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Wednesday, January 3, 2001

Voyages could lead
to expanded trade

Bullet The issue: Three Taiwan vessels have sailed from the off-shore islands of Kinmen and Matsu to Chinese ports in the first such legal voyages since the Communist victory in 1949.

Bullet Our view: The voyages could lead to cancelation of the ban on direct voyages from Taiwan, expanded trade and improvement in China-Taiwan relations.

IN the 1950s, the little islands of Kinmen (better known as Quemoy) and Matsu, lying just off the Chinese mainland, were pounded relentlessly by Chinese Communist artillery in what appeared to be preparation for an invasion of Taiwan.

After tensions eased and the shelling stopped, voyages were made illegally between the islands and the mainland, smuggling seafood, produce and consumer goods. The only contacts officially permitted by the government in Taipei were made indirectly through Hong Kong.

Yesterday three Taiwan vessels made the first legal voyages to the mainland in 51 years -- since the Communists drove the Nationalists into exile on Taiwan in 1949. They embarked from Kinmen and Matsu, arriving in the Chinese ports of Xiamen and Mawei. Kinmen lies just outside Xiamen's harbor, while Matsu is five miles off the coast 120 miles to the north.

The lifting of some travel restrictions could lead eventually to direct voyages across the 100-mile-wide Taiwan Strait between China and Taiwan. This would be more efficient than the currently required indirect route and thus could stimulate trade. For the present, however, such travel remains banned.

Many Taiwanese hope the new legal contacts will lead to improved relations with Beijing, which still threatens to use force against what it regards as a renegade territory.

Taiwanese Premier Chang Chun-hsiung said the direct voyages could be "a very important step to herald the end of confrontations that have prevailed for 51 years. We hope this presents a new opportunity to establish stable, peaceful and mutually prosperous relations."

Taiwan opened the links between the two small islands and China without discussion with Beijing. The Communist regime has grudgingly accepted the step, however. China has insisted that Taiwan accept the principle that it is part of China, but the government of Chen Shui-bian, who approved the Kinmen-Matsu voyages, has balked.

The sanctioning of direct voyages between Kinmen and Matsu and the mainland is a small but symbolically important step in improving China-Taiwan relations. Psychologically, at least, it makes an attempt by China to solve the problem of Taiwan by force less plausible. Anything that reduces the danger of war is worth applauding.

Bush’s cabinet choices
span a broad spectrum

Bullet The issue: President-elect Bush has chosen a Japanese American, an Arab American and a Hispanic American in his latest cabinet selections.

Bullet Our view: These choices and several earlier ones give the prospective cabinet a breadth of ethnic and racial representation.

PRESIDENT-ELECT Bush's latest selections further broaden his prospective cabinet's ethnic and racial reach by including Japanese-American Norman Mineta as secretary of transportation, Arab-American Spencer Abraham as secretary of energy and Hispanic-American Linda Chavez as secretary of labor. The choice of Mineta, a former member of Congress from California who has served President Clinton as secretary of commerce, also fulfills Bush's pledge to include a Democrat in the cabinet.

Abraham is a senator from Michigan who just lost his bid for re-election. Chavez served as director of the Civil Rights Commission under President Reagan.

Bush previously named two African Americans to cabinet positions -- Gen. Colin Powell, secretary of state, and Roderick Paige, Houston schools superintendent, secretary of education. A third, Condoleezza Rich, was appointed national security adviser, a noncabinet position but a major one nonetheless.

Bush also nominated a Hispanic American, Mel Martinez, as secretary of housing and urban development, and another, Al Gonzales, as White House counsel.

The president-elect has selected three other women for major positions -- Ann Veneman as secretary of agriculture, New Jersey Gov. Christie Whitman to head the Environmental Protection Agency and Gale Norton as secretary of the Interior.

These selections should provide valuable insulation for Bush against charges that he represents a throwback to an era when white males called all the shots in government.

However, Bush has ruffled liberal feathers by nominating outgoing Sen. John Ashcroft of Missouri as attorney general. Ashcroft is considered an arch-conservative on such issues as abortion and gun control.

Norton's nomination is also controversial. A protege of James Watt and a former attorney general of Colorado, she has angered conservationists by advocating free-market alternatives to regulation.

Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson, named secretary of health and human services, is a leader in welfare reform and an opponent of abortion rights.

These selections are likely to face opposition in the narrowly divided Senate and their prospects for confirmation are doubtful.

But they reflect the views of Bush's conservative supporters -- and probably his own -- and he could hardly choose a cabinet without including such names in addition to several moderates.

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John M. Flanagan, Editor & Publisher

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