When Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Ma Ying-jeou (
In the past, Ma had said that the ultimate goal was unification with China and then in his typical fashion of trying to please everyone, he also said he recognized independence was an option for Taiwan.
Now, fearing he may be forced to take a clear position, Ma is seeking a nebulous middle ground where he can speak pleasant vagaries without any real commitment.
He found it by saying he wanted to maintain the "status quo."
Ma has retreated into mouthing the KMT's "five dos."
The first "do" calls for resuming negotiations between Taiwan and China based on the so-called "1992 consensus."
Ah yes, the ridiculous "1992 consensus," or "agreeing to disagree about the definition of "one China."
One wonders whether Ma is being naive or he considers the public naive.
It is common knowledge that the "1992 consensus" was a KMT fabrication, so why does Ma keep on returning to this subject?
The People's Republic of China (PRC) certainly did not consent to the consensus.
Since it never agreed on the fabrication, how can that be the basis for negotiations?
The second "do" is to agree on a peace accord.
This also stretches the mind. How does one agree on a peace accord with a country whose idea of peace is to demand you submit to its rule and to continually pile up missiles against you?
The number now is near 1,000. What will Ma use as a negotiating and bargaining chip, especially since his party continues to block any arms bill in the Legislative Yuan?
Ma's capability and credibility as a sincere negotiator is in serious doubt since he promised in 2005 to get the arms bill passed.
Who is in charge of the KMT?
The third "do" is to facilitate economic exchanges with the aim of establishing a common market.
This has a "do-able" ring to it since the word facilitate is vague and a simple effort would qualify as working on it.
But how good is a common market? Given the huge difference between the 23 million people of Taiwan and the 1.3 billion people of the PRC, how balanced will this common market be?
Will there be a quid pro quo exchange or will one swallow the other?
The fourth "do" is to work with the PRC to boost Taiwan's presence in international bodies.
Now there is a Herculean task if there ever was one, or would Sisyphus be a better metaphor?
How does one begin to work with another country to boost Taiwan's presence when that country's sole purpose for the past 50 years has been to destroy and eliminate Taiwan's presence in international bodies?
What specific steps does Ma have in mind? What world is he living in?
Finally, we have the fifth "do," which is to expand educational and cultural exchanges.
This is something that is being done and certainly is worth expanding. At last, Ma presents something that has a reasonable ring about it.
Taiwan can start with educational presentations on the benefits and achievements of democracy in Taiwan and show that democracy need not be the antithesis of Chinese culture.
Unfortunately the KMT's five dos carry the all too familiar stamp of the party.
Provide the people with high-sounding platitudes so that it doesn't examine reality.
Remember the famous lines of "The first year preparation, the third year mobilization and the fifth year retaking China."
How long was that one used to pacify the masses and justify the KMT's one-party state rule? Forty to 50 years?
It was in 1991 that the party formally faced reality and in 1996 the public were finally allowed to elect the president.
As the legislative elections and the next presidential elections approach, Taiwan does need some good, practical direction.
The first step should be to put a moratorium on the word independence and focus on the word democracy.
How can the people and the parties of Taiwan improve Taiwan's democracy?
This is the real nitty-gritty issue for Taiwan on which all else will be built.
For too long the word independence has been used as a smokescreen, a dodge, a subterfuge by people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait and the world to posture to their constituents and party members and avoid the reality of nations actually working together.
Even the US has gotten into the act.
Without ever offering concrete help and suggestions to Taiwan's democracy, the US administration has only droned on for seven long years that President Chen Shui-bian (
This coming from a nation whose head of state was all too quick to say the unsayable "Weapons of Mass Destruction" -- but that's another story.
The real question, building point and focus for Taiwan is and should remain that of democracy.
If Taiwan is a democracy, then as a democracy, it already is independent.
Furthermore, the rest of the world already acknowledges that de facto independence in its dealings with Taiwan.
It is only in their seeking China's lucrative markets that nations bake hypocritical fudge.
Last month saw the formation of the Taiwan Hakka Society. The society aims to promote Taiwanese consciousness, democracy and solidarity among Hakka and enhance harmony among ethnic groups.
As Lee Chiao (
I laud such action. It is a move that all political parties and ethnic groups should follow.
It is built on Taiwan's democracy and equal representation of all.
This is the step Ma and the KMT for all their platitudes have never taken.
Democracy should be the litmus test and the basis for questions asked to Ma and all others who wish to run for office:
"Is Taiwan's democracy your top priority, your sine qua non, your non-negotiable when dealing with the PRC and the world?
"Is it your cornerstone, your building block?"
Forget the fancy rhetoric, forget the platitudinous five dos and begin with this bedrock basic.
A positive commitment to that simple question and democracy is what will separate who is for Taiwan and who is a Quisling.
Jerome Keating is a Taiwan-based writer.
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