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Taiwan chooses stability
Chen wins second term one day after being shot; Referendum failure complicates his political position
China Support Network

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March 20, 2004 (CSN) -- The voters of Taiwan have kept their President, who was shot by unknown assailants one day before today's election. In a twist and wrinkle for this election, a controversial national referendum, of two questions, failed to win enough support to legally count. In a pre-election editorial, the e-Taiwan News said--

If the number of people casting ballots in the referendum fails to reach or surpass 50 percent of the eligible voters, the referendum will not be effective by default. In this case, this peace referendum will have failed by default.

This result is precisely that which is most desired by the "pan-blue" camp [Chen Shui-bian's opponents].

Such a result would mislead the People's Republic of China and the rest of international society into believing that the people of Taiwan did not consider the referendum to have been important. Even worse, Beijing and other foreign governments will be led to believe that the people of Taiwan do not oppose the threat posted by the PRC's missiles.

If this happens, the two - million person "Hand-in-Hand to Protect Taiwan" human chain will be treated as little more than a sad joke and China will judge that the conditions are ripe to intensify pressure to infringe on Taiwan's sovereignty.

The foregoing may be the worst spin that can be placed on this election outcome. It is very true that this referendum was a pet project, to which Chen Shui-bian was very attached. Its failure, while he himself was re-elected, means that Taiwan voters have sent mixed signals, and indicated that they did not support this move of Chen Shui-bian to gain ratification of his foreign policy.

It is no less clear that Chen stands for an assertive, independent, pro-Taiwan reformist course, and that his agenda in the coming four years includes working on a new constitution for Taiwan. That much is clear, and Taiwan voters chose to stay that course.

There needs to be a spin on this occasion that is less dark than that suggested by the e-Taiwan News editorial. It may simply be said, that after rebukes from George Bush, Jacques Chirac, and warnings and bluster from Beijing, that Taiwan voters concluded that the referendum was too controversial, and chose not to rock the boat to the extent that is suggested by embracing the referendum.

It is thought that Chen's foreign policy will remain unchanged anyway; the defense outlays for a build up of anti-missile defenses are expected to go forward regardless. The setback for Chen, politically, amounts to the same as his Friday bullet wound; it is a grazing, but not fatal nor internally damaging.

The China Support Network would like to extend congratulations to Chen Shui-bian and the people of Taiwan, for an exercise of democracy that shows how far Taiwan has come; and, the China Support Network calls upon Washington DC to recognize Taiwan, and to dispatch an ambassador for diplomatic relations that are more mature and realistic than games of pretend and make believe, as entailed in the Kissinger 'one-China' policy. It is high time for Washington to 'grow up' on the issues of Taiwan relations.

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