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Saturday, Dec. 9
The Indiana Daily Student


Taiwan faces unstable future

Departure of premier leads to downturn in stock markets

After Taiwan Premier Tang Fei's sudden resignation earlier this month, experts say the political situation in the island country is unstable.\nTang was expected to play a crucial role in easing tension in Taiwan's cross-strait relationship with China and in shielding President Chen Shui-bian's administration from opposition critics; his departure has caused domestic political and economic turbulence.\nTaiwan has lost about $10 billion since President Chen's election in March, according to a Morgan Stanley Dean Witter report. Chen's approval rating dropped from 77 percent in June to 37 percent, the report said. The stock index recorded a 20-month low the day after Tang's resignation.\nTang was the only pro-reunification member in the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party administration. \nEast Asian politics lecturer Scott Kennedy said he doesn't expect Tang's resignation to result in a clash. He said Chen's administration is not an extremist government. He said the party had previously advocated independence, but Chen is not likely to order a referendum regarding independence.\n"Chen is not about to declare independence, change national flags or emblems or stop investment from going to the mainland," Kennedy said. \nThe 68-year-old premier said he was stepping down because of his frail health. The president didn't want to continue construction of a $5.6 billion nuclear power plant, whereas Tang called for completing the project, according to the Associated Press.\nAfter Tang's resignation, Chen appointed party member Chang Chun-hsiung as premier, and a few additional financial experts to restore economic order.\n"I understand very well the public's need for a safe political environment, continued economic growth and a stable stock market," Chang said in his inaugural address. "There will be a slight reshuffle of the cabinet over the coming days. We will be considering talent, not party affiliation, when making personal appointments."\nWith Tang's departure, Chen no longer has a buffer between the Democratic Progressive Party and opposition party Kuomintang.\nBecause Chen won the March presidential election with barely 40 percent of the vote and his party only holds 1/3 of the seats in parliament.\nJean C. Robinson , associate professor of modern Chinese politics and dean of women's affairs, has a positive view of the changes, but she said Tang's stepping down will generate more cooperation in the cabinet.\n"I think Tang's resignation may, in the medium term, be beneficial," she said. "While his departure means that the DPP is operating as a minority government, rather than a coalition government, it may also have positive benefits in providing more policy consistency, and thus more confidence."\nOn the other hand, the change in leaders has benefits for China's strategy to weaken Chen, Kennedy said.\n"The idea is that by weakening and isolating Chen, he will be forced to relax his negotiating posture with China and come up with a position more to Beijing's liking," he said. "This may be a Pyrrhic victory for the (People's Republic of China)."\nTaiwan is heading for December 2001 legislative elections. Whether the Democratic Progressive Party obtains majority in the legislature or Kuomintang comes back to power depends on the economic condition and the Democratic Progressive Party's economic initiatives, Kennedy said.\n"If the economy revives but his initiatives don't make much headway, then Chen and the DPP can argue that they need control of the legislature to pass the DPP's programs," he said. "But the power of incumbency is strong in Taiwan so it would take a severe KMT setback for the DPP to gain the upper hand"

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