Fri, Jun 13, 2008 - Page 8 News List

EDITORIAL: Sovereignty at stake in Beijing

With talks between the Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) and China’s Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait (ARATS) under way, it is hard not to understand the concerns of those who have been calling for Taiwan’s sovereignty to be protected.

This time the talks are being held in Beijing, a factor that is itself full of symbolism.

Not holding the talks on neutral ground, as happened in the past, gives China the chance to frame events as it desires. The venue for the talks, the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse, is proof of this, as it is where the Chinese government houses visiting provincial government officials. Thus, Beijing can portray the talks as one of its provinces coming to pay tribute to the seat of power.

All the talk about “putting aside disputes over sovereignty” to create a “win-win” situation for both sides is a red herring because if Taiwan is willing to overlook sovereignty just once, then it is setting a precedent for future talks. The only winner if this happens will be Beijing.

If any attempt is going to be made to protect Taiwan’s sovereignty, then it needs to be done during this week’s talks. However, it remains to be seen whether SEF Chairman Chiang Pin-kung (江丙坤) will follow in the footsteps of his predecessor Koo Chen-fu (辜振甫) and lay down the law to the Chinese side.

A failure to do this will be a direct consequence of the string of rash promises made by President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) ahead of the presidential election, all predicated on Beijing’s goodwill. Ma got elected with the reputation — however questionable — of being a “can do” politician, but he has had to make major concessions to try to live up to that image.

With rocketing oil and commodity prices delivering an inauspicious beginning to his presidency, he is afraid that failure to deliver flights and tourists by July 4 will deal a devastating blow to his credibility and popularity.

Another consequence of this week’s talks is that China fever is now in danger of developing into a full-scale epidemic, with county commissioners and city mayors now champing at the bit to cross the Strait and hobnob with their communist counterparts. Elected officials are lining up to ditch their titles to take part in economic activities and some are even willing to break the law to do so.

It is hard to believe that these are the same people who so fervently defended the Republic of China (ROC) from the localization moves of the Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) administration and have kicked up such a fuss over this week’s sinking of a Taiwanese fishing boat by the Japanese coast guard.

The government must put its foot down soon and allow the Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) to exercise its authority if it is to prove wrong the doubters who said Lai Shin-yuan’s (賴幸媛) appointment was just a publicity stunt.

It cannot afford to order the MAC to cave in, as it did in the case of Kinmen County Commissioner Lee Chu-feng (李炷烽).

Only then can the Ma administration prove it is serious about upholding Taiwan’s sovereignty, something 68 percent of respondents supported in a Global Views magazine poll this week.

How can people trust a government that is prepared to stand up to Japan over the sovereignty of the Diaoyutais while at the same time cower to China?

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