Changes in the cross-strait relationship over the seven months since President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) took office include a cooling-off in the cross-strait political standoff, the resumption of talks between the Straits Exchange Foundation and the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait (ARATS) and increased economic deregulation.
However, Taiwan has had to pay a heavy political price for this relaxation. These costs include having to accept the “one China” framework, denigrating Taiwanese sovereignty, confusing the nation’s status, destroying Taiwanese identity and sacrificing human rights and freedom.
First of all, Ma stresses that the “1992 consensus” implies “one China” with each side having its own interpretation. China — at most — allows that both sides of the Taiwan Strait agree that there is only one China but disagree on how to define it. It has never agreed that the two sides can have their own interpretation of the “one China” principle.
Since Ma took office on May 20, the Chinese government has made it clear on many occasions that no matter what changes occur in cross-strait relations, the “one China” principle will never change. The problem for Taiwan is that because the international community generally accepts China’s definition, Taiwan has to accept the “one China” framework.
Secondly, the Ma administration is denigrating Taiwan’s sovereign status. During his election campaign, Ma said Taiwan was a sovereign and democratic country and on May 21, Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) chairwoman Lai Shin-yuan (賴幸媛) said it was a sovereign and independent country.
However, in early September, the Ma administration referred to Taiwan as an “area.” Ma is a symbol of Taiwan’s sovereignty, but neglecting national dignity, he was happy to have ARATS Chairman Chen Yunlin (陳雲林) refer to him as “Mr Ma” while visiting Taiwan. Even after much public protest, Ma accepted being addressed as “you” by Chen. These incidents greatly damaged Taiwan’s national sovereignty.
Ma is blurring Taiwan’s national status. During his election campaign, Ma said “Taiwan” was the Republic of China (ROC). However, after taking office, he said the ROC was “one China” and that this was stipulated in the Constitution and that as president he must act in accord with the Constitution.
However, on many occasions when explaining Taiwan’s position to other countries, Ma has used the term “Taiwan” as shorthand for the ROC. Not once has he said that he is the leader of China or referred to Taiwan as China. Therefore, whether the “ROC” refers to Taiwan or China is unclear.
The Ma government has destroyed Taiwan’s identity. During his election campaign, Ma said he was Taiwanese, that “the future of Taiwan must be decided by the people of Taiwan,” that “Taiwan’s future has nothing to do with China” and that he “will not stand for China interfering in Taiwan’s affairs.”
However, in his inauguration speech, he said both sides of the Taiwan Strait were Chinese and in late October, he said the people in China and Taiwan only had different household registrations, but not different nationalities. According to Ma, the 23 million people of Taiwan and the 1.3 billion people of China were the same people and shared the same nation.
Lastly, the government has also sacrificed human rights and freedom. During his election campaign, Ma strongly criticized the Chinese government for the Tiananmen Square Massacre and the more recent suppression of riots in Tibet. However, after being elected, Ma responded to questions about the Tiananmen Square Massacre by saying the Chinese government had made great improvements over the past 30 years. He also stopped criticizing China’s abuse of human rights and freedom. Early last month, when the Dalai Lama expressed interest in visiting Taiwan, Ma quickly said the time was not right. The Presidential Office later said that this was based on concern for the development of cross-strait relations.