Mon, Sep 08, 2014 - Page 8 News List

A loss to the nation’s dignity, but Ma happy

By Steve Wang 王思為

At the end of last month, Beijing sent Taiwan Affairs Office Deputy Director Gong Qinggai (龔清概) to Taipei to deliver a written invitation to President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) to attend APEC economic leaders’ meeting in Beijing in mid-November. The Ma administration appeared delighted about what it said was “a goodwill gesture” on China’s part.

However, did the mode of delivery belittle the sovereign status and national prestige of Taiwan?

When looked at from three angles — conventional practice in international relations, the arrangement in Taiwan and how the outside world will view it — the answer is crystal clear.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs arranged for Department of International Organizations Director-General Chou Tai-chu (周台竹) to receive the invitation at the Taipei Guest House, while Mainland Affairs Council Minister Wang Yu-chi (王郁琦) was present, according to media reports.

This makeshift arrangement avoided any embarrassment over the Chinese envoy’s unwillingness to set foot in Ma’s office, while allowing the president to accept the letter indirectly in his capacity as “economic leader.”

It avoided a repeat of 2008, when then-chairman of China’s Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait Chen Yunlin (陳雲林) met Ma and could think of nothing better to call him than “you.”

Taiwan is a full member of APEC and China cannot deny that, no matter how unwilling it may be to accept the nation’s sovereign status.

That being the case, China’s handling of the affair was not in keeping with the expected behavior of international envoys.

Furthermore, the “joint welcoming party” consisting of Chou and Wang was a rather odd arrangement.

It is unknown whether Wang met the envoy first, received the invitation and then passed it on to Chou’s department, or whether the Chinese representative presented the letter directly to Chou, with Wang merely observing as a guest at the ceremony.

As to whether the envelope was addressed to the economic leader of “Chinese Taipei” or a region under China’s jurisdiction, the government has not said.

Whatever the exact arrangements that unfolded were, the normal procedure under which an envoy of the conference’s host country would invite the president, face to face, was dispensed with.

Finally, all that foreign observers will be able to glean from media accounts is that Gong delivered the invitation without following the established international procedure, and it can be assumed that the invitation does not address Ma as “his excellency the president.”

Ma should have played the main role, but instead the Chinese representative most likely failed to even address Ma by his official title.

We can be sure that Taiwan was not mentioned at any stage of the proceedings.

Thus, the Ma administration’s claim that there was no question of the nation’s status being downgraded is no more than a groveling acceptance of humiliation.

No matter how much this nation’s dignity is trampled underfoot, the Ma administration still behaves like a certain man from the kingdom of Qi (齊) in an ancient fable, who told his wife and concubine that he dined with respectable people when in fact he spent his days begging for edible offerings in a graveyard.

How did this country get into such a sorry state?

Steve Wang is secretary-general of the Taiwan Society.

Translated by Julian Clegg

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