President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) historic meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) in Singapore on Saturday will add to Ma’s eventual legacy as the first Taiwanese leader to meet with his Chinese counterpart. However, this is not expected to overshadow the position of great weakness from which Ma proceeded in this initiative.
Ma’s presidency has been marred by his own inability to strengthen his Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT). He leaves a party almost certain to cede the Presidential Office to Democratic Progressive Party presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文), and quite possibly allow the pan-green camp to command a majority in the Legislative Yuan for the first time in history.
I have a lot of respect for KMT presidential candidate Eric Chu (朱立倫), who is a capable politician. However, even he is most unlikely to change this outcome, given the broad public dissatisfaction over the KMT’s rule, which is Ma’s real legacy.
Xi might win a Pyrrhic victory, but I do not sense that his popularity among Taiwanese will increase that much. This is particularly so because he was unwilling to give Ma much at all, according to press reports coming out of Singapore.
If Xi had offered a concrete proposal to reduce military deployments, particularly the forest of forward-deployed missiles across the Taiwan Strait, that would have been a real step forward. His disingenuous claim that these missiles are not aimed at Taiwan is simply laughable.
Nor did he give any ground on Taiwan’s international space, even though Ma’s very modest request was for Taiwanese non-governmental organizations’ representatives to be allowed to participate in functional organizations abroad.
Most notably, Xi did not demonstrate any sign of respect for those on Taiwan who are justifiably proud of their accomplishments as the first truly democratic governance in greater China’s long history.
I am not surprised, given the Chinese Communist Party’s contempt for democratic processes. The truth is that they are deeply afraid of this concept, and the existential threat it poses to their own authoritarian system.
Xi should by now recognize that he does not get to choose his interlocutor with the Taiwanese. That has been the prerogative of Taiwan’s electorate now for nearly 20 years.
By all polling measures, Tsai will be the next president of Taiwan. She is smart and experienced, and as an economist by training, knows the stakes in managing cross-strait ties effectively.
The US official statement welcomes the Ma-Xi meeting. Washington officials will get their chance to meet Chu soon, and might again seek to tip their hand afterward, as was done four years ago, when they questioned Tsai’s candidacy. It will not be enough this time.
More fundamentally, the US’ support for Taiwan has shown the ability to work with whoever is democratically elected, knowing that our Taiwanese friends will pay close attention to our overarching regional priorities.
As a long-time friend and student of Taiwan, I have great confidence that Taiwan and its remarkable people can and will thrive and survive in their tough neighborhood.
Their amazing economic record, coupled with their pioneering success in becoming the first Chinese entity to usher in democratic rule, ensures their continuing success. China’s rulers would do well to learn from the island and its intrepid citizenry.
Stephen Young was director of the American Institute in Taiwan from 2006 to 2009 and served as US ambassador to Kyrgyzstan and consul general in Hong Kong. He is a visiting professor at Wesleyan University.
French firm DCI-DESCO in April won a bid to upgrade Taiwan’s Lafayette frigates, which has strained ties between China and France. In 1991, France sold Taiwan six Lafayette frigates and in 1992 sold it 60 Mirage 2000 fighter jets. To prevent arms sales between the nations, China negotiated an agreement with France and in 1994 in a joint statement, France promised that there would be no future arms sales to Taiwan. From China’s point of view, the DCI-DESCO deal constitutes a breach of the agreement, but the French stance is that it is not selling Taiwan new weapons, but instead providing a
Chung Yuan ChristiaN University is clearly in bed with the People’s Republic of China. This can be the only explanation why the school’s authorities have done their utmost to shield a student, who lodged a complaint against an associate professor, and then used thuggish tactics to compel the teacher to issue two separate apologies to China. The original complaint, filed by an unnamed Chinese student, was for remarks by associate professor Chao Ming-wei (招名威) during a class on the origin of COVID-19. A second complaint was filed by the same student after Chao, during an apology, stated that he was a
President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) in her inaugural address on May 20 firmly said: “We will not accept the Beijing authorities’ use of ‘one country, two systems’ to downgrade Taiwan and undermine the cross-strait status quo.” The Chinese government was not too happy, and later that day, an opinion piece on the Web site of China’s state broadcaster China Central Television said: “While Tsai’s first inaugural address four years ago was read by Beijing as an ‘unfinished answer sheet,’ the one she presented this time was even more below-par.” Speaking to the China Review News Agency, Shanghai Institutes for International Studies vice president
During my twenty-two years in the US Senate, I became a student of Taiwan and its history. I was chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on East Asia, the Pacific and International Cybersecurity Policy, and have made at least 25 trips to Taiwan and have been invited as an observer to two of the nation’s presidential elections. Taiwan’s continuous economic miracle has seen the nation transition from a mixed agricultural-industrial society at the end of Japan’s 50 years of jurisdiction to today’s economic powerhouse, unmatched by most nations of the world. Just as outstanding has been Taiwan’s decades of resistance and