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24-01-06, 02:33
Taiwan’s new cabinet ‘hostile to China’

By Mac William Bishop in Taipei

January 24 2006 00:15

Taiwan’s cabinet resigned yesterday as its new premier revealed the names of key appointees, while opposition parties criticised the line-up as “self-serving” and embracing an ideology hostile to Beijing.

The outgoing premier, Frank Hsieh, made remarks supporting reports that he was leaving because of disagreements with President Chen Shui-bian over policy towards China.

“A government that insists on a separate Taiwanese identity should have the support of at least two-thirds of the public, and that is not currently the case,” Mr Hsieh said.

Some analysts believe the circumstances leading to Mr Hsieh’s departure, as well as the composition of the new cabinet, indicate that an ideological struggle is taking place within the ruling Democratic Progressive party over how tough a line should be taken towards China.

“The real power struggle right now is between moderates in the DPP, especially the New Tide faction, and the president,” said Shelley Rigger, a political science professor at Davidson College in the US and an expert on Taiwan politics.

The appointment of several members of the presidential office to prominent posts in the cabinet supports the idea that Mr Chen is consolidating his position as he tries to implement a harder line towards China.

For example, James Huang, the deputy secretary-general of the presidential office, is expected to replace Mark Chen as the minister of foreign affairs. One opposition lawmaker, Pan Wei-kang, painted Mr Huang as a Chen loyalist unlikely to deviate from the president’s line.

Cabinet members with a record of enforcing Mr Chen’s policies will retain their posts.

Lee Jye, minister of national defence, who has vigorously defended a controversial arms deal with the US, will keep his office, as will Joseph Wu, the chairman of the Mainland Affairs Council, the organisation responsible for cross-Strait policy.

The cabinet line-up could undermine the ability of the incoming premier Su Tseng-chang, whose appointment was announced last week, to influence domestic and cross-Strait policy.

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