Fri, Oct 21, 2011 - Page 8 News List

EDITORIAL: Ma firing blanks with peace proposal

Since before being elected, President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) has advocated a gradual development of cross-strait relations, prioritizing the private over the public sector, business over politics and simplicity over complexity. He has now suggested that a cross-strait peace agreement be signed, shifting the focus of the presidential election campaign to the issue of cross-strait relations. Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文), who has avoided the cross-strait battleground, has been forced to follow in a move that could turn next year’s presidential election into a peace agreement referendum.

A peace pact was first suggested during the first meeting between former Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) chairman Lien Chan (連戰) and Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) in 2005, and it has been added to the KMT charter. Ma then suggested it again in 2008. However, this is a sensitive issue, and although the DPP has its doubts and is opposed to it, it has avoided discussing it. When Ma first repeated the suggestion, he offered no details of what it would entail and nothing came of it. This time he comes better prepared, and by suggesting it, he is both challenging the DPP and showing China his cards.

Although Ma proposed the agreement as part of his “Golden Decade” vision, he has presented neither content nor timetable. He has also said that public support, national need and legislative supervision are three prerequisites for such a pact. He clearly wants to lure the DPP into a fight over cross-strait relations, but he has made sure he has a lot of leeway for tactical maneuvering.

Ma’s original proposal was eventual unification, so no one should be surprised that he is slowly moving toward that goal. Some of the documents published by WikiLeaks made it clear that while China agreed to policies beneficial to the KMT government, such as the three direct links, allowing Chinese tourists to visit Taiwan and Chinese officials to lead procurement delegations to Taiwan, it also applied constant pressure on Ma to quickly enter into political talks. Now that Ma is proposing a peace agreement, he is letting China know where he stands and asking it to offer a few more benefits to help the KMT campaign.

A government’s policy is also its vision, so the DPP immediately attacked the suggestion, while public opinion is split. Tsai issued a statement describing Ma’s proposal as rash, reckless, disrespectful of public opinion and a political tactic. She said such an agreement posed four great dangers: It could sacrifice Taiwanese sovereignty, change the “status quo,” put democracy at risk and destroy the strategic depth in cross-strait negotiations.

Furthermore, while no one would oppose cross-strait peace, Ma shrinks back in the face of Beijing and is afraid of protecting Taiwan’s sovereignty. If he represents Taiwan in talks with Beijing, that would be sending a lamb to slaughter.

On first glance, Ma may seem to have proposed a new cross-strait framework that might even become a milestone in cross-strait relations. Alas, he is firing blanks. Talks about a peace pact must contain a clear definition of the cross-strait relationship. The so-called “1992 consensus” on whose meaning the two sides cannot agree will not work: China’s “one China” is unacceptable to Taiwan and Taiwan’s Republic of China is unacceptable to China, while public opinion is divided on the current status of cross-strait relations. Thus, there will be no public support. Nor is the national need very urgent, since most people want to maintain the current “status quo.”

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