In the latest issue of his electronic newsletter, President Chen Shui-bian defended his record.
He points out the extreme difficulties his administration faced right after the 2000 election, when the new government immediately had to deal with post 921 earthquake reconstruction. A-bian noted that he was only elected with less than 40% of the vote and did not have a majority in the legislature. He says he has has to contend with the KMT's constant obstruction in the legislature as well as un-ending pro-KMT media attacks, as well as the KMT's continued selling of party property to boost their standing with their business buddies and influence in the media.
A-bian states the second issue he had to deal with was a rising and threatening China, which has tried to use the influence it can command over Taiwanese investors in China to get what it wants in Taiwan. At the same time, the military threat only increased and Beijing took extra measures to try and rob Taiwan of its remaining allies.
And more fundamentally, during the rule of the old [KMT] government, the
question of Taiwan's national status was deliberately blurred. Following the increased political democratization and social liberalization that came with the 2000
election, on one hand the sense of Taiwan as a new country and community continually increased. But I we have also discovered that the latent discrepancies in just what people believe in their hearts our country is have also started to manifest. Every time an election rolls around, these discrepancies foster an anxious state of affairs.
A-bian points out that Taiwan must uniquely deal with matters of democratization, national security and internal solidarity, tasks that cannot be solved in a very short time period and which the DPP government is not responsible for creating in the first place. He notes that the DPP has sometimes stumbled in its efforts to solve these issues. But he believes the administration also has much to be proud of to go with its regrets.
We dare not say that this has been a perfect 8 years of rule. There are
many things deserving of self-criticism and reflection. But I am most gratified
that at the times when Taiwan faced a severe state of affairs, [AG: He's likely
referring to after the 2004 election and the "red shirt" campaign] we did
everything we could to make things better.
Now my myself, I was actually thinking during the talk shows last night what the DPP's record really looks like. Personally, I don't think the economy is that bad, and I can't imagine how the KMT would have handled things any better (I have the same sort of attitude about the US economy -- it's rarely the president's actions that decide if the country's economy does well or poorly, especially if you're not out there starting wars). So I sort of thought of the following five contributions the DPP has made in the last seven years.
- Referendum. No matter how stupid the topics chosen, the fact is that the referendum is now so central to Taiwan's political life that any decision to change Taiwan's status quo will always require a referendum to pass, whether that's a unification or independence referendum. And that is just great.
- Arresting their own people. The DPP didn't really do this actively; they just didn't intervene to stop the arrest of the President's son-in-law or the charging of his wife as the KMT would have in the past. Lee Teng-hui's secretary once said, "The KMT established the court" to explain why they wouldn't be pursuing a certain corruption case. That's a really different attitude and a great precedent. And it'll get better when A-bian's charged after stepping down.
- One side, one country. This would have been an unthinkable phrase for an ROC president to utter before A-bian. I was shocked when he came out with it! But what he's done is turn that into the mainstream position and understanding, and even Lien Chan was forced to agree with it before the 2004 election (China protested in their press and the KMT hasn't really raised it again since). But this is now a perfectly normal statement, and Ma's inability to say it will be a problem for him in this coming election.
- Shutting up to preserve calm. This was all A-bian personally. But you noticed, after his razor thin victory in 2004 and when the red-shirts came out, he just shut his mouth for the most part and sat by quietly. He knew how much he could stir the pot from the bully pulpit, but decided not to. And he knew he had won anyway.
- Pulling down Chiang Kai-shek from his divine status. This is obviously the most controvertial point on the list, but I think it's great that it's finally done and he'll be able to be judged on what actually happened under his authority.
I have some other things I'm happy about, like the educational reform and mother language classes, but just how effective those reforms have been is a bit harder to say, so I kept them off the list.
But what does the KMT have to show for the last seven years?