LETTERS: Ma's promise of peace

Sun, Jan 27, 2008 - Page 8

A person should always be wary of a politician's words and more so of their promises. One hundred years of peace can only be offered either in the knowledge of assurances from China not to threaten Taiwan or based on sheer hope. Either way, it resonates unfortunately with the late British prime minister Neville Chamberlain's "peace in our time."

Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) presidential candidate Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) said he would not negotiate on unification during his term in office, but that does not mean policies that would serve as foundations for such an eventuality cannot be passed.

A Ma presidency, combined with a KMT led legislature, could and most likely will, pass a significant amount of legislation that creates the institutional relationships and infrastructure necessary for, at first, full economic integration. Just as President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) abolished the National Unification Guidelines, so too a KMT Cabinet could set a timetable for negotiations to begin, thereby ensuring a momentum that succeeding governments would find hard to reverse.

Ma's approach to the issue of Taiwan's sovereignty is inconsistent. In February 2006 he said that if elected, "the main goal will be to shape domestic conditions for unification and plant the unification idea deep in every sector of society in order to move from an anti-independence strategy toward a pro-unification push." Later in the same trip, he said that reunification could not proceed without the consent of the Taiwanese people.

In March 2006, Ma ran adverts saying independence was an option, yet he now takes another position of ruling out independence and unification. Speeches like this have resulted in many otherwise intelligent people believing Ma to be anti-unification, proof that spinning his message to create a broad tent appeal has thus far been a successful strategy.

This is not a phenomenon restricted to Taiwanese politics. Many people in the UK thought that they were voting for a social democrat in former British prime minister Tony Blair only to be confronted with a pious neo-liberal social authoritarian.

If the KMT now boycotts its referendum on rejoining the UN under a practical title, then Taiwanese will know clearly that Ma and the KMT have no stomach to fight for the Republic of China or Taiwan, instead choosing to inseminate in the Taiwanese a "China or bust" psychosis while offering the false hope of economic "recovery" through all but official unification with China.

So far, the pan-blues -- in charge of most local governments and with a majority in the legislature for more than four years -- have delivered discontent, disillusionment and benefited from voter apathy, with only 57 percent of voters showing up during the Jan. 12 legislative elections.

The KMT is aware that with its dominant hold on the legislature, it can no longer avoid responsibility for the economy and quality of life -- the basis of its criticism of Chen.

A possible US recession may suddenly deliver the KMT into a real crisis, not the one it has manufactured for the elections.

One can only hope that if the KMT fails to deliver, Taiwanese will be as unforgiving as they were in the recent legislative elections.

Ben Goren

Tainan