Taiwan Communiqué No. 106 January 2004

Towards a new Constitution

Turn the "five noes" into a "three yes" policy

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Pan-blue waterskier: "God knows I'm trying hard to stop him!"

In recent statements, President Chen Shui-bian has indicated that -- in view of China's continuing military threats and deployment of missiles against Taiwan -- he would revoke the "five noes" of his May 2000 inauguration speech.

After his election on 20 March 2000, the situation was very tense: not only did China threaten to attack Taiwan, but the Kuomintang-faithful in the military and security agencies didn't quite appreciate the election of the pro-independence Chen either.

Chen and his confidantes thought it prudent to try to smooth matters over by making the statement that "…as long as the CCP regime has no intention to use military force against Taiwan, I pledge that during my term in office, I will not declare independence, I will not change the national title, I will not push forth the inclusion of the so-called "state-to-state" description in the Constitution, and I will not promote a referendum to change the status quo in regards to the question of independence or unification. Furthermore, the abolition of the National Reunification Council or the National Reunification Guidelines will not be an issue."

It does not need emphasis that the qualifier "that China has no intention to use military force against Taiwan" was all-important. However, Chen was lectured time and again by arrogant, defeated, KMT politicians and back-seat driving US think-tank figures alike, that he should stick to the "five noes" no-matter-what.

After three years of continuing military threats and a more than doubling of the number of missiles aimed at Taiwan, President Chen has now come to the conclusion that the "five noes" have reached the end of their useful life. That is to be applauded. The fact is that they were never popular among his core-followers. They saw the "five noes" as unnecessary roadblocks on the road to full democracy in Taiwan, and full acceptance of the island in the international community.

With the March 2004 presidential elections coming up, Mr. Chen is now emphasizing the right of the Taiwanese to hold a referendum and implying the demise of the "five noes". He is achieving two purposes: he is rallying his supporters and at the same time making it clear to the world community that China is the real threat to the stability and peace across the Taiwan Straits.

There are some in the US Administration, thinks tanks and international media who perceive President Chen to be "provocative." These people should look twice: China is continuing to threaten Taiwan, preventing its international relations from blossoming, and building up an awesome arsenal of missiles aimed at the island. During the past three years, president Chen has bent over backwards to be conciliatory and holding out one olive branch after another -- only to be rebuffed by China time and again.

It is thus time for Taiwan to move towards a "three yes" policy:

In the meantime, the US and other nations would also do well to rethink their policy towards Taiwan: it is not the same country as 30-40 years ago, when the present "One China" dictum came into existence. At that time, there was a repressive Kuomintang regime, which had lost the Chinese Civil War in 1949, and imposed itself on a defenseless Taiwanese population.

The KMT's decades-long insistence on being the legitimate government of China was as laughable as it was outdated, but it dragged the Taiwanese people unwillingly into the unfinished business of the Chinese Civil War. The Taiwanese had no part in that Civil War, but their future is presently still being held hostage to it.

It is time for the international community to break out of those self-imposed chains and to accept Taiwan and its people as full-fledged members of the international family of nations.

What does the present Constitution entail?

The plans of President Chen Shui-bian has drawn the expected flak from the usual quarters: China's repressive regime, and those in Taiwan still clinging to the long-lost remnants of the "Republic of China", the Republic established by the Chinese Nationalists in China in 1912.

As we have emphasized earlier, the Kuomintang regime which was in power in Taiwan until May 2000, attempted to perpetuate this "Republic of China" myth -- first as the legitimate rulers of all of China. And when it lost that legitimacy in the 1970s, it continued to emphasize that their ROC and the PRC were still part of a hypothetical "One China."

Since 2000, President Chen and his government have on the one hand made use of this empty shell of the ROC , but on the other hand worked towards a Taiwanization of the system, and a gradual acceptance by the population of their own Taiwanese identity -- no easy task after more than 40 years of indoctrination by the Nationalists that they were "Chinese."

One of the remaining tasks is to work towards a new Constitution, which really represents present-day Taiwan. The present "ROC" Constitution was adopted by China's National Assembly in Nanking on 25 December 1946, and promulgated by Chiang Kai-shek's regime on 1 January 1947. Some two-thirds of all articles are outdated and not relevant to present-day Taiwan.

Some examples of what it entails:

A timeline for a new Constitution

During a meeting on 11 November 2003 with visiting members of the Washington-based Brookings Institution, President Chen Shui-bian indicated that -- if he is elected in March 2004 -- he will put his government to work on a new Constitution, which should be put before the public in a referendum on 10 December 2006, International Human Rights Day.

He said that if the new Constitution is approved in December 2006, it would be enacted on 20 May 2008, the inauguration day for the winner of that year's presidential election.

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