Several opposition lawmakers yesterday compared a recent spat between President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and former Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) chairman Lien Chan (連戰) over whether Ma had prior knowledge of controversial remarks Lien made in meetings with Chinese leaders to concubines fighting to win the emperor’s favor.
The dispute was sparked when Lien, in a meeting with Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping (習近平) on Feb. 25, said bilateral relations should be based on “the ‘one China’ framework, cross-strait peace, mutual interest and integration and the revitalization of the Zhonghua minzu [中華民族, a Chinese ethnic group].”
Lien’s comments, coupled with his description of Taiwan as a troublemaker in the international community during a separate meeting in Beijing with outgoing Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) on Tuesday last week, raised speculation that the Ma government is leaning ever further toward China.
The Presidential Office and several Cabinet members quickly jumped to Ma’s defense, denying allegations that Lien was serving as the president’s messenger and that Ma knew what he was going to say.
Although the dispute was seemingly triggered by the comments, tensions between Ma and Lien have existed for some time because of the latter’s attempt to steer the conduct of cross-strait relations, which some see as an encroachment on Ma’s leadership, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Chen Chi-mai (陳其邁) said.
“The pair’s unspoken animosity has seen Lien’s aides launch a spate of attacks against Ma’s bid to be re-elected as KMT chairman, signaling the onset of a internal power struggle in the KMT,” Chen said.
Chen likened the dispute between the two to the plot of Chinese television drama Empresses in the Palace (後宮甄嬛傳), a Qing Dynasty-themed series about the ferocious competition among concubines to win the emperor’s favor, saying the pair were sparring to curry favor with the emperor — China — at the cost of Taiwanese sovereignty.
Following a landmark meeting between Lien and Hu in 2005, China has sought to create divisions in Taiwanese politics by manipulating internal KMT conflicts, Chen said.
“As Ma’s popularity wanes, the possibility of Lien outshining the president in the cross-strait arena is seen as a threat that could ‘cripple’ the Ma administration, which is why the Ma camp has reacted so strongly [to Lien’s China visit],” Chen said.
DPP Legislator Pan Men-an (潘孟安) cast doubt on the Presidential Official’s claim that Lien did not make the remarks on behalf of Ma, saying that Lien had met the president twice ahead of his trip.
“The first meeting was on Lunar New Year’s Day and the second took place shortly before Lien left for China. How is it possible that Lien made the remarks without Ma’s approval?” Pan asked.
DPP Legislator Tsai Huang-liang (蔡煌瑯) also said he believed Ma had authorized Lien’s comments.
“Ma must have decided to deny his tacit agreement with Lien when he realized the public would be unhappy about them,” Tsai said, urging Ma and Lien to clarify the issue, as it was a matter of national security.