- - Thursday, March 7, 2013

Lien Chan, a former vice president of Taiwan who holds an honorary chairmanship of the ruling Kuomintang party, has become entangled in a controversy that is placing the island democracy’s politics on the edge.

At issue is a sensational statement by Mr. Lien following his high-profile visit to Beijing two weeks ago, when he met China’s leaders who remain obsessed with “unifying Taiwan with the motherland.”

After receiving lavish VIP treatment in the Chinese capital, Mr. Lien returned to Taiwan and announced his “vision for a future China-Taiwan relationship” that many observers say amounts to a surrender to communist demands for the annexation of Taiwan.

Mr. Lien’s 16-Chinese-character vision statement states: “One China; peace on both sides of the [Taiwan] Strait; mutually beneficial integration; strive for a Chinese revival.”

Particularly irksome for many in Taiwan were “one China” and “integration,” which represent the core of Beijing’s position on cross-strait relations.

Mr. Lien is Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou’s closest Kuomintang associate, and they share a similar political and executive background. Mr. Ma already has suffered a voter backlash for his pro-Beijing policies.

The opposition Democratic Progressive Party immediately cried foul over the Lien vision statement, calling it treacherous and asking Mr. Ma to clarify whether Mr. Lien’s stance represents the views of the presidential office.

Presidential spokeswoman Li Chia-fei responded by denying any official link between Mr. Lien’s visit to Beijing and Mr. Ma.

“There was no official message President Ma Ying-jeou asked Mr. Lien to convey to Beijing except to say hello to Mr. Hu Jintao and Mr. Xi Jinping,” Ms. Li said, referring to China’s leaders. “Mr. Lien never mentioned his 16-Chinese-character vision statement to President Ma.”

The official denial drew instant fire from Mr. Lien’s chief of staff, Ting Yuen-chao, who said Mr. Lien briefed the president on his visit, and charged the president’s office with abandoning the concept of “one China,” “peace on both sides” and “a Chinese revival.”

Presidential aides denied anything specific like the 16-Chinese-character vision statement was ever discussed during Mr. Lien’s briefing to Mr. Ma.

Meanwhile, Mr. Ma dispatched several officials to the parliament to placate angry legislators by telling them the vision statement was “absolutely Mr. Lien’s personal view.”

Carrier gets new home port

China’s sole aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, arrived Feb. 27 at its new home port after sailing from Dalian in northeast China to Qingdao, home of the Chinese navy’s Northern Fleet in the eastern province of Shandong.

At the time of its commissioning in September, the Liaoning was rumored to be headed for a home port somewhere along the South China Sea, where China had just experienced a bruising summer of discontent with its maritime neighbors, especially the Philippines.

The official explanation for the carrier move was force protection. “The home port [Qingdao] can effectively protect the Liaoning from air and underwater strikes,” said the People’s Daily, citing a navy source.

The newspaper explained that Qingdao is a more-developed port with better supply, support and repair facilities that also can accommodate a host of auxiliary ships in a future carrier battle group formation.

“Qingdao, the most subtle place for home port,” is how the People’s Daily headlined the story.

Qingdao was a deep-water port built by the Germans before World War I, when the German navy had a lease from the Chinese government.

China has said it will need more than one carrier to meet its naval ambitions. Reports have been circulating in state-controlled media that Beijing is building at least two carriers and at least one of them will be deployed as a routine power-projection platform in the South China Sea.

Miles Yu’s column appears Fridays. He can be reached at mmilesyu@gmail.com and @yu_miles.