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MARCH 6, 2000 VOL. 155 NO. 9

O N  T H E  I S S U E S
'The Problem Is on China's Side, Not on Our Side'

David Hartung for TIME

Chen Shui-bian was speaking to pilgrims at a Buddhist temple in Jiali, James Soong was keeping a crowd amused during a downpour in Kaohsiung and Lien Chan was addressing supporters through a bullhorn when his sound system failed in Taoyuan. As the three main candidates hit the campaign trail last week, TIME tagged along and asked their views on five key questions. Their responses:

Chen Shui-bian: I believe Taiwan is already a sovereign and independent country. But as president I would give three guarantees. I absolutely would not put "state-to-state" relations in the constitution, I would not propose a change in the name of the Republic of China, and any change in the status quo would have to be agreed upon by the 22 million people of Taiwan.

Lien Chan: I don't need to repeat "state-to-state relations" every day. It has been the policy of our country for years. Taiwan should not go independent. We cannot afford it. Nor can we be united with the mainland. No one in his right mind would accept that. The reality is that Taiwan and the mainland have been separated for more than 50 years now. We need flexibility, not set timetables.

James Soong: Taiwan and China should de-escalate tension, establish direct dialogue and sign a non-aggression accord with international witnesses--the U.S. and Japan.

Chen: I hope very much to be able to visit China between the election and inauguration, when my status would be simpler. The problem is on China's side, not on our side.

Lien: I would be willing to visit Beijing, either before or after the inauguration.

Soong: As president-elect, instead of first going to Beijing, I would visit the U.S. and Japan to brief our most important friends.

Taiwan: Off With a Bang
Fiery words from Beijing mark the start of the island's critical presidential election, but the three leading contenders continue to focus mostly on local concerns
On the Issues: The candidates share their views
Tough Talk: Beijing too has a domestic agenda
Jiang Who? Taiwan's youth couldn't care less about China
Line of Fire: Sin-ming Shaw says the posturing must stop

Hong Kong: Feeding Frenzy
Local investors go nuts for a dotcom stock that has little to recommend it other than its billionaire backer's name

Thailand: Dubious Challenge A telecom tycoon and failed pol makes another bid for office
Web-only Interview: Thai telecoms mogul Thaksin Shinawatra, the man who would be Prime Minister

Japan: Invisible Menace The growing problem of stalking is only now coming to light

China: Back to School The white-hot economy needs an increasing number of M.B.A.s

Taiwan: Balls and Brickbats
Gangsters and illegal betting send baseball into a tailspin

Taiwan: Thunder Out Of China
But the noise could disguise a peace feeler

More news from East Asia
Chen: Of course people feel threatened by China's missile deployments. According to the U.S. Defense Department, by 2005 the cross-Strait military balance will shift in China's favor. Taiwan's security cannot depend just on hardware, but also on political relations. We do not care so much whether the U.S. Congress passes the Taiwan Security Enhancement Act, but we are pleased to see the strong level of support in Congress for Taiwan.

Lien: Our security must be strengthened. We need an effective deterrent, including keeping open the possibility of joining the Theater Missile Defense [proposed by the U.S.].

Soong: I don't want to engage in an arms race with Beijing. But I would warn Beijing that any military threat will only agitate the Taiwanese and make them feel humiliated. It will not solve the problem.

Chen: For 50 years the kmt has relied on "black gold" [payoffs]. They say they want to wipe out corruption, but in each election they rely on gangsters to get out their votes.

Lien: We must build a clean government and a clean political process. As Prime Minister, I passed the law on disclosure of public servants' assets and the law against money laundering. In the future we must do more, against conflicts of interest and lobbying with political contributions.

Soong: The reason for the irregular government-business contacts is similar to what Eisenhower called the military-industrial complex: special privileges enjoyed by businesses in exchange for political donations. But it is time for a change. My slogan is "Change without chaos, growth with stability."

Chen: As long as there is a transition of power from kmt rule, there will be some major changes. We have seen other countries with the opposition coming to power. Taiwan should not be the exception.

Lien: Taiwan must upgrade itself--in the environment, education, public spending. As the book Post-Affluent America [by American academic Gary Gappert, 1979] says--you get rich but still need more public spending. Taiwan is entering that stage.

Soong: Taiwan should become a knowledge island, an e-port showcase for China to model itself after, so Taiwan's democratic reforms gradually push China to be more open and then more democratic.

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