Is Asia's Iron Lady Steeling Beijing's Anger?
Taiwan's Vice President Annette Lu expounds her views on Taiwan's relationship with China
TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Margaret Thatcher, when Britain’s prime minister, once described her steely determination to stay a tough course with the semi-charming phrase: "This lady's not for turning." To find a comparably steadfast, equally defiant leader, look no further than Taiwan, where Vice President Annette Lu is also a lady who's not for turning, not one little bit.
The Taiwan-born, Harvard-educated feminist leader and career politician certainly cannot be turned away from her unyielding views about China. China, roughly one hundred miles across the strait, offers, she insisted in an exclusive interview recently, little but bad news. If permitted by the world, it would invade Taiwan in the proverbial New York minute, she is convinced, as its ongoing military buildup is aimed at Taiwan and only Taiwan. And it treats this blooming democracy and a vigorous economy with disrespect, disdain, contempt and constant threats.
Her view is that China's growing need for energy and natural resources will inevitably lead it on an imperial path, exacerbating its conflicts with neighbors and motivating its desire to control the waters around Taiwan so as to control which ships are permitted to pursue commerce. But Lu, a tough-minded civil-rights leader, thrown into jail between 1979 and 1985 when Taiwan was still a military dictatorship, will have none of that.
"Well," she asserted, no matter what the United States or Taiwan does, "unless we surrender, the People's Republic of China will never be happy .... China in the past decade has made efforts just to fool the whole world … to cheat the world that Taiwan is theirs ... but it's just like the king who wears no clothes at all ....They have their constitution; we have ours. They have their currency; we have ours. And it is only the Taiwanese people who are allowed to elect their national leaders."
Lu dismissed the much-touted mainland pitch of ‘one country two systems’ as a crock. "Look at the people of Hong Kong. They are totally despondent at the promise .... One country/two systems has proved to be a failure. Look at the way they treat the Hong Kong people, the way they abuse their human rights and tread on their freedom. No one in Taiwan is interested in this system." And, she added, China insults the world as well as its own people by the failure of its leaders to apologize for the 1989 atrocity in Tiananmen Square.
In her campaign for women's rights, democracy and international recognition for Taiwan, in 1993 she founded the Taiwan International Alliance to press for Taiwan's membership in the United Nations, a seemingly hopeless cause that just last week her president, Chen Shui-bian, brought up once again at the United Nations. But that membership and eventual formally declared independence have been taremark planks of the Democratic Progressive Party. Even so, under pressure from Washington, Chen has low-keyed the independence rallying cry, which Beijing has consistently claimed would cause war.
For her part, Lu senses a waning of U.S. avidity for defending Taiwan and asked plaintively: "Do you really think it would be in the U.S. interest to see Taiwan become part of the PRC?" Dealing with China is not as uncomplicated as scoping out other countries' true intentions. "Sometimes they pretend to be very civilized, and sometimes they don't care being known as a bully." But kowtowing to Beijing will do no one any good.
In this context, Lu reflected ruefully on the July visit of then Deputy Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (now Singapore's new prime minister), which triggered a Beijing outburst of brutal criticism and which ended in Lee deciding to warn Taiwan to stop pushing China too hard on the DDP party's core planks.
Over this, Lu was visibly livid. "There was no reason for his excellency to surrender so much [to China]," she said. "He should stand up to China like us. But he surrendered, diplomatically." Then she added, bitterly: "He's supposed to be a rising young leader, but he's not as young and vigorous as his father," referring to Singapore's founding prime minister, Lee Kuan Yew, now 81.
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Tom Plate is a professor of Communication and policy Studies at UCLA. He is a regular columnist for the The Straits Times -- and is syndicated through UCLA's MEDIA CENTER to papers througout the world, including The Honolulu Advertiser, The Japan Times, The Seattle Times, the San Diego Business Journal, the Korea Times and the Orlando Sentinel. He has been a participant member of the World Economic Forum at Davos, and is a member of the Pacific Council on International policy. The author of five books, he has worked at TIME, the Los Angeles Times and the Daily Mail of London. He established the Asia Pacific Media Network in 1998 and was its director until 2003. He is now founder and director of UCLA's MEDIA CENTER.
The views expressed above are those of the author and are not necessarily those of AsiaMedia or the UCLA Asia Institute.
Date Posted: 9/23/2004