Thu, Dec 22, 2005 - Page 8 News List

Ma risking irreparable rift with major ally

By Paul Lin 林保華

When Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) went to pay his respects at the grave of 228 Incident victims Chang Chi-lang (張七郎) and his two sons, Chang's descendents, paying no heed to Ma's little performance, begged him to support the arms procurement bill to give Taiwan the military strength it needs to defend itself. This demand put Ma in a somewhat embarrassing position.

Ma used the traditional ploy of saying that the arms procurement budget was a mug's game. After former KMT chairman Lien Chan (連戰) stepped down, both Ma and legislative speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) agreed that the arms procurement bill was not without merit. But after the meeting between Ma and People First Party Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜), Ma changed tack again. He reiterated that the arms procurement budget was too expensive, returning to the line that Soong had ardently advocated. With Soong's political career facing its imminent demise, it is understandable if his utterances become a little irresponsible, but Ma is a rising star, so it seems hard to believe that he would allow Soong to pull him down.

If arms procurement is a mug's game, then clearly there must be a hustler who hopes to cheat the mug out of his hard-earned dollars. Who, in Ma's estimation, is the hustler? As the arms are being bought from the US, perhaps Ma will say that Taiwan is being hustled by US arms dealers. But an arms deal at such a high level and on such a vast scale must clearly involve the US government, so is Ma also pointing his finger at the US government? But if the US government is no more than a hustler, then how has Taiwan survived this long? Where would the glow on Ma's own Harvard halo be? Surely Ma cannot forget his bonds of loyalty in order to toady up to China?

Looking at Ma's attitude to the communists in China, we see that he is mild in his criticisms, calling them "undemocratic" rather than a "one-party state." On the recent massacre in Shanwei, Ma has avoided making any comment, so as not to offend China. Moreover, in recent interviews with the press, he has even suggested that "Beijing is in no hurry to achieve reunification" as a way of undermining Taiwan's psychological defenses, and as another means of obstructing the arms procurement bill.

If Beijing is in no hurry, then what is the purpose of its various ploys that are part of its "united front" strategy, including having the KMT propose inviting the chief of China's Taiwan Affairs Office Chen Yunlin (陳雲林) and other "united front" officials to Taiwan? In obstructing the arms procurement act, Ma is falling in line with Beijing's plans to "liberate" Taiwan and create the conditions for yet another 228 Incident. That's why his actions in relation to the 228 Incident are so clearly hypocritical.

Can arms procurement be a mug's game? Certainly it can. The Lafayette case is a perfect example. Not only did KMT officials cooperating with China obtain vast kickbacks that drove the price of the weapons up to astronomical levels, but France also passed on all the secret blueprints to China. Why did the prospect that the information would be declassified and sent to Taiwan make Ma so nervous?

Let us hope that Ma and Wang can compromise for the sake of the country and allow the arms procurement budget to pass. The government and the military have already made numerous concessions to this end. Surely Ma does not want to risk creating an irreparable rift with the US merely in order to continue the cooperation between the KMT and China.

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