiwan's democracy is moving toward maturity. It also proves that the Chinese people have the capability to implement democracy. They can use democratic measures and the rule of law to resolve the issue of the transfer of power. To give Taiwan's democracy a clean record, Chen Shui-bian has to give a reasonable explanation of the shooting incident."

"Gambler Politician Comes To Power, Cross-strait Risk Will Increase"

Center-left Chinese-language Sing Pao Daily News opined (3/24): "If Chen Shui-bian succeeds in taking office the second time, with his political mindset, he may actively implement his pledge for 'one side, one country,' 'holding a referendum to stipulate the constitution in 2006,' and 'putting into effect the new constitution in 2008.' This will challenge the government and the public in Taiwan, the Beijing government and the international community. Even if Lien Chan turns the tide miraculously, Taiwan society is still divided over the election process. The different parties cannot come into consensus on cross-strait policy. Even though Lien wants to improve cross-strait relations, it will be difficult for him to do so.... If China further isolates Taiwan, it will make Chen worry about the political risk. However, Europe and the U.S. will not stand by and do nothing. The U.S. yesterday presented a motion in the UN Human Rights Commission to denounce China. The already odd diplomatic situation becomes even more complicated. If both sides across the Strait become enemies, it will benefit, not the Chinese people, but the bystander who is waiting to reap profits."

"Ah-bian Rules Taiwan; The Economy Will Falter"

Independent Chinese-language Sing Tao Daily News said (3/24): "Judging from Ah-bian's past performance, he will not accept the principle of 'one China.' Three links are just empty talk. If he has to make a choice between the economy and political issues, Chen will not hesitate to give up the economy in order to achieve his political objective of promoting Taiwan independence. During his tenure, Ah-bian will wholeheartedly advocate Taiwan independence. He does not have the capability nor does he have the will to boost the economy. If he continues to sir up people's emotions to consolidate his position, it will become more difficult for the society to have any sort of economic breakthrough. Hence, the recent plummet of the Taiwan stock market not only reflects the short-term political instability but also shows that the market has cast a no-confidence vote for the long-term economic outlook."

"Lien-Soong Fights To Win Or Die; Chen Has Difficulty Taking A Step"

Center-left Chinese-language Hong Kong Daily News commented (3/24): "The crisis of the Taiwan election was not alleviated when Chen Shui-bian agreed to recount the votes. Lien Chan believes that Ah-bian's move is just a strategy to buy time. Lien thought that an immediate recount was necessary. Legislators of the blue camp and the green camps fought in the Legislative Yuan. Soong Chu-yu urged Ah-bian to meet with them within 24 hours. Some people think that if Ah-bian refuses to meet with Lien and Soong, the weekend march held by the blue camp will be another turning point. Although the crisis will not die down in the short term, large-scale riots will not break out in Taiwan yet."

"Amending Election Law Can Hardly Stop The Crisis"

Pro-PRC Chinese-language Ta Kung Pao remarked (3/24): "Lien and Soong did not appreciate Chen's compromises. The requests by Lien and Soong are: to start the recount immediately but not to recount the ballots through amending the laws as suggested by Chen Shui-bian...and to have a thorough and fair investigation of the March 13 shooting incident. They also want Chen to clarify why the 'national security mechanism' deprived many soldiers and policemen of voting rights. Lien and Soong's requests are reasonable. However, it will take a long time to resolve all these issues. Under the ruling of the Democratic Progressive Party, it will take even longer. If the issues cannot be resolved fairly and rationally, will the election debates go on forever? Will the opposition party's street protest go on forever?.... Chen Shui-bian's handling of the election campaign and the election debates have made people inside and outside Taiwan fear that antagonism and hatred will be part of Taiwan politics and society for the next four years."

