The truce is working. President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) water-under-the-bridge approach to relations with Beijing is paying dividends. Cross-strait tensions are easing. Repeat these things often enough, add a dose of wishful thinking, and they may start to have a ring of truth to them.
The problem, however, is that Ma’s strategy is failing. Deplorably.
So far the only indication that rapprochement may be paying dividends is the possibility that Beijing could allow Taiwan to obtain observer status at the World Health Assembly. This would be under an unspecified name, presumably one that would make short shrift of Taiwan’s dignity. Furthermore, that display of “generosity” by Beijing would have to be renewed every year.
Everything else — Taiwan’s international space, the state of its economy, the number of Chinese visiting the country, trade pacts and the military threat the nation faces — either remains as uncertain as it was prior to Ma’s peace bid or, in some cases, has deteriorated.
The Chinese tourists have failed to materialize. The pair of pandas “given” by China were politicized and treated as a mere “domestic” transfer. The trade pacts have been negotiated between party officials rather than on a state-to-state basis and were the result of a less-than-transparent process that puts into doubt their potential for helping the Taiwanese economy.
Meanwhile, National Palace Museum Director Chou Kung-hsin (周�?, who is presently in Beijing negotiating an exchange of exhibits with her Chinese counterparts, has been compelled by Chinese authorities to drop the “national” from her employer’s name as a condition for the talks.
On the military front, while rumors briefly floated that China might cut down on the number of missiles it aims at Taiwan, news emerged last week that the People’s Liberation Army was moving in the opposite direction, with the result that since Ma came into office in May, about 200 more missiles are threatening to rain down on us.
Meanwhile, tipsy with its delusions of peace and convinced that the threat of a Chinese attack has diminished, the Ma administration has cut down on the frequency of military exercises that are crucial to ensure preparedness, while the military — purportedly to limit carbon dioxide emissions — announced it would cut down on its use of live ammunition during some exercises.
Ma has also trumpeted cuts in military personnel, both in response to the alleged emergence of peace in the Taiwan Strait and as part of a plan to create a fully professional army — a pipe dream that will remain unrealized unless the government invests billions of NT dollars into increasing salaries to attract recruits who will otherwise continue to turn to the private sector to make a living.
As if this were not enough, news reports last week said that Chinese intelligence may have attempted to blackmail Taiwanese civil servants to recruit them as spies. A few days later, the Presidential Office was being forced to deny reports that the National Security Council, headed by China-friendly Su Chi (蘇起), had ordered the National Security Bureau (NSB) to stop recruiting Chinese spies. Regardless of whether the order was given or not — and the NSB’s response to the report was insufficient to dispel fears — the fact that such allegations are being floated in the first place is an indication of the new laid-back environment the national security apparatus seems to be operating in — and inevitably undermines morale.