EDITORIAL: Ma’s sly effort to slip into history

Thu, Nov 05, 2015 - Page 8

Cross-strait affairs are matters of great sensitivity and warrant the careful assessment of those in power, as they relate to Taiwan’s security, sovereignty and national dignity.

As such, it is dumbfounding that Taiwanese had to find out via a media scoop that President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) is due to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) in just a few days.

An exclusive on Tuesday night on the Chinese-language Liberty Times (the Taipei Times’ sister newspaper) Web site broke the story.

How long was the Presidential Office planning to keep the meeting a secret?

Since winning re-election in 2012, Ma has not been shy about his ambition to leave a legacy. He has also on several occasions openly expressed his wish to meet with Xi.

Under normal circumstances, there would be nothing wrong with the nation’s president meeting the leader of China; it could reasonably be construed as the extension of an olive branch. However, it is a different matter when the design of the meeting has been carried out in an underhand manner, with decisions taken behind closed doors, in open defiance of the legislature and the public.

The Ma-Xi meeting directly contradicts a promise Ma made during his re-election campaign. In case he needs a reminder, on Nov. 18, 2011, Ma said: “I absolutely will not meet with the Chinese leader if I am re-elected.”

Ma also promised that a meeting between him and Xi would only occur “when the nation needs it, the public supports it and the legislature supervises the process.”

Therefore, it must be asked: Has he won the consent of Taiwanese for this meeting with Xi? That is to say nothing of Ma’s pledge to gain legislative supervision: Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) said he only learned about the meeting on Tuesday evening when he received calls from media outlets requesting a response.

The nation is in a dire economic situation, with soaring housing prices, a deteriorating labor market, weakening household incomes and plunging exports. Ministry of Labor statistics show the number of furloughed workers last month was at its highest level since February last year, and Directorate-General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics data show that the unemployment rate climbed from 3.82 percent in July to 3.9 percent in August.

Central bank Governor Perng Fai-nan (彭淮南) on Monday said it would be hard for the nation to record GDP growth of more than 1 percent this year.

Rather than finding remedies to tackle the sluggish economy and declining competitiveness, Ma is focusing on fulfilling his desire to leave a legacy — by having a chance to shake hands with Xi.

It is cringeworthy — not to mention frightening — that the president seems to be more interested in leaving his personal mark on history than improving the lives of his people.

The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) said the Ma-Xi meeting would be a significant step forward in the cross-strait relationship and that it would help the development of cross-strait ties.

However, rather than earning the esteem of the public, the opaque decisionmaking process and underhanded way in which Ma has gone about arranging his tete a tete has only inspired the contempt and repulsion of the public.