During the 2008 presidential campaign, President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) made a promise. That is, he assured us we would have an annual economic growth rate of 6 percent, an average annual income of US$20,000 — later increased to US$30,000 — and an unemployment rate of below 3 percent by the end of his first term. His was quite insistent about this promise and even told the public to get ready for good times. Five years later this “6-3-3” plan has been proven to be a con, and Ma himself has become a byword for liar.
Ever since he assumed office, Ma has been busy aligning the economy with China’s. Not only has production remained flat, Taiwan’s GDP is growing more slowly than any other Asian Tiger. People are struggling to make ends meet and are calling for Ma to step down. Shoes are being hurled at him wherever he goes. Yet he still relies on China, even trying to pull a fast one and sign the cross-strait service trade pact, regardless of the effect it will have on millions.
He attempted to keep everyone in the dark about the pact, even legislators in his own party, and the legislative speaker was ignorant of many of its components. Consequently, by popular insistence, the legislature was obliged to review the agreement clause by clause. Ma, infuriated by the slow progress, blamed Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平).
The Special Investigation Division wiretapped the legislature, hoping to ensnare Wang. Ma not only acted as judge and jury, announcing Wang’s guilt, he also — in his capacity as Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) chairman — attempted to revoke Wang’s KMT membership, before holding a press conference — this time in his capacity as president — declaring that Wang was no longer fit to serve as speaker. The result? He bumbled again. His approval ratings sank to 9.2 percent, a record low for Taiwan.
We discovered why he was in such a hurry when he delivered his Double Ten National Day address. He began talking of how the people of China and the people of Taiwan were all Chinese, and how cross-strait relations were “not international relations.” The entire address was given over to the service trade pact. Apparently, Ma’s speech was for the ears of his masters in Beijing.
On Sept. 16, I wrote an article arguing that Ma’s vendetta against Wang was about opening up to Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平), telling Xi of his resolve that the service trade pact would be passed. The whole plan to oust Wang went ahead, at the instigation of Ma’s trusted aide and representative to the US, King Pu-tsung (金溥聰), to protect the trade pact.
If Ma fails to produce the trade pact that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) wants, it will no longer think him suitable for its purposes. He will not only lose face, he will lose the CCP’s support. Wang had to go, and the pact had to be promptly delivered. Now that he has failed to fell Wang, and has only succeeded in getting the public to turn against him, one can well imagine how concerned he is. It is no wonder, then, that he was so keen for Beijing to hear him say that “cross-strait relations are not international relations.”
If Taiwan is just a part of China, whither the Republic of China (ROC)? Ma wants to sign the service trade pact with China, and bring down the ROC. However, he cannot be allowed to bring Taiwan down with it.
If he wants to know why he is so unpopular in Taiwan, we need only reword a phrase from former US president Bill Clinton’s former aide James Carville: “It’s China, stupid.”
Twu Shiing-jer is a former Democratic Progressive Party legislator and director-general of the Department of Health.
Translated by Paul Cooper