"Taiwan's Chaos Gives Hong Kong Inspiration"

Pro-PRC Chinese-language Wen Wei Po concluded (3/24): "The outside world treats Taiwan's election as an example for Chinese society in developing democracy.... For Hong Kong, which has been discussing constitutional reform, the Taiwan election is a big blow. It has prompted Hong Kong society to think about how constitutional development is geared to the actual situation in Hong Kong.... Although some think that the reason the people who support universal suffrage in 2007 and 2008 have dropped the issue is largely due to the Central government using the media to slash people's expectations. However, they should also see that the heated discussions on principles such as 'one country' as the premise of 'two systems,' and 'patriotism' have given the Hong Kong people a chance to think about constitutional development calmly and rationally. They are adjusting their stance on universal suffrage. The chaos following the Taiwan election has reminded the Hong Kong people that they have to think calmly about what kind of constitutional development will suit Hong Kong."

"Act Of Provenance?"

Frank Ching wrote in the independent English-language South China Morning Post (3/23): "As soon as the shooting was confirmed, it was clear that the situation had changed drastically--for the worse, as far as the KMT was concerned. The confidence was knocked out of Mr. Lien and his associates as they cancelled all campaign activities.... Unless proved otherwise, it appears that the shooting was an act of provenance, changing in one second the outcome of a crucial presidential election. By all means, let there be a recount, since the numbers are so close. But if the recount confirms the DPP victory--and unless legal problems surface to invalidate the election--then the KMT should accept the verdict of the voters and accept that fate was not on their side."

"Both Sides Across The Strait Share Economic And Trade Interests"

Independent Chinese-language Hong Kong Economic Journal observed (3/23): "According to many public opinion polls, the Taiwan public wants to maintain the status quo. The result of the 3/20 referendum proves this. Beijing should analyze the phenomenon and develop a new Taiwan policy.... Both sides of the Strait have close economic ties. Because of this, there are forces in Taiwan that urge for peaceful co-existence with China.... Beijing's best political leverage to influence Taiwan's political situation is through economic and trade relations. As long as cross-strait investment and communication on trade issues increases, the possibility of China using military force against Taiwan decreases. Before and after the 3/20 referendum, the Chinese military did not take any action. This may show that Beijing has taken steps to change its Taiwan policy.... In order to stabilize the political situation, the Democratic Progressive Party may show restraint in its stance on Taiwan's independence. In the next four years, if there is no-war and no-independence, stability and peace may be the norm."

"The Legitimacy Of Chen Shui-bian's Election"

Independent Chinese-language Ming Pao Daily News editorialized (3/23): "Chen Shui-bian secured slightly over 50 percent of the votes in the presidential election.... The current constitutional crisis should show Chen Shui-bian that if he makes use of present public opinion to step up his push for Taiwanese independence, he will only create serious divisions within the Taiwan public.... Even if Chen Shui-bian really won the election, his legitimacy will be questioned by supporters of the pan-blue camp. He may become a 'lame-duck president.' In this situation, Chen Shui-bian would have to concentrate on resolving disputes on the island. If he wants to have any historical impact, he must take the initiative to improve cross-strait relations."

"Taiwan Election Debates Sspark Political And Social Unrest"

Pro-PRC Chinese-language Ta Kung Pao remarked (3/23): "Chen Shui-bian thinks that as long as Washington formally recognizes the election results, he can adopt a tough stance toward Lien and Soong. His goal is to play for time.... If the opposition party's appeal is not successful, Chen Shui-bian will be crowned a 'vote-rigging president' or a 'lying president.' In the next four years, he will have to face a credibility crisis and an administrative crisis.... If the election result is overthrown due to serious faults or miscounting is found, the pan-green camp will definitely not accept the facts. By that time, Taiwan will have to face a grim political and social crisis. Internal disorder may erupt, and that is what Mainland China and Hong Kong are concerned about."

"The Tide Of Unification Cannot Be Stopped"

Pro-PRC Chinese-language Wen Wei Po maintained (3/22): "The shocking situation of the Taiwan election has never been seen before. From prompting confrontations between clans, blackening rivals, revealing scandals of political donations, to the odd shooting incident just before the election, all these give people an impression that this is an election that solicits votes by hook and by crook. Such an election that caused confrontations and divided society will cause irreversible damage to a harmonious society. People should seriously contemplate the lesson they have learned.... A serious crisis has occurred in Taiwan. People outside Taiwan worry that it may cause social chaos and great disturbances in the political situation."

