- The Washington Times - Monday, March 27, 2000

Taiwanese student optimistic of new regime

Taiwan's voters elected Chen Shui-bian of the opposition Democratic Progressive Party as their new president on March 18. For the first time in Taiwan's political history, the ruling Nationalist Party, which has been in power for more than half a century, has lost control of the presidency. As President Clinton said, "This election demonstrates clearly the strength and vitality of Taiwan's democracy." Mr. Chen's victory finally has broken the political machine and corruptive money in politics of the Nationalists. The people of Taiwan elected Mr. Chen for the sake of democracy and reform.

As a Taiwanese, I'm glad to see almost all of the international mass media affirm this result as a democratic achievement. However, I found that the media emphasized excessively that Mr. Chen was a former political dissident and champion of Taiwanese independence. Furthermore, some media sources implied that Mr. Chen's victory meant that the people of Taiwan defied threats from Beijing because our resoluteness overpowered our care about potential war. The media also implied that Taiwan seemed to pursue independence at any cost.

On the contrary, the people of Taiwan elected Mr. Chen for the sake of democracy and reform instead of for the sake of independence. Some people focus on the fact that Mr. Chen won with 39 percent of the vote. I think we should emphasize that 75.5 percent of the voters are seeking reform and change, so they did not vote for the ruling party. This includes 39 percent for Mr. Chen and 36.5 percent for James Soong, a former party luminary who left the Nationalists last year and ran as an independent.

A recent survey reported that the corruptive power of money in politics was the social evil of most concern to the Taiwanese people. Actually, many voters turned their backs on the ruling party because they believe the Nationalist Party is guilty of corruption and nepotism. Those voters realize that only with reform can our society rise to a new level of prosperity and achieve real stability and security.

As for Mr. Chen's tendency toward separatism, he does not support independence for Taiwan anymore. By the time he became mayor of Taipei in 1995, he had softened his views on independence. In addition, during his presidential campaign, he even announced that he had jettisoned his past promise of a referendum on independence. He also vowed that he would not rewrite Taiwan's constitution.

Now that the people in Taiwan have demonstrated that they favor reform by voting, it is time for the new government to show its resolution to reconstruct our country and society. To push the reforms forward, the new government must create the larger conditions necessary for stability and security. It must proceed carefully, step by step, with rationality and responsibility. I strongly believe Mr. Chen is qualified to be a good reformer who will do his best to rule our country because he bears the expectations of 21.8 million people on his shoulder. Let us wait and see.

SSU-JUNG CHEN

Washington

The writer is a student at American University.

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