While President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) was mourning the death of his mother, Beijing announced the invitation of People First Party (PFP) Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜) to Beijing for a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平). It is widely known that Ma and Soong do not get along, so rumors that Beijing was giving Ma a slap in the face spread like wildfire.
Such rumors are not without foundation. Ma has kowtowed to China, losing one symbol of Taiwanese sovereignty after another and he cannot even change a single word of his opaque cross-strait service trade agreement which influences the livelihoods of all Taiwanese. Soong, on the other hand, openly expressed what he referred to as the “four understandings,” asking Beijing to understand “Taiwan awareness,” the “awareness of autonomous citizens” and the “awareness of economic autonomy.” He avoided discussion of an “awareness of political autonomy” to avoid the sensitive unification-independence issue.
Soong’s ideas are more in line with public opinion in Taiwan than Ma’s notion of a “Greater China awareness.” Above all, they differ from Ma’s talk during election campaigns about how Taiwan’s future should be decided by the 23 million Taiwanese, when he is the only Taiwanese deciding the future, totally ignoring the public.
On a talk show on ERA TV, Soong said that not a single person in his delegation to Beijing conducts business in China and that he did not let his daughter go. Obviously, Soong made these comments to differentiate himself from the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT).
Ma and the KMT have enormous business and political interests in China, the obvious examples being former KMT chairman Lien Chan (連戰) and the family of former Straits Exchange Foundation chairman Chiang Pin-kung (江丙坤). When Lien recently met with Xi, he even took along his son, Sean Lien (連勝文), completely disregarding public opinion. However, Beijing is not getting ready to discard Ma. He still has some value left, so they will keep him around, although they have now sent him a clear warning. It will be interesting to see how Ma will respond.
Given Ma’s strong desire for power, he will not capitulate willingly. He will use the remainder of his time in office to achieve his goals. Judging from how the government and Ma’s team ignored that he was mourning for his mother, instead committing themselves to settling the score with the Sunflower movement and consolidating the central leadership, it can be surmised that his opaque service trade agreement is to be resuscitated or replaced with free economic pilot zones to please Beijing.
It seems China is slowing down its unification effort as a result of the Sunflower movement and is instead showing its willingness to listen to Taiwanese. Soong has said that small and medium-sized enterprises, mid-to-low-income earners, central and southern Taiwan and the younger generation are what Taiwan must concentrate on while helping China express its sincerity. However, this sincerity is questionable when Beijing’s conduct with regard to Hong Kong is examined. Perhaps at one point in time, Beijing really was sincere, but after achieving its goals, attitudes changed.
If Ma can put an end to the civic movements here in Taiwan and give China the “gift” of unification, Beijing will not refuse. Taiwanese must pay attention to the chaos within the Ma administration and resist it as much as possible. We must also fight Ma’s score-settling and suppression of protests lest we lose everything we achieved during the recent demonstrations. If we do not, Taiwan will sink further.
Paul Lin is a political commentator.
Translated by Drew Cameron
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