Sun, Mar 26, 2006 - Page 3 News List

Ma pushes his message in California

`FIVE DOS' The leader of the KMT appeared before a crowd of Taiwanese and Chinese academics at Berkeley, and repeated his words about seeking cooperation with China


Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) began the California leg of his US tour on Friday, reiterating the themes of peace and prosperity that he expressed to US officials in Washington earlier in the week to a packed auditorium at the University of California, Berkeley.

The crowd of mostly Taiwanese and Chinese academics offered the mayor -- who is also the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) chairman -- a rapturous welcome worthy of a rock star.

Ma said his trip was an opportunity to clarify his party's stance on the triangular relationship between Taiwan, the US and China, which is likely to be a dominant issue in Taiwan's 2008 presidential elections.

"I believe we can build a stable relationship" between the three countries, Ma said, introducing a political program for engagement with China that he labeled the "five dos."

The five points of the initiative are: To resume negotiations between Taiwan and China based on the so-called "1992 consensus" (agreeing to disagree about the definition of "one China"); to reach a peace accord with confidence building measures; to facilitate economic exchanges with the aim of eventually establishing a common market; to work with China to boost Taiwan's presence in international bodies and to expand educational and cultural exchanges.

In a departure from the rigid, official setting of his Washington meetings, Ma's appearance at Berkeley took the form of a question-and-answer session, in which Ma was first interviewed by an East Asian security expert, who pressed him on the specifics of his "five dos" program, and then a session with students, who peppered Ma with questions about KMT reform, Falun Gong, the controversial arms-procurement package stalled in the Legislative Yuan and the hundreds of missiles deployed in Chinese coastal provinces targeting Taiwan.

Ma's answers were at times evasive, while at others remarkably direct and provocative.

With reference to the missile threat, Ma only said "it must be addressed" to bring about his "five dos" plan without saying how he could convince Chinese rulers to remove them if he were to engage in such negotiations.

In a backhanded rebuke of Chinese policy toward Falun Gong, Ma recalled what he said was the KMT's clumsy disbanding of a reclusive Christian sect based in the mountains of southern Taiwan in the early 1980s.

"Who cares if they think Mount Zion is in Taiwan? ... Religion grows out of persecution. This is universal," he said.

Ma was also critical of his own party, saying the public had shown in the past two elections it was dissatisfied with the KMT's internal reform to date.

"We want to transform the KMT into an upright, clean, competitive campaign machine," Ma said.

In speaking about the hot-button issue of unification versus independence, Ma said a solution should be deferred in favor of the promotion of peace, prosperity, democracy and equitable distribution of wealth. He said that Taiwan has one of the world's most equal distributions of wealth, while the trend in China has been an alarming widening of the income gap.

For now, Ma said, it was politically impossible for the governments on both sides of the Taiwan Strait to formally recognize the other, but that to break this long-standing impasse officials should focus on "interests, not [political] positions," and that cross-strait relations should be based on the current "status quo."

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