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Chen seen continuing hard-line PRC policy

Taiwan's President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) is expected to name a loyalist as his new premier this week, a move that will strengthen the independence-leaning leader's grip on politics during his last year in office, analysts and newspapers said yesterday.
Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) stepped down as head of the Cabinet on Saturday, days after he was defeated by former Premier Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) in the ruling Democratic Progressive Party's internal presidential primary. Su said he resigned to allow Chen more room to plot new strategies ahead of the March 2008 presidential race.
Several Taiwanese newspapers said yesterday that Chen has decided to pick a loyalist, former Premier Chang Chun-hsiung (張俊雄), to succeed Su, an appointment expected to be announced today.
"Chen Shui-bian would thus have a full control over the Cabinet and on the other hand also set the tune for the 2008 race" for the DPP, the mass-market United Daily News reported.
Chen has enraged China by seeking a separate identity for Taiwan while underscoring the self-ruled island's sovereignty. Hsieh, on the other hand, is known to favor closer ties with its giant neighbor.
However, Hsieh is unlikely to have a major role in policymaking in the run-up to the 2008 polls, political scientist Hsu Yung-ming (徐永明) said.
No lame duck
Chen's immense power is guaranteed by the constitution, preventing him from becoming a lame duck president in his last year.
Under Taiwan's political system, the president appoints the premier, the island's second most powerful person, who oversees day-to-day government. As his power comes from the president, the premier would try to avoid confronting the top leader.
If Chang is appointed, he is expected to support Chen's hard-line policy toward rival China, refraining from taking steps to allow more Chinese tourists to visit Taiwan or sanctioning regular weekend direct charter flights between the sides, Hsu said.
Taiwanese businesspeople have long pressured the government to allow more travel and trade with the mainland to help stimulate the island's sputtering economy. Chen has refused to relax his China policies, saying any concessions would undermine the island's sovereignty.
As the party's presidential candidate, Hsieh is expected to refrain from openly advocating reconciliation with China to avoid conflicts with Chen during the presidential campaign.
"If Taiwan ever softens its policy toward China, it would come after the 2008 race, not before," Hsu said.

Updated : 2021-10-23 20:32 GMT+08:00