President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) had supported two things all his life: “safeguard the Diaoyutai Islands” (釣魚台) and “eventual unification.”
When former president Chiang Kai-shek’s (蔣介石) regime was pushed out of the UN in 1971, it lost its legitimacy as representative of China.
The next year, when his son Chiang Ching-kuo (蔣經國) took over, he mobilized intellectuals with a call to “implement reforms to safeguard Taiwan,” in order to resist pressure coming from the Chinese Communist Party. During that time, Ma joined calls from the left wing to safeguard the Diaoyutais.
Ma has never thought of Taiwan as a country or resisted China’s intention to annex it. After he enjoyed the fruits democratization and was elected president, he said that the Republic of China’s (ROC) sovereignty encompasses all China, though he dares not fight for that sovereignty.
Instead, he continues to play the game of protecting the Diaoyutais together with China.
Ma is of the opinion that he can do whatever he pleases because he no longer faces any re-election pressure. In doing so, he fails to protect Taiwan’s sovereignty and does nothing to protect the public’s standard of living or implement judicial reform, social fairness and justice. He manipulates the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) assets to control the party’s legislators and ignores public opinion. He calls for reform in order to attract votes to the KMT, while shoring up a corrupt system and maintaining special privileges by rejecting those very reforms.
To listen to the public and push for true reform, the opposition parties have suggested that a national affairs conference be held. The government’s response was to quote the Constitution and say that problems should be resolved “within the system.”
Public discontent and anger have reached boiling point and the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) has launched a series of protest marches, while the Ma administration continues to hide behind “the system.”
As the DPP’s protest marches gathered momentum, a KMT legislator quoted former vice president Vincent Siew (蕭萬長) as saying that: “Being angry at each other will not help support the nation,” in the hope that this would put out the fire.
This only highlights Ma’s ineptitude, ignorance of public opinion and reluctance to push for reform and protect Taiwan.
The “one China” consensus he has reached with Beijing and his support of “eventual unification” are a denial of Taiwan’s independence and sovereignty. They deepen the public’s sense of uncertainty and lose a collective goal to work toward.
Some Taiwanese businesspeople are even hoping to serve as members of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference in an attempt to seek protection in the event of unification.
Chiang Ching-kuo understood that the public wanted to separate Taiwan from China, and that the their greatest fear was Chinese annexation.
However, Ma keeps hiding behind the Constitution and talking about mutual non-recognition of sovereignty; mutual non-denial of authority to govern, special relations and peace dividends while ignoring the consequences of getting trapped inside Beijing’s “one China” framework.
Chiang Ching-kuo’s policy to implement reforms to safeguard Taiwan was half-baked and focused on interior affairs. Instead of putting in place free elections for the full legislature, he only allowed by-elections for a limited number of vacant seats.
Still, those reforms pointed the way forward for the nation’s democratization and localization by allowing more seats for Taiwanese and appointing young Taiwanese to intermediate levels to improve the government’s legitimacy and representativeness domestically.
Such perfunctory reform did not meet the people’s demands for democratization and legitimate government nor did it define the new national status to the outside world in to deal with China’s diplomatic blockade.
Although Chiang Ching-Kuo continued his unilateral calls for using the “Three Principles of the People” to unify China, he was firmly opposed to peace talks and Beijing’s united front tactics and did not work to build a consensus.
Based on his strategy to protect Taiwan, he firmly separated Taiwan from China and protected its independent status.
In contrast to Chiang Ching-kuo’s reform, the most complete and confident strategy for safeguarding and defending Taiwan was proposed by then-vice minister of foreign affairs Yang Hsi-kun (楊西崑), who was nicknamed “Mr Africa.”
Yang’s suggestions included: Dismissing the legislature and establishing a temporary legislature with two-thirds of the seats reserved for Taiwanese and one-third for Mainlanders; allowing the general public to decide Taiwan’s future status through a referendum; changing the national title to the “Republic of Chinese Taiwan” to declare that the Taiwanese government was completely unrelated to China or the Chinese government and stressing that the word “Chinese” in the new title merely referred to the fact that Taiwanese were of Chinese descent and held no other political significance.
The logic of Yang’s strategy was simple: To redistribute power through democratic means, solve the government’s lack of representativeness and legitimacy, and to confirm Taiwan’s sovereignty through democratic referendum, establishing a new country that did not fall under China’s jurisdiction or claim jurisdiction over China.
Neither Chiang Kai-shek nor his son took up Yang’s democratic strategy, but some of his suggestions were implemented later.
For example, Chang Ching-kuo agreed to remain member of the Asian Development Bank under the name “Taipei, China” in 1986 and former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) implemented the full re-election of the legislature, resulting in Taiwanese being elected to more than two-thirds of all legislative seats.
The Constitution, which was written and passed without the input of Taiwanese, has since been amended seven times by the Taiwanese-dominated legislature.
With the idea of “the Republic of China on Taiwan,” Lee also said that relations between Taiwan and China were a matter of “state-to-state relations” or “special state-to-state relations.”
Lee and former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) insisted on the “localization” of the ROC and its de facto independence that separated Taiwan from China.
Most people understood that these pro-Taiwanese governments were not opposed to having ties to China, but that Chinese annexation would be opposed and the refusal to compromise on the sovereignty issue would continue.
The Ma government has since reversed the reform efforts safeguarding Taiwan’s sovereignty.
It should be noted that Yang was a Mainlander, but his suggestions were similar to those in the Declaration of Formosan Self-Salvation proposed in 1964 by former presidential advisor Peng Ming-min (彭明敏) and his then students, Hsieh Tsung-min (謝聰敏) and Wei Ting-chao (魏廷朝), which came with complete complementary measures and thorough reform.
Although Yang understood the African peoples’ hope for independence, he did not understand the deep slave mentality of the KMT’s Taiwanese members, and although he understood Taiwanese determination to resist Chinese annexation, he did not understand that Ma is haunted by the curse inscribed on the urn of his father’s ashes –– “Replace independence with gradual unification.”
Although Taiwanese lawmakers now hold more than two-thirds of all legislative seats, Ma is still controlling the KMT’s ill-gotten party assets and the judiciary.
This is turning the KMT’s Taiwanese legislators into mere copies of the old crooks who would only take orders from the two Chiangs. They have no choice but to defend the inept government and have no say in or ability to review Ma’s decisions to give up Taiwan’s independence.
Instead, they have a shared interest in sustaining Ma’s false reforms and corruption.
On the surface, Taiwan’s democratization and free elections provide the government with representativeness and legitimacy. In reality, all the power is in the hands of one man.
Taiwanese KMT legislators are sitting back and watching as the incompetent government abuses its people, as Ma realizes his father’s dying wish for eventual unification and as he violates the people’s will and the anti-annexation policy that had been in place during the governments of Chiang Kai-shek, Chiang Ching-kuo, Lee and Chen.
In a speech last month, Siew cited a quote from former US president John F. Kennedy in defense of the government: “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”
However, it is a matter of political common sense that “government” is not the same as “country.” Ma has never thought of Taiwan as a country.
Perhaps it would have been more appropriate if Siew had quoted former US president George H. W. Bush, who said “I don’t hate government. A government that remembers who is its master is a good and needed thing.”
Ma has supported safeguarding the Diaoyutais all his life, but he has no intention of safeguarding Taiwan. As he prepares for battle, he has forgotten who his masters are. Such a government is a bully and should be replaced. As angry masters Taiwanese should ask Ma: What have you done for Taiwan? What have you done for us?
James Wang is a media commentator.
Translated by Eddy Chang