AUSTRALIA: "Taiwan Poll Leaves Threat Of Instability"

The national conservative Australian editorialized (3/22): "Everybody knew that Saturday's election in Taiwan would be close, and it was.... What nobody predicted is that the election would be followed by a dangerous period of instability. Friday's failed assassination attempt on Mr. Chen, together with an abnormally high proportion of invalid votes, has given the opposition Kuomintang party a pretext for challenging the result.... What makes all this even more startling is that, in contrast to the previous two, this poll has been conducted with a low level of interference from China, which still regards Taiwan as a breakaway province. There has been no repeat of the firing of missiles in the seas around Taiwan that accompanied the 1996 poll. This is largely thanks to U.S. President George W. Bush. The U.S. is Taiwan's protective big brother.... Now the onus is upon China to stay well out of Taiwan's contested election and allow the dispute over the poll to be settled in an orderly way. Beijing has always cited a formal declaration of independence, or the outbreak of chaos, as the two triggers for an invasion. This election is neither."

JAPAN: "President Chen's Reelection: China Should Understand the Will of the Taiwanese People"

 

Liberal Mainichi observed (3/22): "Chen won a second term after defeating opposition challenger Lien by a slim margin.... Chen should humbly accept the fact that his advocacy of independence was not overwhelmingly supported by the Taiwanese people.... Both China and the Chen administration should ponder the meaning of the failure of the first-ever national referendum, which...aimed to establish a new constitution of Taiwan.... Chen wants to amend the current constitution during his term of office and that China would take the constitutional revision as a declaration of Taiwanese independence.... The referendum failed because the will of the Taiwanese people did not wish tense relations with China.... We believe that China should pay respect to this wise choice by [Taiwanese] public opinion rather than threatening Taiwan."

"Chen's Reelection: Taiwan's Policy Won Confidence; Both China And Taiwan Must Adopt A Realistic Approach"

Conservative Sankei opined (3/21): "China, which has denounced Chen as an advocate of Taiwan independence, is unlikely to be pleased with the election result.... It has become certain that a peaceful solution to the China-Taiwan issue is no longer possible without respect for Taiwan's democracy and the will of the majority of the Taiwanese people.... The primary reason for Chen's victory--except for the impact of the shooting incident--is that Taiwan residents have been increasingly aware of their identity as Taiwanese and are strongly hoping to protect liberal democratic Taiwan.... China had succeeded in working on the United States, Japan, and France to express opposition to Taiwan's national referendum, which was held alongside the presidential election.... The opposition and concern the United States and Japan have repeatedly expressed since the end of last year have dealt a blow to the Chen camp.... This indicates that China is no longer able to deal with the Taiwan issue as domestic one.... The major task during Chen's second term of office is how to improve relations with China.... The Chen administration also needs to repair soured relations with Japan and the United States over the national referendum.... The expression of opposition to and concern over the referendum [by Japan and the United States] cannot avoid being accused of interference in Taiwan's domestic affairs.... From the viewpoint of international politics, the Chen administration had lacked consideration for Japan and the United States, which are facing such issues as North Korea and terrorism. It concludes that the second-term Chen administration will sometimes need to adopt shrewd and mature diplomacy."

"President Chen's Reelection: Seek A Path Of Dialogue"

 

Moderate Tokyo Shimbun declared (3/21): "We urge President Chen to clearly indicate concrete ways to review relations with China.... We express regret that the 19 March shooting of Chen and the vice president interfered with a democratic election.... The Taiwan authorities should to speed up the investigation into the incident to prevent political and social confusion.... China-Taiwan dialogue has been suspended because China has sharply reacted to Chen's statement that each side [of the Taiwan Strait] is a [separate] country.... In view of close economic exchanges between China and Taiwan...Chen should indicate concrete ideas for opening a door to dialogue with China."

