Well, the fuss seems to be over. On Saturday, The Associated Press (AP) issued a dispatch that fell short of a full-fledged correction for what the Presidential Office felt were errors in an interview with President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) published earlier in the week.
Ma raised eyebrows on Wednesday when he held an impromptu press conference at Taipei Songshan Airport saying that he was misquoted on the existence of a specific timeline for political talks with China. The Government Information Office (GIO) released Chinese and English transcripts of the interview on Thursday, demanding an investigation into the “causes of distortions” if corrections were not made. On Saturday, the GIO issued a statement saying it was satisfied with the AP’s response and that the matter should be ended.
Indeed it should be ended — except perhaps to ask what caused the uproar in the first place. Reading the English transcript, AP’s article and its eventual “clarification,” it is hard to say what all the excitement was about. While some questioned whether the president should conduct interviews in English with foreign media, the transcript indicates that Ma handled himself well and he said nothing he has not said before concerning talks with China. AP did not distort the president’s comments, except perhaps to dwell a little too much on Ma’s intentions for a second term; but even here, the story’s emphasis was squarely on future economic and political circumstances, together with the will of the Taiwanese electorate at that time.
It is hard not to conclude that the entire issue was caused by Ma, or someone on his staff, reading the AP story and panicking. Why would the administration be so jumpy about the notion of political talks? There is an election next month, of course, and another in 2012, and with races tight and Ma’s own popularity soft, any suggestion that he is being overly cavalier in his dealings with Beijing could play out badly for the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT). It may even hamstring economic negotiations, which are still ongoing in key areas.
Clearly the problem lies deeper. While the economic benefits of signing trade deals with China help mask the political conditions attached, these strings cannot be avoided forever, even as Ma does his best to downplay the risk. After all, “political talks” is merely a euphemism for a more threatening term, political negotiations, which raises specters of lost sovereignty and annexation by a country with serious human rights issues.
However, several points can be made in defense of negotiations, despite the fears they are bound to engender. One is that as comforting as it seems, maintaining the “status quo” across the Taiwan Strait is maintaining a state of de facto war with China and as such is unsustainable. Another is that while unification may be its eventual outcome, negotiating will involve a series of specific, cumulative political agreements aimed at establishing tangible guarantees, military and political, of cross-strait security, which over time would transform relations across the Taiwan Strait, potentially making unification less frightening or even unnecessary.
Yet perhaps the best thing about political dialogue with China stems from the recent controversy, which, if nothing else, reveals just how vulnerable the KMT is on the issue. At a time when the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) must demonstrate political viability, especially for national elections where relations with China will be paramount, a leadership opportunity presents itself.
While the KMT is forced to euphemize and equivocate, DPP leaders should speak openly about the need for political negotiation. This would require them to resist the impulse to use the issue to score political points. It would also require them to develop a credible platform to advance negotiations when the time comes and to deal with the anxiety such discussions will inevitably produce.
Taiwan’s status in the world community is experiencing something really different; it’s being treated like a normal country. And not just a “normal” country, more like a valuable, constructive, democratic and generous country. This is not simply an artifact of Taiwan’s successes in combatting the novel coronavirus. It is a new attitude, weighing Taiwan’s democracy against China’s lack of it. Before I continue, I should apologize to the readers of the Taipei Times. I have not visited Taipei since the opening of the American Institute in Taiwan’s new chancery building in Neihu last year, so I was unprepared for the photograph
On Sept. 27, 2002, the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste (East Timor) joined the UN to become its 191st member. Since then, two other nations have joined, Montenegro on June 28, 2006, and South Sudan on July 14, 2011. The combined total of the populations of these three nations is just more than half that of Taiwan’s 23.7 million people. East Timor has 1.3 million, Montenegro has slightly more than half a million and South Sudan has 10.9 million. They all are members of the UN, yet much more populous Taiwan is denied membership. Of the three, East Timor, as a Southeast Asian
At a June 12 news conference held by the Talent Circulation Alliance to announce the release of its white paper for this year, President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) emphasized that, in this era of globalization, Taiwan should focus on improving foreign language and digital abilities when cultivating talent, so that it stands out from global competitors. I suggest the government should consider building a professional translation industry. If the public believes that there is a relationship between learning English and national competitiveness, then the nation must consider the social cost of language education. This should be assessed to maximise educational effectiveness: Is
Taiwan has for decades singlehandedly borne the brunt of a revanchist, ultra-nationalist China — until now. Ever since Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison had the temerity to call for a transparent, international investigation into the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic, Beijing has been turning the screws on Canberra. This has included unleashing aggressive “wolf warrior” diplomats to intimidate Australian policymakers, enacting punitive tariffs on its exports, and threatening an embargo on Chinese tourists and students to the nation. A tense situation became more serious on June 19 after Morrison revealed that a “sophisticated state-based actor” — read: China — had launched a