FEATURE: Presidential Office under fire over Chen’s last visit*




PARTY PROBLEMS: Mishandling senior politicians who wanted to host banquets for the visiting Chinese official and the cost of talks are two of the complaints

By Ko Shu-ling
Tuesday, Jan 19, 2010, Page 3


The Presidential Office’s efforts to micro-manage cross-strait affairs during last month’s visit by Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait (ARATS) Chairman Chen Yunlin (陳雲林) has had many repercussions, with the office roundly condemned from all angles.

Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) Chairman Chiang Pin-kung (
江丙坤) has responded to the criticism by floating the idea of simplifying the talks.

The Presidential Office upset many senior Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) figures during Chen’s visit when it tried to limit social functions for the envoy and former KMT chairmen Lien Chan (
連戰) and Wu Poh-hsiung (吳伯雄), and People First Party (PFP) Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜).

Lien ended up attended a dinner hosted by Taichung Mayor Jason Hu (
胡志強) and Wu, as well as one hosted by Miaoli County Commissioner Liu Cheng-hung (劉政鴻). Soong skipped both banquets to meet Chen at his hotel at Sun Moon Lake.

Soong later criticized the foundation for not being “very skillful” in conveying the message from President Ma Ying-jeou (
馬英九) that it was not a good idea for political parties to host banquets for Chen

At the time, Chin Ching-sheng (
秦金生), the PFP secretary-general, said leaders should not try to monopolize the cross-strait relationship, while the director of Lien’s office, Ting Yuan-chao (丁遠超), criticized Ma for not allowing Lien to host a banquet for Chen.

Soong, Chin and Ting also insinuated that Ma did not fully appreciate Soong and Lien’s efforts to improve cross-strait relations, saying that had it not been for Lien and Soong’s visits to China in 2005, Chen’s visits would never have occurred.

Finding himself caught between Ma and senior politicians, Chiang then proposed separating the cross-strait talks from tourist-oriented activities. There was even discussion about signing future agreements via document exchange as a way of cutting costs.

The biannual cross-strait talks are costly because of security and travel expenses as well as losses suffered by businesses in the vicinity of the talks’ venues.

For example, while Chen and his delegation arrived on Dec. 21, the actual talks lasted just one day. The Chinese delegation had two days of sightseeing before leaving early on Dec. 25. Information obtained by the Taipei Times showed that the December meeting cost the treasury more than NT$7.9 million (US$248,000), with the foundation paying NT$7.12 million and the Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) NT$822,285. However, this did not include security and other expenses because the National Police Administration and Taichung City Government have not tallied their costs.

Last month’s meeting was the most expensive of the four cross-strait talks held since Ma took office in 2008. The second most expensive was the second meeting in November 2008 in Taipei, which cost NT$4.12 million. The third round in Nanking last June cost NT$3.65 million, while the first one in June 2008 in Beijing cost NT$2.1 million.

Describing the Soong-Lien-Chen controversy as a storm in a teacup, former presidential adviser Lin Huo-wang (
林火旺) said in a letter to the Chinese-language United Daily News that he did not think the public should blame Soong and Lien for being difficult because the crux of the problem lay with the administration.

“Politics emphasizes power. The power of democratic politics is the people,” he said. “If the government wins the hearts of its people, there will not be any noise. Even if there are different voices, they will not pose a threat ... so the biggest problem with Ma Ying-jeou’s [administration] is not the senior politicians, but himself.”

Political analyst Shih Cheng-feng (
施正峰) holds a similar view, saying that he understood why Ma had prevented senior KMT members and others from meeting Chen — because he wanted to show them who was boss in cross-strait affairs.

“But he did it so crudely that he not only offended his own people, but also outsiders,” Shih said.

Shih said business should be separate from pleasure because cross-strait negotiations were a serious undertaking. Wining and dining should be secondary, he said, adding: “It’s better not to mix public matters with private affairs.”

Tung Chen-yuan (
童振源), a professor at the Graduate Institute of Development Studies at National Chengchi University, said Soong and Lien had laid the groundwork for cross-strait relations, though Ma apparently did not agree.

Compounding the problem was Ma’s poor job in communicating, so when he did make a demand — such as the ban on extra banquets for Chen — it was bound to backfire, Tung said.

Cross-strait talks should be kept separate from sightseeing because shorter stays would not only lower costs and reduce social conflict, but also resolve the pan-blue camp’s internal dissension, Tung said.


*《Taipei Times2010/1/19