Mon, Oct 20, 2008 - Page 8 News List

Ma not in control of cross-strait relations

By Lin Cho-shui 林濁水

Speaking at an international press conference just after he took office, President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) formally defined the series of talks between the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and Chinese Communist Party (CCP) as the “second track” in negotiations between Taiwan and China, while those between the Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) and its Chinese counterpart, the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait (ARATS), were the “first track.”

A “second track” is an unofficial avenue — not a policymaking process but merely a channel for communication. In the case of the KMT-CCP talks, however, Beijing does not accept Ma’s description of them as second-track.

Ma has stressed that it is the government, not any political party, that rules the country, so the party-to-party talks between KMT Chairman Wu Poh-hsiung (吳伯雄) and CCP General Secretary Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) are not official. While this is the normal state of affairs in democratic countries, however, it is anathema to Beijing.

In China, the CCP general secretary has the biggest sway on national policy.

Ma regards the talks between Wu and Hu as second-track, but Hu holds the idea in contempt.

When Wu and Hu met, Hu reportedly said to Wu with a laugh: “Chairman Wu, I hear that some people in Taiwan are saying that negotiations between the ARATS and the SEF are first-track and we are second-track.”

Hu then turned to ARATS Chairman Chen Yunlin (陳雲林) and said: “Yunlin, since when are you the first track and I the second?”

When the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) was in power, the KMT made it quite clear that its talks with the CPP were meant to “do what the DPP government cannot do.”

To put it another way, the party-to-party talks served to undermine the government. Now that the KMT is in power, then, the talks should be superfluous. Yet the KMT’s central leadership, who are far from happy with Ma’s policy of keeping party and state separate, are carrying on with the talks as a means of undermining Ma and his government.

While Ma says the KMT-CCP talks are second-track talks and should not be pursued too hastily, other KMT leaders have cited Hu’s words like a badge of authority, waving them in Ma’s face to show who is really in charge.

In reality, Wu and Hu are the first track of talks, while Ma and Chen are their executive officers. This is the way things really work.

Ahead of the Olympics opening ceremony, for example, the arrangements for where in the line of teams Taiwan’s athletes would enter the stadium were approved at the KMT-CCP talks and Ma had to accept it whether he liked it or not. In effect, while Wu holds the mandate bestowed by Hu, Ma has been reduced to the role of chief executive officer.

In the process of negotiations between Taiwan and China, Ma, with his soft and pliable character, does not have the guts to defend his position. Ma, the National Security Council and the Mainland Affairs Council still pretend that they are first-track players, but in reality they know the KMT-CCP talks take precedence.

Taken in the context of Ma’s definition of Taiwan and China as “two regions in a single China,” Ma becomes nothing more than the leader of a region, while Hu is the leader of a country. Wu, for his part, is like a governor sent by the national leader to keep an eye on the regional boss.

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