Today is the third anniversary of President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) inauguration as president of the Republic of China (ROC). Since then, he has proven to be a Trojan horse — no one has done more in striving to make this centennial the nation’s last.
Ma promised “no reunification, no independence and no war” with the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in his inaugural address, but soon backed away from the first of those policies, doing everything he could to push eventual unification. There never was any chance Ma might declare independence, but his “no war” promise was even more of a joke, given the way his policies have eroded Taiwan’s national security by downgrading the ROC military and cozying up to Beijing.
Ma’s first order of business was getting former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) jailed on corruption charges. Chen was proven to have engaged in some dodgy dealings as president, but the overall impression of his judicial ordeal is that the verdicts and judges were stacked against him from the start. The message was clear — go against the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and win and it will not stop until it crushes you.
On Ma’s first trip abroad to Latin America in August 2008, he trumpeted his policy of diplomatic detente with China, including neither side wooing the other’s diplomatic allies. His visits to the Dominican Republic and Paraguay were marred by hints that he would not announce any new aid packages. This policy has backfired, costing the ROC allies.
Pro-China policies quickly followed. Ma launched direct cross-strait weekend charter flights, opened Taiwan to Chinese tourists, eased restrictions on investment in China and approved measures to allow Chinese investors to buy stocks in Taiwan.
In November 2008, Ma continued the KMT’s policy of annual meetings with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to push for reunification, only this time under the guise of a resumption of talks between the Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) and the Association of Relations Across the Taiwan Strait (ARATS). While the meetings now had a veneer of officialdom, they were still closed to legislative or public oversight. ARATS Chairman Chen Yunlin (陳雲林) visited Taiwan for the first time that month, the first time such a high-ranking PRC official was ever allowed into Taiwan. His visit sparked massive protests, countered with repressive tactics by the National Police Agency. Ma also did not demand that Chen Yunlin call him president — “Mr Ma” was enough.
Taiwan and China resumed direct sea, air and mail links in December 2008, leading many to accuse Ma of giving too many concessions to China, too quickly.
Despite Ma’s campaign promise to maintain GDP growth at 6 percent, push unemployment down to 3 percent and elevate per capita income to US$30,000, his administration found it impossible to reverse Taiwan’s slide into an economic abyss with the rest of the world during the financial crisis.
More trouble arrived when Typhoon Morakot struck in August 2009, revealing his administration’s complete inability to deal with disasters and Ma’s arrogance toward people in the south.
Despite his plunging popularity, Ma continued to race toward economic integration with China and the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) was signed in June last year, cementing Taiwan’s economic unification with China. Beijing all but annexed Taiwan without having to fire a single bullet.