Now compare this to the “directives” recently announced by China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs: For Taiwan to arrange to have Ma attend the APEC meeting in person, it must proceed in line with APEC memoranda of understanding and in line with precedent. In other words, any arrangements to bring about a meeting between Ma and Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) have to meet three conditions. First, they must comply with the precedent set in the 1993 APEC economic member leaders’ meeting in Seattle, with Taiwan being represented under the name Chinese Taipei. Second, Ma will have to appear not as the president of the ROC, but as the economic leader of an APEC member economy. Third, the Taiwanese representative must first secure Beijing’s consent.
And now that “Mr Ma” has already publicly made quite apparent his intention to create the requisite conditions, the ROC itself is in peril, with the time set at the unofficial APEC leaders’ meeting to be hosted by China next year.
The reason is that when China, Taiwan and Hong Kong are all represented at the meeting, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) will be the name of a country, but Chinese Taipei will not. In APEC, Xi is the president of his country, but Ma will just be the leader of the APEC economic member known as Chinese Taipei.
In the past, a Taiwanese president would seek to make the most of the meeting being held in a third country. However, as soon as the location for the meeting moves to China, he forgoes the redemption offered by dint of being in an international forum. In China, Beijing can interpret the situation as it pleases. In other words, is it not the case that the minute Ma sets foot in China, the ROC ceases to exist, replaced by Chinese Taipei?
The name Chinese Taipei is nothing new, it has been with us a long time, but the government could account for it as just being a reality of engaging with the international community, without Taiwan actually accepting it. However, what if, for example, the president has been making deals behind closed doors, conspiring with Beijing to “create the requisite conditions?” Then he is not only conceding it as reality, he is — in the action of going to China in person — accepting a lowering of status, and all for a photo opportunity, shaking Xi’s hand.
The other day, the Presidential Office explained that the conditions are not ripe, but that Ma, like Lee and Chen before him, is striving toward being able to attend the APEC meeting in person. Previous leaders would never have gone to China in the way Ma intends to do, in any capacity, not just as far back as Chen and Lee, but all the way to Chiang Ching-kuo and Chiang Kai-shek. Is it that they did not have the opportunity to go? They certainly could have done so had they really wanted. So why did they not? Why does Ma not refuse to go? How will the 23 million Taiwanese react to how this will potentially develop? And how can they say “no” to Ma in a way that will make any difference?