An open let­ter to ex-Pres­i­dent Lee

The China Post - - COMMENTARY -

Dear Pres­i­dent Lee: It has been a very long time since I last wrote you. Hence this be­lated let­ter. One of the last letters I wrote you, Sir, was sent via diplo­matic pouch from Rome where I served as your Taipei rep­re­sen­ta­tive in Italy. In fact, I sent you two letters to the same ef­fect. I urged you to run for another term as pres­i­dent, to which you were con­sti­tu­tion­ally en­ti­tled.

That was the time when James Soong and Lien Chan were vy­ing to be­come your Joshua. Ever since you suc­ceeded Pres­i­dent Chi­ang Chingkuo, you wanted to lead the peo­ple of Tai­wan to the land of lib­erty as Moses did in the Ex­o­dus. Moses died be­fore he could lead the Jews to their promised land of Palestine from Egypt. You wished to step down af­ter 12 years of gov­ern­ing the Re­pub­lic of China in Tai­wan.

Of course, you liked to choose Lien, who is a na­tive-born Tai­wanese whose grand­fa­ther is Lien Heng, the au­thor of “A Com­pre­hen­sive History of Tai­wan,” rather than Chi­nese-born up­start Soong you pro­moted to Tai­wan’s gover­nor.


Soong was go­ing all out to run for pres­i­dent in 2000, be­cause you phased out the province of Tai­wan and did not ap­point him pres­i­dent of the Ex­ec­u­tive Yuan or premier. You made Lien premier in­stead. As the race be­tween Soong and Lien was heat­ing up, I wrote to re­mind you that you should run for re­elec­tion in or­der to pre­vent a split in the Kuom­intang which would only help Chen Shui-bian to win in 2000.

Do you still re­mem­ber that I cited the ex­am­ple of Pres­i­dent Theodore Roo­sevelt? Af­ter serv­ing as pres­i­dent elected in his own right, Ted Roo­sevelt de­clared he would not run for a sec­ond term and made Wil­liam Taft his suc­ces­sor. Dis­sat­is­fied with Taft as pres­i­dent, Roo­sevelt formed the Bull Moose Party to run again only to split the then-in­vin­ci­ble Repub­li­can Party, en­abling Woodrow Wil­son to win the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion of 1912. I was afraid that you would fol­low in Roo­sevelt’s foot­steps.

You did not re­ply to my letters of plea. You asked your chief sec­re­tary Su Chih-cheng to tell me you did not want to be a cul­prit of history. You fol­lowed Roo­sevelt. Soong bolted the Kuom­intang to run, and lost by a small edge. Pres­i­dent Chen cer­tainly was not a Joshua you hoped to need. The tur­bu­lent eight years of his rule and the two more years that fol­lowed be­came a decade lost for Tai­wan on its long jour­ney from its Dutch col­o­niza­tion to a pros­per­ous mod­ern democ­racy. In that sense, I am sorry to say, you may be recorded as a cul­prit in history con­trary to your wish.

While I was work­ing as your of­fi­cial English and Ja­panese in­ter­preter, you told me time and again you would like to be a preacher af­ter re­tire­ment to preach the Gospel. I truly be­lieved you. Per­mit me to say, how­ever, I was wrong. You have con­tin­ued to play Moses. You named Tsai Ing-wen of the Demo­cratic Pro- gres­sive Party your Joshua by telling the Ja­panese monthly Voice that you sup­port her for pres­i­dent in 2016.

Dear Pres­i­dent Lee, I ad­mire you for your sense of mis­sion. Your mis­sion is to save Tai­wan. You cre­ated the Na­tional Uni­fi­ca­tion Coun­cil and adopted the Guide­lines for Na­tional Uni­fi­ca­tion, which Pres­i­dent Chen made to cease to func­tion and cease to ap­ply. A modus vivendi you thus put into force started a de­tente be­tween Tai­wan and China, which came to a sud­den end in 2000, and ten­sions mounted across the Tai­wan Strait for eight years. Pres­i­dent Ma Ying-jeou re­in­stated the modus vivendi to pro­mote the peace­ful de­vel­op­ment of cross-strait re­la­tions, but Tsai, who does not ac­cept it, if elected, cer­tainly would plunge the re­la­tions back to the sit­u­a­tion that ex­isted while Chen was in of­fice.

As a mat­ter of fact, Sir, your mis­sion as Moses was ac­com­plished when you re­tired. You made Tai­wan a mod­ern democ­racy that wrought the eco­nomic mir­a­cle of the 20th cen­tury. You should not worry about who would suc­ceed Pres­i­dent Ma. For one thing, Soong will never make a come­back. Hung Hsiu-chu, the Kuom­intang stan­dard bearer, if ever elected, could pick up where you had left off to achieve a rap­proche­ment that is needed to keep Tai­wan a vi­able de­vel­oped econ­omy. Tsai, who is not your de­sired Joshua, might an­tag­o­nize China, but not to the ex­tent that the Peo­ple’s Lib­er­a­tion Army would be un­leashed to in­vade Tai­wan.

So, it is time to stop talk­ing about such half-truths as you told Voice. As a re­tired pres­i­dent, you should not de­clare the Diaoyu­tai Is­lands an in­her­ent ter­ri­tory of Ja­pan’s. You should not have said you fought for your mother­land of Ja­pan, which was not for the col­o­nized peo­ple of Tai­wan, nor should you state that the “1992 Con­sen­sus” is a fake, that the events held in Tai­wan to mark the vic­tory in the eight-year War of Re­sis­tance were in­tended to curry fa­vor with China as well as be a nui­sance to Ja­pan, or that Ma Ying­jeou should not have a mu­seum es­tab­lished in mem­ory of Tai­wan’s for­mer “com­fort women” for the Ja­panese Im­pe­rial Army.

Talk­ing half-truths does not help you, my dear Pres­i­dent Lee, to find a Joshua to bring your mis­sion as Moses of Tai­wan to fruition. Would you please be­gin prop­a­gat­ing the Gospel of Tai­wan as a truly pros­per­ous land of lib­erty?

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