Ma lets cat out of the bag
On Monday, President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) met with a delegation led by German lawmaker Franz Josef Jung at the Presidential Office in Taipei. As usual, Ma cited his experiences of past visits to Germany and referred once again to “the German model” of reunification as something that greatly influenced him and his party during the political reforms of the early 1990s.
However, on this occasion Ma was more specific, stating that the German experience of setting up mechanisms to handle affairs between East and West Germany was adapted by the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) as it formulated the Act Governing Relations Between the Taiwan Area and the Mainland Area (臺灣地區與大陸地區人民關係條例) and in the setting up of the Mainland Affairs Council.
That this illustrates Ma’s belief that Taiwan and China are equivalent to the formerly divided German nation — two parts of the same country awaiting unification — is nothing new. Also unsurprising is Ma’s tendency to test out his most provocative evocations of Chinese nationalism on foreign audiences rather than expose them to the scrutiny of the Taiwanese media.
What was astonishing this time is that when referencing his 1990 trip to Germany when it was in the process of reunification, Ma said that “the understanding we gained at that time has been very beneficial to the conduct of cross-strait relations.”
I believe that in making this statement Ma is publicly acknowledging that his cross-strait policy and his administration’s relations with the Chinese Communist Party and China have been directly influenced by the process of German reunification; in other words, cross-strait relations are built on a framework of eventual unification — something that might help explain the willingness of the Chinese Communist Party to engage in direct talks, sign more than 16 bilateral agreements and allow direct links between the two countries.
It would appear that within months of retaking office, Ma has now refuted his “three noes” policy of no unification, no independence and no use of force.
Ma’s cross-strait policy appears to consist of reassuring China that unification is on the way, but that Taiwanese need to be gently eased into accepting it as a fait accompli. Ma’s domestic policy appears to center on telling the Taiwanese that he will not engage in cross-strait political talks whilst he shapes “domestic conditions” to further Taiwan’s economic dependence on the Chinese market to the point where it will no longer be logical not to engage in political talks.
This should come as little surprise since, in February 2006, Ma said that if elected, “the main goal will be to shape domestic conditions for unification and plant the unification idea deep into every sector of society in order to move from an anti-independence strategy toward a pro-unification push.”
Taiwanese would do well to pay special attention to their president when he speaks to a foreign audience, for it is often on those occasions when the emperor’s clothes are most transparent.