Wed, Oct 25, 2006 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: Ma offers no peaceful alternative

In an interview with Bloomberg last Thursday, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) said that the KMT would negotiate a peace agreement with China by 2012 if the party were to win the presidency in 2008. He added that such a deal would guarantee that Taiwan will not seek formal independence in exchange for China's promise that it will not attack the island. A precondition is that China removes its 800 missiles directed at Taiwan. Ma also said that the party will seek to promote direct transportation links, remove restrictions on China-bound investment and allow Chinese enterprises to invest in Taiwan.

While Ma's comments are an improvement over his previously naive remark that unification is the KMT's eventual goal and his suggestion of putting aside long-term concerns to focus on the short and mid-term peaceful development of cross-strait relations, they still show a distinct lack of Taiwanese consciousness. His words are designed to put Taiwan right into China's "united front" trap and are a betrayal of public expectations.

Ma's proposed peace agreement can be likened to a man forcing a woman to marry him with the promise that he would not beat her if she agrees.

There are several major flaws in Ma's plan.

First, it is a denial of Taiwan's sovereignty. Past surveys have shown that the Taiwanese think Taiwan is independent, and that the country's official title is the Republic of China. There is a major consensus on this issue among most Taiwanese and the different political parties. But since Ma's peace agreement proposes to exchange Taiwan's independence for China's promise not to use violence, it is based on the supposition that Taiwan is not a sovereign and independent nation. If the winner of the 2008 presidential election denies that Taiwan is an independent country, how would he or she be any different from the leaders of Hong Kong and Macau?

Second, the agreement would strangle Taiwan's future. Ma said that the peace agreement would not include a provision for eventual unification, that the decision should be left to Taiwan's 23 million people and that unification could only occur after China had developed freedom, democracy and prosperity. But inking a "one China" consensus would put Taiwan on a one-way road to unification, severely limiting the country's future options -- just as the Sino-British Joint Declaration did for Hong Kong in 1984.

Third, the conditions for a cross-strait peace agreement are unequal. Peace and non-violence are the basic principles underlying the international community's solution to conflict. If Taipei were to sacrifice future possibilities in exchange for Beijing's promise not to attack the country in the short or medium term, Taiwan would be walking straight into China's trap without getting anything in return.

Fourth, a cross-strait peace agreement could become an excuse for China to take military action against Taiwan. Such an agreement would guarantee that the cross-strait status quo is maintained for a period of time. But if Taiwan refuses to accept China's demand for unification after the expiration of the agreement, Beijing could attack Taiwan by claiming that it has declared independence or that the preconditions for unification no longer exist.

Ma's peace proposal is nothing new. The idea of such an agreement was first raised during former US president Bill Clinton's administration when China expert Kenneth Lieberthal proposed an agreement for the mid term. The US' "track two" program to facilitate diplomacy between China and Taiwan led to a substantial amount of discussion, but Taiwan did not agree to the talks because of the potential problems it would cause. Even the US did not push for the signing of such an accord.

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