On victory and defeat
A sense of foreboding pervaded society in the days after Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) candidate — and sitting President — Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) recent re-election victory over Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文). Mindful of the debt of gratitude Ma owes Beijing, voters — in both the blue and green camps — are now bracing for Ma to pay the piper.
Taiwanese tycoons with heavy investments in China became bare-knuckled purveyors of Beijing’s coercion in the waning days of the election. Nobody knows how many of Ma’s votes are the result of such unbridled threats.
Conversely, more than 6 million Taiwanese flocked to Tsai’s cause. In addition to ballots, they brought campaign donations — sometimes in spite of the meagerness of their own means.
The fact that nearly half of Taiwan’s voters would defy Beijing in such a manner should put to rest the derogatory notions that Taiwanese lack gallantry and that Taiwanese only worship money. It is apparent that millions of them not only can’t be bought off or intimidated, but stand ready to sacrifice for Taiwan. That is a force with which any power who seeks to harm Taiwan in the future must reckon.
That will also be the reason why Ma can’t deliver what he might have promised Beijing, at least not without disastrous ramifications for both Taiwan and China.
However, in the instance that Ma shows his reluctance or inability to back up rhetoric with the most rudimentary substance — such as inking in black and white the so-called “1992 consensus,” not to mention a cross-Taiwan Strait peace accord — the relationship between the Chinese Communist Party and the KMT will take a nosedive.
There isn’t much chance Ma will follow such a relatively benign script, not while Beijing is salivating over the potential Ma’s continuing reign over Taiwan might bring.
It is far more likely that Ma will pony up according to Beijing’s dictate. The 6 million-plus Tsai supporters will not have much choice but to rise up and stage a protest with an intensity commensurate with a life-and-death struggle. Taiwan’s stability could be put in doubt at a certain point, not unlike what took place in many of the countries that were caught up in the Arab Spring.
Taiwan’s situation is no less complicated, thanks to its strategic value.
At a hint of ungovernable turmoil, Beijing will jump in head first. Washington, assisted by Tokyo, will inject enough assets to perpetuate the struggle and to deny China the luxury of ever using Taiwan as a secure military base for its Pacific strategy.
For Washington, this would be a strategic maneuver that would prove successful — while costing little compared to what is being expended in the current US venture in Afghanistan. The Soviets’ decade-old occupation of that once tranquil land and the accompanying drain of national energy was believed to be one of the main factors that contributed to the disintegration of the Soviet Union.
Such reasoning might help shed some light on the US government’s baffling position, when Washington seemed eager for Ma to accommodate Beijing with slim regard for Taiwan’s security.
The West believes that a neutral and independent Taiwan is essential for regional stability. They would like to force Beijing to come to that same conclusion, eventually.