Taiwan's former premier revels in cultural role

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 30 September, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 30 September, 2010, 12:00am

Former Taiwanese premier Liu Chao-shiuan is back in the spotlight as head of a non-governmental organisation promoting cross-strait cultural exchanges.

It is a high-level post and Liu is the first chairman of the Taipei-based National Cultural Association, set up by Chiang Kai-shek in 1976, who is not also the island's president.

Liu says the new position has given him more freedom to come up with innovative ideas for cross-strait development, and the title will make it easier for him to promote Taiwan's cultural values on the mainland, something Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou is keen for him to do.

'I should clarify that I am not President Ma's replacement, but I think we need such a high-level platform to promote Taiwan's local culture - which is full of a lot of specific characters and attractiveness,' Liu said this week.

He was forced to step down as Taiwan's premier in September last year to take the blame for the poor response to the disaster caused by Typhoon Morakot, which killed more than 700 people and left thousands homeless. The island's political analysts said Liu was Ma's scapegoat in the crisis.

Liu and Ma are both alumni of Taiwan University, and they both served on the island's cabinet in the early 1990s, Ma as justice minister and Liu as transport minister.

Ma accepted Liu's recommendation and selected Vincent Siew Wan-chang as his vice-presidential running mate when he was nominated for the presidency in 2008. When Ma won the election, he appointed Liu as premier.

At a cultural forum in Hong Kong yesterday, Liu admitted that Ma's cross-strait cultural policy hinted at political aims.

'President Ma suggested the cross-strait political difference should be solved by wisdom of our common culture,' he said, adding that Taiwan had a rich heritage of Chinese culture because it had not gone through the painful experience of the 10-year Cultural Revolution on the mainland.

'Unlike Western countries, who like to use power to convince other countries, our Confucianism taught us that 'we should not do to others what we would not like done to us',' Liu said.

Nan Fang-shuo, a Taipei-based political commentator, says Liu plays a more important role than just a cultural envoy.

'Current key Taiwan envoys are all Kuomintang senators like Lien Chen and Wu Poh-hsiung, but none of them are Ma's men,' he said. 'Liu is Ma Ying-jeou's most trusted aide. So I believe Ma wants him to play a role in replacing Lien and Wu.'

However, unlike Lien and Wu, who have received high-level receptions in Beijing, meeting President Hu Jintao , Premier Wen Jiabao and other key party leaders, Liu had yet to meet top mainland leaders, Nan said.

But Liu said he had met many mainland culture officials in the past and had achieved a lot in the past half year. He said he had met Fujian's provincial cultural department and they had agreed to hold an annual Minnan Cultural Exhibition in Kaohsiung and Ilan in Taiwan and also in Xiamen and Quanzhou in Fujian , and other places.

'We also made a timetable for a database of cross-strait traditional and simplified Chinese characters, with next year being the deadline.'

In his talk in Hong Kong yesterday, Liu praised the mainland's outstanding achievements over the past 30 years, saying Beijing and Taiwan should join together to do something for the new century.

'In the 19th century, the British conquered the world not only through their powerful weapons, but also the spirits of democracy and rule of law. In the past century, the Americans' impact did not only reflect the power of Hollywood movies and Wall Street, but also its inclusive culture to allow all talents from every corner in the world to seek their dreams in the US,' Liu said. 'If the 21st century belongs to the Chinese people, what will we leave to history?'

He said Taiwan and Hong Kong's inclusive cultural experiences might be able to give some hints. 'Both Taiwan and Hong Kong have an inclusive cultural spirit because we have experienced Western and Eastern cultural integration and come out with such a special wisdom,' Liu said.