After the release on Monday of a “verbatim” transcript of the Singapore summit released by the Mainland Affairs Council, pan-blue camp politicians have been emphatically touting President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) “achievement” of consolidating Taiwan’s international standing. However, the document has done little to dispel the public’s doubts over the meeting, let alone address the underlying problems that beset the meeting.
To begin with, that Ma’s administration was responsible for releasing the “word for word” transcript of his meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) casts doubt over its credibility.
Foundation of Asia-Pacific Peace Studies president Chao Chun-shan (趙春山), who accompanied Ma to the summit, revealed that to create a “harmonious” atmosphere for the meeting, Ma had made an arrangement with Chinese officials that if he dropped the “different interpretations” component of the so-called “1992 consensus” during his speech, Xi would not assert his “one China” stance during his either.
If such bargaining actually took place, there is no telling to what lengths the Ma administration would go to gloss over his performance during the closed-door meeting with Xi.
It is irrelevant that what actually occurred might never become public knowledge, given that Ma, Xi and a handful of others were the only people actually at the meeting on Saturday, as what history will remember about the summit are the things the two said in public, as documented by international media.
In this respect, Ma’s performance permanently scarred Taiwan’s self-determination — namely his endorsement of the Beijing-backed “one China” principle while omitting the “different interpretations” component.
While it might sound absurd for anyone to propose that there is more than one China in the world today, the hidden context behind Ma’s ostensible “carelessness” is that “both sides of the Taiwan Strait belong to ‘one China,’” as Beijing has repeatedly asserted.
However, what was probably Ma’s most outrageous statement in Singapore was his assertion that the Republic of China (ROC) Constitution prevented him from endorsing “one China, one Taiwan,” “two Chinas” or “Taiwanese independence.”
Mentioning the Constitution is a non sequitur, because China has never once recognized the ROC in formal and semi-formal international meetings.
The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) can argue all it wants that Ma has earned Beijing’s tacit recognition of the ROC, but recognition conveyed behind closed doors is no recognition at all.
China is not going to stop marginalizing Taiwan just because Ma and Xi met, and it is unlikely that anything will change in Taiwan’s future endeavors to fight for international space unless it submits to Beijing’s will and becomes part of China.
Ma, who in response to Democratic Progressive Party presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) criticism on Friday said that Tsai should elaborate on how his decision to attend the summit undermined Taiwanese democracy, has provided the answer to his own question.
By denying Taiwan’s very existence, Ma has run counter to mainstream public opinion, and if that does not undermine democracy, what does?
Xi might have appeared friendly toward Taiwanese with his rhetoric, but immediately after the two met, China’s Taiwan Affairs Office Minister Zhang Zhijun (張志軍), purportedly quoting Xi at a post-meeting news conference, reiterated Xi’s unwavering stance that the two sides of the Strait belong to the same country, and that Taiwan is an integral part of Chinese territory.
Zhang’s quotes served as a rude awakening that Beijing had never intended to compromise on cross-strait relations, while Ma readily abandoned his principles for nothing.
The Singapore summit was hardly Ma’s crowning achievement, and it has only debilitated Taiwan.
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