Not long after taking office, and before having had time to get fully acquainted with his new job, the Straits Exchange Foundation’s (SEF) new Chairman Lin Join-sane (林中森) led a delegation on a visit to China last week. One has to wonder why President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) wanted the visit to go ahead so soon. What is the rush?
China, in its increasingly habitual bossy fashion, took the opportunity to teach new boy Lin a lesson. During his meeting with Lin, Jia Qinglin (賈慶林), chairman of the National Committee of China’s People’s Political Consultative Conference, mentioned four ways in which China wants to see further progress made in cross-strait relations — stronger trust, sounder foundations, more wisdom and greater courage. He also said that China hoped Taiwan would pursue fengxing (奉行), more positive policies toward China, to promote and deepen cooperation between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait in various fields.
Jia’s choice of words was a good illustration of China’s haughty attitude, as well as the lowly attitude that Ma adopts in response. Up to now, the word fengxing had been used most frequently to talk about “implementing the teachings of the late premier” — meaning former premier of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Sun Yat-sen (孫中山). The word conveys a sense of respectfully acting in accordance with somebody’s will. Ma favors the idea that Taiwan and China are “two areas of one country,” so he sees the People’s Republic of China as his fatherland. That being the case, the “father of the nation” in Ma’s mind is no longer the aforementioned “premier.”
When Jia asked Lin to convey to Ma that Taiwan should pursue “more positive” policies toward China, of course what he really meant was that Taiwan should adopt policies that would “promote the early completion of Mainland China’s policy of the final unification of the motherland.” He was definitely not talking about helping Ma put Taiwan’s economy back on track. On the contrary, China has fixed its sights on the fact that the lame and limping Ma government desperately needs a helping hand from China. Ma has been talking about “pursuing the teachings of the late premier” for as long as anyone can remember, so when Jia tells him up front that he should “pursue more positive policies,” Ma knows full well that that is an order.
In his recent Cabinet reshuffle, Ma replaced quite a few ministers and other officials responsible for national security, foreign relations and cross-straits affairs, but he did not replace those responsible for finance and economics, although that is what the public wants him to do. That decision makes Jia’s overbearing attitude to Lin even more predictable. Neither Lin, in charge of the SEF, nor newly appointed Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) Minister Wang Yu-chi (王郁琦) has any expertise in the field of China policy. Ma’s purpose in appointing people like these can hardly be to hold consultations with China on an equal basis. On the contrary, it is intended on the one hand to promote his China-friendly standpoint and on the other to accept whatever China wants. Ma’s rush to send Lin off to China even before he had settled into his new job shows plainly the role that Ma has in mind for Lin, who he described at the SEF’s handover ceremony as having a “clean slate.” Lin’s job is to accept whatever China wants, while Ma actively cooperates with China’s demands and gets Wang to carry them out.