Thu, May 29, 2008 - Page 8 News List

Ma's speech offered little of substance to Taiwan

By Ruan Ming 阮銘

President Ma Ying-jeou's (馬英九) inaugural speech can be summed up in two short phrases: Compromise outweighs conviction; emotion overrides reason.

Ma made satisfying China a priority in his speech, quoting Chinese President Hu Jintao’s (胡錦濤) three talks on cross-strait relations on March 26, April 12 and April 29, then concluding that “His views are very much in line with our own.”

And it came as no surprise that the speech was quickly approved by China’s Taiwan Affairs Office, despite it lacking the conviction that the president of a young democracy should deliver.

Is Ma not aware that the terms “controversies” and “differences” in Hu’s proposal to “shelve controversies” and “find commonalities despite differences” also imply that China is refusing to recognize Taiwan as an independent, sovereign state?

This is a Chinese trick to annex Taiwan through its United Front scheme — or maybe even military force. As a popularly elected president, Ma should insist that Taiwan’s independence and sovereignty brook no violation, disavowal or delay.

Ma should not forget that, in May 1996, Taiwan’s first popularly elected president, Lee Teng-hui (李登輝), clearly said at the beginning of his inaugural speech: “Today, 21.3 million compatriots are officially entering a new era, under which sovereignty is in the hands of the people!”

But Ma said: “In resolving cross-strait issues, what matters is not sovereignty but core values and way of life.”

Wrong. Even if core values and way of life on the two sides of the Taiwan Strait were to move toward unity in a distant future, China would have no right to annex Taiwan — just like the UK has no right to annex the US simply because they share similar core values and ways of life.

There are now two countries and two systems on the two sides of the Strait: a young democracy and an old, authoritarian communist state.

Taiwan would be better off introducing China to its advanced values and way of life so that some day they can be “two countries, one system.” But Taiwan should not annex China, and should not tolerate annexation by China, either now or in the future.

In his speech, Ma won the most applause by saying: “I am forever grateful to Taiwan’s society for accepting and nurturing this postwar immigrant. I will protect Taiwan with all my heart and resolutely move forward, and do my very best!”

This is an emotional appeal to the Taiwanese people, and such expression of true emotions is praiseworthy. Regretfully, emotions will only touch others temporarily, as they obscure paucity of reason. Unlike Lee, Ma failed to clearly point out the direction of Taiwan’s development in the next era.

Where will Ma’s “resolutely moving forward and doing his very best” lead Taiwan? He proposed no rational goal or strategy in his speech. He seems to pin Taiwan’s fate on consultations with Hu “over Taiwan’s international space and a possible cross-strait peace accord,” and finding “a way to attain peace and co-prosperity.”

But Ma should understand that, as China attempts to annex Taiwan by its United Front work and military force in conjunction with the “Anti-Secession” Law, peace and co-prosperity is merely empty talk.

Ma’s speech raised a question mark. With compromise outweighing conviction and emotion overriding reason, his proposal is, at best, a short-term fix.

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