By Joe Hung, The China Post
TAIPEI, Taiwan — Wu Poh-hsiung, chairman of the Kuomintang, is leaving Taipei on a five-day tour of China next Monday to lay another channel of dialogue between Taiwan and China. That channel isn’t going to take the place of those to be reinstated by the Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) and the Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF). Both institutions have remained idle for the past eight years. The MAC is a decision-making Cabinet level agency in charge of relations between Taiwan and China. The SEF is a government-funded private organization charged with the conduct of relations across the Taiwan Strait. Its Chinese counterpart is the Association for Relations across the Taiwan Strait (ARATS).
Rather, the new channel will be another track of communication that will strengthen the other two to solve outstanding issues across the Strait, and there are many such issues.
The most urgent task facing the MAC and the SEF is to get weekend direct charter flights across the Strait started on schedule. Ma Ying-jeou, who will be sworn in as president tomorrow, promised in the run-up to the March 22 election that such flights would begin on July 4. He also promised to let Chinese tourists visit Taiwan at the same time. Time is running short, and a top-level meeting is necessary to smooth out all the differences to make Ma’s promises fulfilled. One difference is Ma’s appointment of Lai Shing-yuan, a former independence activist, as MAC chairwoman. There is little doubt that Wu will be able to iron out that difference when he meets Chinese President Hu Jin-tao, who doubles as general-secretary of the Chinese Communist Party. They are scheduled to meet in Beijing on May 27 or 28 to pick up where Lien Chan, honorary chairman of the Kuomintang, has left off. Lien made a journey of peace in 2005 to meet Hu and end the feud between the Kuomintang and the Chinese Communist Party. Lien has set up a KMT-CCP forum to carry on cross-Strait dialogue. Another task for Wu’s mission is to assure Hu that the ultimate goal of the ruling Kuomintang remains eventual Chinese unification. In the lead-up to and after the election, Ma condemned the Chinese repression in Tibet and stated unification would never be realized during his lifetime, albeit he had gone on the record by saying it is one of his goals.
Beijing is waiting to see how Ma will state his China policy in his inaugural address. Wu has to dispel Hu’s suspicion of Ma’s change of course. There is no new Beijing bandwagon on the roll, sources close to Wu say. Lien visited Beijing earlier this month. Other Kuomintang leaders, including Wu, are also converging in non-official capacities on Beijing to help improve relations between Taiwan and China. All this doesn’t mean the ruling party is trying to dictate China policy on the new administration to be installed tomorrow, sources point out. “As a matter of fact,” one source adds, “the party is doing what it can to help the government get things done if and when its formal channel of communication with China does not function well.” The new president knows it full well. That is why Ma supports the Wu visit to China.