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Former Premier Says Reelection of Democratic Progressive Party will Consolidate Democracy in Taiwan
former Taiwan Premier Chun-hsiung Chang, Chancellor Albert Carnesale

Former Premier Says Reelection of Democratic Progressive Party will Consolidate Democracy in Taiwan

Chun-hsiung Chang, Secretary-General of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party, meets UCLA Chancellor Carnesale during campus visit.

By Leslie Evans

Chun-hsiung Chang, Secretary-General of the Taiwan's ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and former premier in the government of President Chen Shui-bian (October 2000 to January 2002), led a high-ranking delegation on a visit to UCLA February 10. The ten-member group included Shyh-fang Liu, secretary-general of the Executive Yuan, presidential advisors Pi-chao Chen and Tien-lin Huang, and a number of legislators and academics.

The group had been in Washington, where they had attended a prayer breakfast meeting with President Bush. UCLA was their only other stop in the country. In a panel discussion sponsored by the Center for Chinese Studies, Secretary-General Chang said that he believed that winning a second term for his party in the presidential elections of 2004 would be essential to finish dismantling the authoritarian tendencies inherited from more than 50 years of Kuomintang rule, much of it under martial law, and solidifying Taiwan's new democracy.

Speaking through a translator, Chang said, "The marshal law was in place for 40 years. It was a very long time. The previous legislature was not replaced for a long time, but there was a peaceful transition in 2000, which we regard as a political miracle in Taiwan's history. The peaceful transition in Taiwan has been regarded as the sole successful example among the countries of Chinese people. If the ruling party can stay in office through the coming election in 2004, the fruit would continue to grow and we can benefit from the transition. For example, when a U.S. president is reelected for a second term he is more able to carry out his policies."

Secretary-General Chang compared Taiwan's transition to democracy in 2000 with other election upsets in Asia in recent years: "In 1998 the Filipino people elected a new leader from a different party. In Indonesia also, in 1999. The leaders elected in Taiwan in 2000 are still in office while the leaders elected in the Philippines and Indonesia have already been replaced by others."

It has taken time, he said, for the civil service, the military, and the ordinary citizens to fully accept the change of government. "Because Taiwan has been ruled solely by the Nationalist party for so long, some have not known how to adjust to this situation and some have tried irrationally to block the policies of the new ruling party." If the Democratic Progressive Party can win another term, he said, "the other parties will learn how to cooperate while competing with one another, a real competing mechanism will be installed in Taiwan."

In the discussion period UCLA faculty questioned Chang on whether the Taiwanese nationalist DPP was adequately sensitive to the multiethnic and multinational character of Taiwanese society, which in addition to native Taiwanese, and Chinese from the mainland, includes Hakka and other minorities. There was also interest in the long-term prospects for unification with China, given that the DPP has historically urged the recognition of Taiwan as a separate country and denies that it has shared a long common history with China, pointing to the extended periods of Japanese domination of the island.

After the discussion Secretary-General Chang and the delegation met briefly with UCLA Chancellor Carnesale, who said he looks forward to visiting Taiwan again, "Now that it has become politically much more interesting."

Center for Chinese Studies