President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) has been touting his cross-strait policy at almost every event on his re-election campaign trail and in every media interview, crediting it for increasing cross-strait mutual trust and bringing prosperity and international visibility to Taiwan in various ways.
If only such claims were true.
First off, Ma trumpeted his modus vivendi policy, saying that it resulted in none of Taiwan’s diplomatic allies being snatched away by China since he took office in May 2008. The truth is that it is all down to Beijing not wanting Ma to “lose face” that it has so far discouraged Taiwan’s allies from moving to Beijing’s side.
Ma has also been saying it was because of his China policy that Taiwan’s economy was boosted by the visits of more than 3 million Chinese tourists since 2008 when cross-strait tourism was first allowed. That is only a half-truth. What Ma has failed to acknowledge, of course, is that it was Beijing who gave the green light to some of its people to travel to Taiwan, restricting such trips at first to residents of major east coast areas.
It is a welcome sight to see Beijing making goodwill gestures. However, such moves are of concern if their purpose is to disguise Beijing’s ambition to entice Taiwan into its fold, with the Ma government reaping the harvest of so-called cross-strait achievements at the expense of Taiwan’s sovereignty.
Ma has also cited Taiwan’s observership in the World Health Assembly (WHA) as an achievement, saying Taiwan’s attendance has amounted to substantive participation in international organizations without China’s involvement. However, the truth is that Taiwan’s international participation as a sovereign state has been reduced, with a leaked internal memo from the WHO clearly showing that Taiwan’s observership was conditional on it being regarded as a province of China, pursuant to an arrangement with Beijing. So much for Ma’s talk of upholding Taiwan’s national dignity and interests. The truth is that his administration has created the impression among the international community that Taiwan is part of China.
What Ma touts as his achievements are really more to Beijing’s credit than his. The Ma administration has served as little more than Beijing’s proxy, a sop to the hearts and minds of Taiwanese.
Which brings us to the so-called “1992 consensus,” which Ma and the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) say is the only basis for improvement in cross-strait relations, warning that ties would suffer a setback if the consensus were rejected.
Indeed, no more saber-rattling remarks have been needed from China this election season as Ma and his party have seemingly taken upon themselves to work on Beijing’s behalf, intimidating Taiwanese with this talk of the consequences of rejecting the consensus.
While Ma touts the nonsensical consensus as the backbone of solid cross-strait relations and attacks Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) proposed “Taiwan consensus” as hollow and too reliant on democratic procedures, the half-truth he fails to acknowledge is that the reason he embraces the “1992 consensus” is that Beijing understands it as its “one China” principle.
What is wrong with Tsai’s “Taiwan consensus,” which calls for different opinions to be presented and evaluated through a democratic mechanism? Surely Ma is not trying to convince us that he is against democratic methods?