On the closed-door meetings with China, he will just try to shift the focus onto technicalities of the negotiation process. Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平), in the same party as Ma, has pointedly said in a recent talk that the government’s propensity to go it alone is unacceptable. Since Ma did not care about the response from someone like Wang, how can we expect Su to get anything out of a debate with him? Neither will Ma be concerned about Su gaining the initiative on him.
As the debate is to be characterized as mostly partisan in nature, the greater the tension is, the better it is for Ma. All he needs to do is retain his composure and keep coming back to the idea that the DPP will always object to anything that involves China.
For these reasons, the TV debate is sure to be little more than a smokescreen for Ma, a tactical distraction. He wants the debate done and dusted before the next legislative session because he wants to ratchet up the tension between the two parties. This will enable him to muster his support base and bolster his own popularity, which will give him just cause to rally the KMT legislators to vote the pact through.
People concerned with the service trade agreement issue should, by all means, follow the TV debate. However, they should not believe that this distraction of Ma’s is where the real battle is. The real battle is to be fought in the legislature.
If this agreement is signed it will have huge repercussions for Taiwan’s future. We need to find out how it is that the government could pursue this matter while it kept the nation’s legislature — including the legislative speaker, who himself belongs to the ruling party — completely in the dark.
When the legislative session begins, we must demand that the government explain the whole affair right from the beginning, tell us who was behind it, what thinking informed it, how things transpired the way they did, what opportunities it is supposed to bring, and what the risks are to the security of industry, society and the nation.
It will be utterly irresponsible of Ma to attempt to get this agreement reviewed and passed in the legislature without first clarifying exactly what it is about. If he does, he cannot blame people for suspecting his motives.
Rex How is a publisher and a former national policy adviser.
Translated by Paul Cooper