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The Right Choice for Taiwan: Four More Years
D.J. McGuire
3/13/2004

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The most important election in nearly a decade will soon take place, but it will not be in the United States. It will take place on March 20 in Taiwan, where President Chen Shui-bian is locked in a tight battle for re-election. For the sake of the cause of liberty, Chen must be re-elected.

Communist China has made it clear that it will only accept Chen’s opponent, Nationalist Lien Chan, as Taiwan’s leader. Many believe this is due to the two referenda that will take place on the same day as the election, referenda that Chen was largely responsible for bringing to fruition. Nothing could be further from the truth; the Communists oppose Chen solely because he has been a worthy heir and supporter of the anti-Communism of “Mr. Democracy,” former President Lee Teng-hui.

Lee brought democracy to Taiwan – including an election for his last term in 1996 – and gave the island respect and admiration throughout the world. However, he rattled the “powers that be” by demanding Taiwan be treated as an equal to Communist China, challenging the absurd “one China” policy of many nations, a policy that has left Taiwan an international outcast for decades.

Lee’s demand for international recognition split his Nationalist Party in half, and each faction had a candidate in 2000: James Soong, who became an independent and later formed the People First Party, and then-Vice President Lien, who paid lip-service to Lee’s policies. Only Chen, whose Democratic Progressive Party explicitly supports formal independence, openly supported Lee’s effort. This led to rumors that Lee himself preferred Chen, which helped crystallize the anti-Communist vote around him. Aided further by the Nationalist split, and then-Communist Premier Zhu Rongji’s lambasting of him just before the vote, Chen narrowly won the 2000 election.

Chen’s term has been dominated by three trends: economic weakness due to Communist China’s deliberately devalued currency, the growing Communist military threat, and a major realignment in Taiwanese politics. Lien took over the Nationalists, and made peace with Soong. In fact, Soong is now Lien’s running mate on a joint anti-Chen ticket (called “pan-blue”). Meanwhile, both Soong and Lien began to cozy up to Communist China, in order to paint Chen’s anti-Communism as reckless. They continued the détente with Beijing even as the Communists deployed 500 missiles against Taiwan and increased military spending by over 10% in three of the last four years.

One of the referenda proposed by Chen, if approved by the people, would call for Taiwan to deploy a missile defense against the Communist buildup. The Communists seized upon this referendum before it was even written. They even managed to get President Bush, a previous supporter of Chen, to publicly lambaste him for supposedly challenging the “status quo.” The “pan-blues,” on cue, blasted Chen for supposedly damaging relations with the U.S. The subsequent American acceptance of the actual referendum language received almost no press. Meanwhile, Taiwan’s economy continued to suffer under the weight of the devalued Communist currency, which has laid low several other Asian economies – Japan, South Korea, and Indonesia, for three – while making the “People’s Republic” the largest exporter to the U.S., save Canada.

Despite these blows, Chen’s battle with the Communists and their enablers in Taipei and Washington is not hopeless. He has won the endorsement of Lee Teng-hui, who also bolted from the Nationalists to form the pro-Chen Taiwan Solidarity Union. Moreover, he has managed to stay even with Lien in pre-election polls, and can still win.

And win he must. The Communists cannot be allowed to achieve through seduction what they could not get through threats and missiles: a Taiwanese President ready to bend to their will. As Communist China continues to grow as a regional and world-wide threat to liberty, America will need a true anti-Communist at the helm in Taiwan – even if Washington doesn’t know it yet. The people of Taiwan have an opportunity not only to defend themselves, but to strike a blow for freedom and liberty everywhere. For our sake, and even more for their own, they must seize this chance, and re-elect Chen Shui-bian to four more years as Taiwan’s President.

*D.J. McGuire is President of America's China e-Lobby

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