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The beginning of Taiwan's new era

By Cao Chang-Ching 曹長青

The Taipei Times
Monday, March 20th, 2000

Using the ballot, the people of Taiwan cast out the 50-plus years of KMT control and voted for a new beginning for Taiwan. And for the first time in modern history, the Taiwanese have become masters of their own country.

The election clearly shows that the Taiwanese do not surrender to threats -- neither those of the Communists nor of those of the Nationalists -- and they do not accept the so-called "one country, two systems" formula. They have a high regard for their own dignity and their own sovereignty.

The election shows that the Taiwanese are tired of the half-century-long one-party rule and fed up with "black gold." They want a fresh new leader, who has no bureaucratic baggage, to bring some real change and new hope to Taiwan's future.

The election demonstrates the maturity of Taiwan's voters. The shift of power means the beginning of a real democracy. Although the three main candidates ran neck and neck, the result was not clear until election day and the campaign rallies always had tens of thousands of people, but there was no chaos or violence during the whole election process.

The election also sends a clear signal to the people and leaders on the other side of the Strait that if, under the same cultural background, the Taiwanese can have a successful election, so can the Chinese. If the rule of one of the two strong parties that each governed a side of the Taiwan Strait for more than 50 years has reached to its end, the other will not survive too long.

The greatest significance of the election is not which candidate won, but the victory of the Taiwan people's free will. They voted to decide their own fate and own future, and they voted to join the worldwide trend of democracy.

Chen Shui-bian's win means an end to strongman politics. It will be good for producing a small government and big society in Taiwan and it will also help the reconciliation between native Taiwanese and mainlanders.

Faced with the outcome of the election, Beijing will certainly use all its propaganda machinery to turn up its war threats to full volume to create a tensions across the Strait. No matter how Chen expresses his intention fordialogue and negotiation, Beijing is simply convinced that Chen wants independence with every fiber of his being.

However, like all of its previous wars of words against Taiwan and other democracies, China simply has to cool down and face the Chen government; what other tactic they can use? Carry out a real military attack on Taiwan? Well, when it comes to reality, the Chinese government is simply not as brave as those bold pro-reunification media on both sides of the Strait.

The Communists' history has proved countless times that, like all thugs, no matter how reckless they may appear, when weighing true gains and losses, they are the most realistic of all. Who will believe that dictators of Beijing will exchange real power for an illusion of controlling a people they have never ruled for a single day?

Of all Beijing's top policies, stability is above and beyond everything. And nothing could shake China's stability harder than carrying out an abortive war against Taiwan. Faced with mountains of domestic political and economic problems, the Communist Party simply doesn't dare to gamble on its own power for Taiwan.

They are not in the dark over the fact that Taiwan is a raising democracy and China is simply surviving as a dictatorship. To keep breathing is lucky enough for Beijing's leaders; where is their strength to attack the free world? If the peaceful exercises of Falun Gong could scare them to death, they can have no doubt that a war would bury them.

Therefore, after all the fuss, the Chinese government will have no alternative but accept Taiwan's reality and deal with the Chen government. Only then can a serious, equal negotiation begin -- and only after China treats Taiwan equally will reconciliation be possible.


Cao Chang-ching is a New York based writer and journalist. He is a special presidential election analyst for the Taipei Times.

2000-03-20

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