"Chen Wins Re-Election"

Liberal Asahi editorialized (3/21): "Though Chen has claimed he has no intention of changing how Taiwan is run, he has earned a stern backlash from the mainland, which senses his policies will lead to independence.... We must ask why, in the face of such international pressure and the attacks launched by the Lien camp, the voters have chosen Chen, albeit narrowly.... One reason would appear to lie in the surge of popular feeling of being more 'Taiwanese' than 'Chinese.'... This points to a clear gap between the sea change in Taiwanese public sentiment and the hard realities of international politics. This is where the true dilemma lies for Taipei. We hope that President Chen will adopt a flexible stance toward the mainland, based on a balanced view of the future. Hasty action runs the risk of fomenting mistrust and animosity, which would likely spell confusion for Taiwanese society. The failure of the public referendum to pass can be taken as a warning of this danger. From the mainland, meanwhile, we call for a stance of tolerance. Such broad-mindedness was noticeably absent, we submit, in China's refusal to approve for Taiwan its desired associate membership in the World Health Organization following the outbreak of the SARS epidemic. If Beijing is truly loyal to its 'one China' commitment, it needs to come to grips with the shifting sentiment of the Taiwanese population."

SINGAPORE: "All At Odds In Taiwan"

The pro-government Straits Times opined (3/25): "The mistrust in Taiwan that has clouded the disputed presidential election is growing deeper.... To add confusion to mistrust, the courts yesterday rejected as a matter of course a petition by the losing candidate, Mr. Lien Chan, to have the election result annulled.... Meanwhile, daily protests by thousands of Kuomintang supporters can turn nasty if rival backers of Mr. Chen's Democratic Progressive Party respond in kind. They have kept away, but for how long, if the KMT keeps up its haranguing? With feelings running high, clashes could be dangerous. Mr. Chen will suffer incalculable loss to his credibility the longer the stalemate persists. But there is a growing sense that even a re-count, which has been touted but is far from settled, will not bring closure to the dispute. Mr. Lien's handlers are making it implicit that, parallel with a recount, suspicions about the shooting incident having been staged must be laid to rest. Mr. Chen has to make a quick decision. His credibility has been called into question, and he will be damaged goods if he conducts his office with this matter unresolved."

"Taiwan Election Follies"

The pro-government business-oriented Business Times said (3/24): "One thing is clear in the aftermath of Taiwan's election: the voters have scant appetite for changing the political status quo.... Thus, whatever misgivings Beijing may have had over the elections, the issue of whether the referendum was in fact a dry run for an eventual vote on Taiwan's independence must now be put aside. The voters' disdain...has taken the wind out of Mr. Chen's sails on that issue and even if he keeps the presidency, it is unlikely his Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) will push in that direction again for a long while. Clearly then, China's decision to order its army on combat alert is completely unnecessary, assuming the news reports of this out of Hong Kong are true. Of course, the general situation on the island is not helped by the Kuomintang contender, Lien Chan.... And, in the event that Mr. Chen's victory is confirmed (by recount) and Mr. Lien remains unmoved, he still has recourse to the courts.... Far better then if the Kuomintang and its supporters prepare to deliver on their allegations of electoral foul play in court and wait for the outcome.... Let there be no doubt: stoking riots and unrest is the worst possible way to resolve this dispute.... But if the unrest continues and triggers an external intervention of any sort, East Asia as a whole could be destabilized. There will be no winners then."

"Stabilize Taiwan"

The pro-government Straits Times editorialized (3/22): "Unrest in Taiwan is not unexpected given the circumstances of President Chen Shui-bian's election victory, but the top priority must be to re-establish order and let the law take its course.... It is clear that the Taiwanese electorate is split. Apart from winning the election by such a thin margin, Mr. Chen has lost the referendum on Taiwan's relations with China.... Since the referendum--which Beijing views as a dry run for a declaration of independence--was very much a part of Chen's electoral agenda, Taiwanese voters appear to be telling him to temper his zeal for taking China on. However, those who voted supported the two questions overwhelmingly.... It is obvious that a close division of Taiwanese opinion exists on the all-important issue of cross-Strait relations.... The referendum is now history, but this larger point about the law is what matters in the aftermath of Mr. Chen's razor-thin victory. Victory for either side would be meaningless for Taiwan as a whole if it leads the island down the road of political and economic instability. Let the courts show the way."

