No one would have imagined that China’s exclusion of the waters around Taiwan due to the Chinese Civil War would cause Taiwanese fishermen so much hardship. Japan had no choice but to enter into direct talks with Taiwan to delineate sea borders that are related to the sovereignty issue. This greatly angered Beijing. This was the first bit of luck that helped the fishery agreement along and it really was a freakish combination of factors.
The second bit of luck came when increasing tensions in the East China Sea became reminiscent of the tensions prior to World War I.
In 2008, relations between China, the US and Japan were friendly and relaxed, and Ma, who had just been elected as president for the first time, believed that the conciliatory atmosphere would offer him a good opportunity to do great things for Taiwan internationally. Unfortunately, the opposite happened — tensions between China and Japan escalated and Taiwan’s interests were forgotten. Then in 2009, Japan ended fishery talks with Taiwan for the 16th time, forcing Ma to say that no news was good news, and the situation was normal.
However, by last year, tensions in the waters along the entire Chinese coast finally caused Japan to request the resumption of fishery talks with Taiwan. It was at this time that Ma proposed his East China Sea peace initiative, a copy of the previous DPP administration’s Nansha Initiative. This was the appropriate time for such a proposal and the right thing to do. However, do we really have peace now, only because Ma’s initiative led to agreements that ended disputes?
To put things in perspective: Why would we need a peace initiative if peace already existed in the East China Sea?
Despite misjudging the situation, Ma should still be applauded for making the correct choice to complete his contribution.
Throughout the entire process, the DPP not only failed to see how things were shaping up, but also chose not to support Ma, instead dishing out sarcasm and ridicule. This was not a wise move, but in the end, they had the class to commend Ma on his achievements and that was a good thing.
So is Beijing the loser in all this? If peace is what China needs, it cannot be the loser. The only losers are the bellicose extremist nationalists on both sides of the Taiwan Strait.
Lin Cho-shui is a former Democratic Progressive Party legislator.
Translated by Drew Cameron