Fri, Oct 29, 2010 - Page 8 News List

Trying to make sense of Ma’s AP corrections

By James Wang 王景弘

During President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) time in office, he has pushed ahead with what he has called a diplomatic truce with China. This means that Ma kowtows to China in every way possible, and that interviews with foreign media no longer serve as a platform for defending Taiwan’s rights and interests as they used to under the former administration.

However, this is the way Ma likes it. When he has nothing to say, he makes up something ambiguous and the whole affair ends up with “corrections” and “clarifications.”

His recent interview with The Associated Press (AP) was no exception. The more he spoke, the more pro-Chinese he sounded, and he showed that internationally he fears China, while at home he fears the voters. These two fears have one thing in common — fear of not being re-elected. This kowtowing and deception was at the center of his demand that AP “correct” its report about the interview.

Ma was most concerned with correcting his remarks about China implementing democracy and respecting human rights as a conditional basis for any form of political unification. The AP reporter was worried that he may have misunderstood and therefore asked follow-up questions to clarify Ma’s stance. Ma, however, did not clarify things on the spot, but instead demanded a correction later on because he was afraid that what he said might have offended China.

The second correction that Ma, who seemingly supports the idea of “eventual unification” with China, wanted was to emphasize that there was no timetable according to which he would start political talks with China if re-elected. The AP reporter asked follow-up questions on this with the caveat “if my understanding is correct” to confirm Ma’s answers, but Ma failed to “correct” anything, saying instead that it would depend on how fast relations with China develop and whether economic issues could be satisfactorily resolved.

In other words, Ma said that economic issues should be resolved before discussing political issues, and did not reject the possibility that he would initiate political talks with China if he won a second term. He only said it would depend on the progress of economic talks — a reasonable interpretation is, of course, that once economic talks were completed, they would be followed by political talks. That kind of statement would scare off voters and so he had to lie to cover up his intent.

The statement about not having a timetable for political talks was exposed as a lie by China’s Taiwan Affairs Office Director Wang Yi (王毅) when he said economic talks have already included discussion about political issues. This makes it clear that Beijing directs the talks and Ma is unable to resist. He will have to forget his preconditions of democracy and human rights for talks as his stance is even weaker than the 1991 Guidelines for National Unification.

Three days before the US and China established diplomatic relations, they were still saying that there was no timetable for doing so, which of course was an obvious lie. The same is true of Ma’s comments. Taiwanese voters may have been cheated once, but having seen Ma break his promises, they will not be cheated a second time.

James Wang is a -commentator on the media.


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