Fri, Apr 06, 2007 - Page 3 News List

Analysis: Academics react to Ma, Wang's statements

By Shih Hsiu-chuan  /  STAFF REPORTER

The two bigwigs of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) have attracted criticism for making ethnic relations an issue in next year's presidential election, although both have said that they did not intend to manipulate ethnic relations when they made comments on the issue recently.

During an interview with the China Television Co on Monday morning, former KMT chairman Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), a Mainlander born in Hong Kong, said Taiwan would be lucky to have a person of non-Taiwanese ethnicity as president one day.

Ma explained this would indicate that "Taiwan has gotten over the ethnicity problem."

Later that day, Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) echoed academics' doubts about the suitability of a political elite of a minority ethnic group governing a majority ethnic group.

Wang said that he could not compromise himself by agreeing with Ma on the issue.

Bringing up ethnic relations is common in the nation's political scene. Pan-blues have had to contend with the fact that they can't get elected on Mainlander votes alone because Mainlanders constitute a minority.

When Ma and Wang engaged in a war of words over the issue of ethnic relations, they only softened their original comments after coming under sharp criticism from party supporters.

Ma skirted questions when he was asked to respond to Wang's words, while Wang said his own comment was simply a friendly reminder that the party must be prepared for the possibility that the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) could bring up ethnicity and ethnic relations as a tactic to win the presidential election.

Commenting on the development, Chen Wen-chun (陳文俊), an adjunct professor of political science at National Sun Yat-sen University, said it was "immoral" that Wang and Ma had manipulated ethnicity for political purposes.

"Just like gender and age, ethnicity is also something we can't change. We can't use these natural characteristics to divide people. And, in fact, people don't vote along these lines," he said.

Although ethnicity is correlated with voting behavior, he said that politicians should refrain from manipulating the issue, because "ethnicity is something inseparable from feelings and people could easily get hurt."

But Lee Shiao-feng (李筱峰), a professor of history at Shih Hsin University, said that Ma deserved more blame than Wang for highlighting the issue.

Ma's appeal to the public to have a Mainlander as a president was made under his assumption that ethnic Taiwanese are shy of Mainlanders, Lee said.

"That [assumption] was very false. According to survey, about 92 percent of Mainlanders vote for Mainlanders, only eight percent of Mainlanders vote for ethnic Taiwanese," he said.

Ethnic Taiwanese, which includes Hoklo and Hakka, accounts for about 85 percent of the population.

One example showing that ethnic Taiwanese have no strong ethnic consciousness was that People First Party Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜), a Mainlander, received more than 35 percent of the vote in the 2000 presidential election, he said.

"If Ma's assumption was true, he wouldn't have won the Taipei mayoral elections. He made such an appeal to brand ethnic Taiwanese and failed to realize that it's not his Mainlander origins, but rather his questionable stance on national identity, that is unacceptable to Taiwanese," Lee said.

Chen Fang-ming (陳芳明), a professor of Chinese Literature at National Chengchi University, urged the KMT and Ma to think about Wang's remarks.

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