SOUTH KOREA: "Taiwanese Election Chaos Holds Lessons For Koreans"

The conservative Chosun Ilbo editorialized (3/22): "With the assassination attempt, Chen was able to pull off a victory with sympathy votes, but the two matters which he put to a referendum were rejected--one, a plan for strengthening Taiwan's military which includes urging China to withdraw 500 missiles pointed at Taiwan, and two, calling for an equal Taiwan-China relationship. It seems that at least on their relations with China, the majority of Taiwanese voters supported Lien's calls for maintaining the status quo and strengthening economic cooperation, rather than hasty demands for independence or drastic changes in the relationship. When we consider that the current confusion in Taiwan was brought upon by using a critical national issue as a vote-getting strategy to make the election even more contentious, there are quite a few lessons that Korean politics, which easily loses self-control before a vote, can learn."

"Lessons Learned From The Taiwanese Presidential Election Process"

The nationalist, left-leaning Hankyoreh Shinmun editorialized (3/22): "Taiwan's political and democratic development will hinge on how wisely it deals with the opposition's refusal to accept the election results and the controversy over Chen Shui-bian's injury.... The Taiwanese government should conduct a recount to dispel suspicions over the election results. It should also disclose all of the facts and details behind the shooting incident in a swift manner."

THAILAND: "Keep Waters Calm Across The Strait"

 

The lead editorial in the top-circulation, moderately conservative, English-language Bangkok Post read (3/28): "Taiwan's President Chen Shui-bian surprised everyone when he agreed on Tuesday to a recount of the very close presidential election of Saturday, March 20.... Chen's offer of a recount, which he will probably win, is thought by many to be a clever move to avoid a new election. The Taiwanese Parliament is now discussing ways to change the election laws, which currently do not allow recounts. If Chen does retain the presidency as expected, the whole world will be watching to see if he continues to pursue a policy aimed at independence from the People's Republic of China.... The situation across the Strait of Taiwan is potentially the most risky and treacherous in the world. The U.S. is in the dicey position of having sworn to defend Taiwan in case of attack and yet acknowledging China's claim of sovereignty over the island.... Given all these considerations, and considering that last week's election, should the results stand, was far from a clear declaration by the people of Taiwan that they want to force the issue, perhaps it would be better for President Chen to be content with the status quo for now and accept that this is not the time to openly challenge the leadership across the strait."

"Taiwan: More Democracy, More Volatility"

 

Kavi Chongkittavorn commented in the independent, English-language Nation (3/22): "Incumbent President Chen Sui-bian's razor-thin victory on Saturday signals two broad but contradictory trends on the island of 23 million people--a growing desire for self-determination versus increasing economic dependency on China. In the coming months, leaders in Beijing and Taipei have to handle this dilemma with utmost finesse. Any misstep would be costly because it could trigger the use of force. But this worst-case scenario could be prevented if both sides across the Taiwan Straits commence the formal dialogue that has eluded them over the past four years. While the failure of the much-feared national referendum on whether to boost Taiwan's military was an obvious setback for Chen, it could open the door for China to kick off formal talks without losing face.... [The referendums' failure] suggests that deep down the Taiwanese do not want to risk the wrath of China, preferring the business-as-usual climate that only Beijing can guarantee. The status quo also serves China's immediate national interests as it continues with economic reform and consolidates its international standing and influence. Despite China's preference for a coalition of the Chinese Nationalist Party and People First Party, the mainland has no choice now but to negotiate with the reigning Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). Further delay would be mutually destructive, as the island's nationalism is on a runaway train while calls for the use of force by hard-liners in Beijing will gain momentum.... Increased uncertainty about China-Taiwan relations is a threat to Asean's economy. A military conflict between the two would be disastrous."

EUROPE

BRITAIN: "The Strait Widens"

The independent weekly Economist observed (3/27): "Mr. Chen has strongly advanced his cause of Taiwanese independence.... Mr. Chen is able to act as he has, it must be said, because he calculates that America, which has pledged to help protect Taiwan, could never stand by while its ally was invaded.... Taiwan has been a model for much of the rest of East Asia. It is also the only real democracy in the Chinese world. Enduring political paralysis would send a lamentable signal to would-be democrats elsewhere."

