Paul Greenberg

Peace, it's wonderful. So are some other things - like democracy, common sense and practical policies as opposed to angry slogans. The latest election results from Taiwan, aka the Republic of China, represent a victory for all of those.

The results were not only a landslide victory (58 percent of the vote) for the Kuomintang, or Nationalists, but a well deserved slap at the current, ever controversial president and leader of the other party, the Democratic Progressives.

Ineligible to succeed himself as president, Chen Shui-bian has been bad news for years, a veritable poster boy for term limits. His push for an independent Taiwan, which Red China considers a breakaway province, provoked not only Beijing but Washington, for this country has a very real stake in preserving the peace of the region.

It got so bad at one point - in late 2003 - that President Bush publicly reproved Taiwan's president, and blocked American sales of advanced warplanes to that beleaguered island.

Taiwan's voters now have proved far more responsible than their troublesome president. They not only turned to the opposition party in this election, but, by soundly defeating two referenda, turned down his idea of applying for separate United Nations membership under the name of Taiwan.

With the other, huge China wielding a veto at the UN, the whole idea was never going to go anywhere. It was just another showy provocation, and Taiwan's voters had the good sense to realize it.

It was hard to see what purpose these referenda were supposed to serve except the same one that mischievous little boys have when they tease bulls - and risk getting gored.

Back in 1992, Taiwan and the mainland signed a formal agreement to disagree. They agreed that there was only "one China" while not getting into the contentious question of which government was its legitimate ruler, the People's Republic on the mainland or the Republic of China on Taiwan. No need to go into detail. Better the vaguest peace than the clearest war.

It was a good sign when Ma Ying-jeou, now Taiwan's president-elect, visited this country in 2006 and spoke highly of that 1992 agreement. Why be needlessly specific? The newly elected president has a far lighter touch then the incumbent, which befits an ancient culture known for its subtleties. Call it strategic ambiguity.


Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.