People in the international community who continue to believe that President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) policies secure Taiwan’s unique position in the world must suffer from collective tomfoolery.
Such pluralistic ignorance is widespread because almost everyone has praised Ma’s efforts in creating peace across the Taiwan Strait, defending Taiwan’s international position and fighting for its democracy. Those who know no better follow the crowd in believing that his achievements are beyond reproach.
However, it is encouraging to see that some people are coming to realize that they have been victims of pluralistic ignorance and have been misled by government information. The abundance of statements and policies from Ma and the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) government that are leading Taiwan closer to China have caused this realization.
This direction is hard to ignore and, moreover, it is becoming increasingly clear that China has the upper hand.
Recently, the international community has been getting the impression that the relationship between Taiwan and China is growing more intimate and that Taiwan might become a part of China in the not too distant future because of the KMT’s “one country two areas (一國兩區)” proposal, which resembles China’s “one country, two systems (一國兩制)” formula.
It is also puzzling to many that the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) has not been officially registered at the WTO. Consequently, the ECFA is interpreted as a local Chinese agreement. Moreover, it has been noticed that Taiwan is listed as a province of China by the WHO. Even Taiwan’s apparent initiative to establish free-trade agreements (FTAs) with New Zealand and Singapore is considered possible only because China has already inked FTAs with both countries.
EU diplomats would confirm that seeking a free-trade pact with the EU is a fruitless endeavor because the EU has not even started FTA negotiations with Beijing.
However, now that EU politicians have noticed that Taiwan has fallen in the international democratic rankings and international observers concluded that the January election was “mostly free, but partly unfair,” the awakening from pluralistic ignorance has received a boost.
The same politicians might be worrying even more since Ma said he viewed the issue of Chinese dissidents from the point of view of traditional Chinese values, not Western human rights. Does Ma believe that Chinese values are contrary to Western human rights? What do “Western human rights” mean to him? The human rights accords of Western countries are typically based on the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, so are Ma’s views opposed to the UN’s?
When it comes to Taiwan’s military defense, the international community might also start questioning how Taiwan plans to defend itself. It is disturbing that Ma has apparently hinted that Taiwan does not need the upgrade for its old F-16s that the US has offered.
Collective tomfoolery must be avoided, even if it is hard to admit that the policies of Taiwan’s government no longer match its earlier ideals and that Taiwan is not the great Asian model it once was. The way out of this conundrum is to listen to and support Taiwanese and defend Taiwan’s democracy.
Michael Danielsen is the chairman of Taiwan Corner.
[Editor’s note: President Ma never hinted that Taiwan does not need an upgrade for the F-16A/Bs, a package that was notified to US Congress in September last year and for which the Ministry of National Defense is expected to sign the letter of agreement by the end of next month. Where the Ma administration appears to be having second thoughts is on the issue of the F-16C/Ds, which Washington has yet to make available.]