"The Election Victory That Makes China So Nervous"

Martin Woollacott wrote in the left-of-center Guardian (3/26): "The Spanish elections were not the only recent vote influenced at the last minute by an unexpected act of violence. Across the world in Taiwan, President Chen Shui-bian may well have won re-election because of the sympathy votes that came his way after he and his vice-president were wounded.... The problem of Taiwan lies ahead of China like a dangerous reef in ill-charted waters. All China's hopes of continued economic growth, of defusing its serious internal social tensions through distribution of the fruits of growth, and of becoming an accepted, mature power in the world could be shipwrecked on that reef.... The most important thing to grasp, however, is that Taiwan is already a sovereign country, even if it is one that could choose to merge that sovereignty with another."

 

"Taiwan Wants Freedom"

The conservative Daily Telegraph remarked (3/22): "President Chen Shui-bian of Taiwan has upset both the powers on which the fate of his island ultimately hangs.... George W. Bush does not want to be dragged by Taiwan into a confrontation with China and has reiterated his support for the status quo. Mr. Chen can be criticized for riling his long-time protector across the Pacific, but it is worth examining why he called a referendum in the first place. First, he has long advocated this form of direct democracy. Second, he wanted to circumvent his party's lack of a parliamentary majority. In short, he was responding to the democratic imperative of winning votes.... Their demands will, at times, rock the boat of great power diplomacy, but they spring from democratic yearnings that deserve unhesitating Western support."

GERMANY: "A Divided Land"

Kai Strittmatter editorialized in center-left Sueddeutsche Zeitung of Munich (3/22): "Taiwan is a divided land. Nothing could express this better than the election results, which divided the country into almost identical halves. The island needed reconciliation because it faces great challenges: improving its relations to the hostile China, reforming its inadequate political institutions, and reviving the economy. But it got more anger and new rebels. The election day does not mark the end of the battle but the beginning of a new one.... It was a great success for Chen Shui-bian, unfortunately achieved with ideological mobilization and not realistic politics. Great hopes were on Chen when he became president four years ago after 51 years of KMT power. It might sound like a paradox against the background of his victory, but many voters were disappointed because he has not achieved reforms and the economy slumped into recession during his tenure.... Chen showed that he is a smart politician by forcing people to decide about Taiwan's China policy as well, playing it up as vital question. The referendum failed...but it was not Chen's defeat because he made Taiwan's national identity the most important issue of the election and his challengers helplessly watched him gaining the upper hand."

"Taiwan"

Jonny Erlingcommented opined in right-of-center Die Welt of Berlin (3/22): "Taiwan's young democracy sees its first big crisis. The majority of the re-elected president is very narrow and the context of it is opaque. Nobody can predict whether Chen's victory will be permanent.... Taiwan is threatened with chaos if the legality of the election is decided on the streets or by intrigues. That is the true test for the country's democracy. For the time being, his election does not endanger the region or relations to China. That will not change even if the president, so much hated by Beijing, will be finally declared the winner. His hands are tight concerning his ambition to make Taiwan independent from China. The narrow election and the failed referendum have not given him a mandate to change Taiwan's status quo. This danger resulted in war threats from China and warnings from Washington, Paris and Berlin. The failed referendum means only a time-out for the tensions between leaders of China and Taiwan. In fact, Chen's victory is a great defeat for Beijing because it is further away from reunification than before. In four years Chen mobilized half of the population with a vision of national identity. In four more years he wants to make this vision come true. That is the true time bomb, which starts ticking with his victory."

"Rather Not So Independent"

Harald Maass said in centrist Der Tagesspiegel of Berlin (3/22): "No matter what the name of the future Taiwan president will be, he must pursue a moderate China policy. Chen's mandate is so narrow that it restricts further steps toward a formal independence of Taiwan.... It is even more important that Chen's referendum, which was about the military threat China poses for Taiwan, has failed. Taiwan's electorate has made clear that it does not wish further confrontation with China. For Asia the election is a signal of stability."

DENMARK: "U.S. Must Keep China In Check Over Taiwan"

Center-left Politiken editorialized (3/21): "The world, and primarily the United States, must ensure that China does not misuse the situation in Taiwan."

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