Wed, Sep 10, 2008 - Page 8 News List

Ma has abased himself for nought

By Lee Wen-Chung 李文忠

The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) is an old party, and President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and his government should have pushed to reform it during their first 100 days in office. But there has been little in the way of reform so far. Instead, Ma has created two political miracles.

First, Ma’s approval ratings have dropped by almost half as public discontent soars. Second, despite all the awkwardness resulting from the scandal surrounding the former first family, the pan-green camp still managed to organize a successful demonstration against Ma. Public discontent has stemmed mainly from economic factors, while the green camp’s anger comes from the government’s overt tilt toward China. But is such anger reasonable?

During the presidential campaign and in his inauguration speech, Ma’s message was that Taiwan is the “Republic of China [ROC] on Taiwan” and “the Republic of China is Taiwan.” Based on this foundation, his key values are seen as democracy and peace and stressing that the two sides of the Taiwan Strait are involved in a battle of government systems.

His strategic goals were “no unification, no independence, no war,” while his strategic direction is to put aside the sovereignty dispute for the sake of the economy. His strategic choice was to prioritize “opening up” over sovereignty, and placing cross-strait relations above diplomatic affairs, while the basis for cross-strait exchanges is the so-called “1992 consensus.”

These claims were one reason for Ma’s landslide victory, influencing some swing voters and moderate pan-green voters. But the Ma administration and the KMT have continued to use the same slogans since May 20, although they haven’t dared insist on the existence of the ROC, while occasionally oppressing Taiwan and never mentioning democracy. This has disappointed moderate green supporters and swing voters and angered staunch green supporters.

Take the so-called “1992 consensus” for example. On first appearance, this is a consensus expressed in the “one China, different interpretations” formula, but in practice, some countries have already began using “Chinese Taipei” rather than the “Republic of China” or “Taiwan” because of Beijing’s dominance in the international community and Taiwan’s weakness and concessions.

Ma has willingly downgraded himself to “Mr Ma” for cross-strait exchanges and he was afraid to fight for the right of Taiwanese to carry the national flag at the Olympics. The national flag will not appear at cross-strait exchange meetings or even sports events in Taiwan. In what way is this version of “one China” open to “different interpretations?”

This is nothing but “one China, their interpretation” internationally, while the “Republic of China” is halfheartedly backed domestically — as long as China is not present, of course. The purpose of setting aside the sovereignty dispute is to avoid getting trapped by a dispute that cannot be resolved in the short term, and instead push for pragmatic exchanges.

But the Ma administration’s approach is put aside Taiwan’s sovereignty completely. Is this really what most Taiwanese want?

Would presidents Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) and Chiang Ching-kuo (蔣經國) agree with this approach? Do former foreign ministers Fredrick Chien (錢復) and now Taichung Mayor Jason Hu (胡志強), who have worked so hard for the ROC, agree?

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