EDITORIAL: Nothing new in Ma’s ‘new’ no

Fri, Oct 24, 2008 - Page 8

President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) comments on Tuesday that war would not break out in the Taiwan Strait during his term in office were as puzzling as they were pointless.

Pointless because, given Ma and the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) well-publicized position of “eventual unification,” there is little chance of conflict occurring during his term. Add to this Ma’s repeated articulation of his “three noes” policy — no unification, no independence and no use of force during his presidency — and his words this week add nothing new to the equation.

The comments were puzzling considering the audience Ma chose for his address. Only he can explain why he unveiled this “new” premise before senior military officials — people who spend their entire working life planning and preparing for the possibility of war. Telling the military’s top brass that they can effectively stand down for the next four to eight years leaves them with little to motivate their troops.

It is quite coincidental that Ma made his speech during a week when the military suffered two tragic accidents. One would be justified in asking what kind of message this sends to the families of the pilots killed in this week’s air force crashes. Did their loved ones sacrifice their lives for nothing?

Ma may have been trying to soothe Beijing’s nerves following the US government’s decision on Oct. 3 to release US$6.5 billion in weapons systems to Taiwan after years of delays. The move — though widely expected — provoked the hackneyed “strong condemnation” from Chinese officials.

Reassurances that Taiwan is still acquiring weapons but has no plans to use them could also be Ma’s latest attempt at paving the way for his much-touted cross-strait “peace agreement.”

Since his inauguration in May, Ma has focused all his efforts on pandering to China, trashing Taiwan’s sovereignty in the process, and up until now he has nothing to show in return. Beijing has not shown Taiwan one ounce of goodwill and even refuses to apologize for its toxic food. Are Ma and the KMT too naive to realize that Beijing is simply biding its time while providing them enough rope with which to hang themselves?

In the nearly 60 years since the end of the Chinese civil war, China has not budged one inch on its position that Taiwan will eventually become part of the People’s Republic.

If Ma thinks that Beijing will put pen to paper on a peace agreement before it gets Taiwan as the prize, then he is kidding himself. No amount of woolly language or catchy slogans will change this.

Another possibility is that this week’s bluster was aimed at a wider audience. Ma and his advisers have proven extremely adept at manipulating the international media to present him as a messianic cross-strait “peacemaker,” and this may be just the latest part of this campaign.

Whatever the reason for his comments, Ma should remember he is not alone in desiring peace. Most Taiwanese want a peaceful settlement to the cross-strait issue, but as countless polls and Ma’s plunging popularity show, they do not want to sacrifice Taiwan’s sovereignty and hand the nation on a platter to Beijing in order to obtain it.

This is why people voted for Ma in the first place. It is a pity that it has taken him such a short time to forget it.