I’ve tried to stay out of the fray on the current political dispute in Taiwan. First, I’ve never been there. Second, there are bloggers out there far more in touch with the state of affairs in Taipei than I am.
But yesterday on CDT, I read a Financial Times piece on Taiwan president Chen Shui-bian’s plans to “freeze” the current ROC constitution and adopt a new one.
Mr Chen’s comments indicate he could adopt a more audacious course in strengthening Taiwan’s separation from China before he steps down, an approach which would unsettle cross-Strait relations after more than two years of relative quiet.
Mr Chen triggered warnings from China and the US in late 2003 and again in early 2004 when he first proposed a new constitution and pushed for Taiwan’s first island-wide referendum.
His remarks appear designed to regain support among Taiwanese nationalist voters, a group his ruling party badly needs to win over before a series of forthcoming elections.
As the article notes, the original constitution was written in the wake of World War II while the KMT was still on the mainland. For example, the current version is not clear how the “national territory” is defined or where the boundaries of that territory might be, though a common assumption is that it refers to all the territories under Qing control at the time of the 1911 revolution.
Changing the constitution to refer specifically to the borders of Taiwan would signal a major shift in the consitutional definition of the Republic of China and a clear signal of Taiwan’s intentions to separate itself from any larger (or PRC) definition of “Greater China.”
I thought this an oddly provocative move until I saw this morning’s NYT. First came the news that Chen’s wife, Wu Shu-chen, would be indicted on a variety of charges including embezzlement, forgery, and perjury. But as Michael Turton sagely predicted, that was just the warm-up:
Prosecutors said Friday they have enough evidence to indict Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian on corruption charges in connection with his handling of a secret diplomatic fund, increasing the pressure on him to resign.
There is a strong possibility that Chen will be indicted after he leaves office, said Chang Wen-cheng of the Taiwan High Prosecutors’ Office. Under Taiwanese law a sitting president cannot be indicted other than on charges of sedition.
The announcement came after a monthslong investigation into the presidential office’s handling of the fund, which is used to sustain diplomatic efforts abroad.
For myself, I try to stay objective on the Taiwan issue. Part of it is not being as familiar with the situation on the island. A large part of it is not wanting to sleep on the sofa for a week. (YJ has her own strong views on the subject.) That said, I personally don’t think that Chen Shui-bian is some insane fanatic who wants to carve off Taiwan from the mainland and make it a western suburb of Honolulu or Tokyo, nor do I think that the KMT is ready to grab power and simply hand over the keys to the Presidential Palace executive squatter to Hu Jintao and the PLA.
If Chen is corrupt (ahem) then so be it: indict him, try him, and force him to resign. If this is a KMT ploy to shake up the power structure on Taiwan, then shame on them.
But the current spats between blue, green, and all the other colors of the Taipei rainbow connection remind me of the chengyu 鷸蚌相爭 (yu bang xiang zheng). In the old story, a bird and a clam got into a fight (over the clam’s decision to not be dinner) and the bird’s beak became stuck in the clam’s shell. Neither would give and then a fisherman came along, saw the two stuck together and bagged them both.
Don’t be those guys.
Cross posted at The Peking Duck