It seemed like a welcome shift last week when Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) presidential candidate Ma Ying-jeou (
Even Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) presidential candidate Frank Hsieh (
Whether this rhetorical shift is heartfelt -- a coming out of sorts, a la former president Lee Teng-hui (
And in Taiwan, the center is the "status quo." However uncomfortable it is, the "status quo" is, ironically, quite comfortable. It is the invisible enemy we know rather than the unknown of a sudden shift. It's also a vote-winner, as maintaining that comfortable level of uncertainty seems to be what Taiwanese of all stripes want most.
Welcome as Ma's "determination to defend Taiwan's sovereignty" might be -- and let us assume, for the sake of argument, that he means what he said -- his vow to create friendly cross-strait relations might be more difficult to achieve than he thinks. For upon hearing his comments, Beijing could be forgiven for accusing Ma of himself "heightening cross-strait tensions," in similar fashion to what Ma in the same breath accused the DPP of doing over the past eight years.
Should Ma decide to go down this path, he would soon find -- as every other president before him has found -- that peace across the Taiwan Strait, or its absence, is not in the hands of Taiwanese and their leaders, but in those of the regime in Beijing, which seems to think that time is on its side and that the annexation of Taiwan is inevitable.
In recent years, Beijing had placed its hopes in the KMT, which it saw as a surrogate, a backdoor entry to Taiwan. If Ma shuts that door, it will be 1996 all over again, with the additional layer of 12 years of budding Taiwanese consciousness. Should that happen, all that talk about a common market, of small, medium and big links and friendlier ties will mean very little.
If Ma becomes president, he will soon find out why his predecessors Lee and Chen Shui-bian (
And soon enough, following his rude awakening, life would go back to normal, back to the "status quo." The economy would be no better, no worse, and the main question Ma would need to answer would be the one Lee and Chen had to juggle: How to defend Taiwan against a giant whose pride has yet again been hurt, and who is realizing that the longer the "status quo" prevails, the more time is on Taiwan's side.
Ultimately, Beijing's eyesight is blurry. Lee, Chen, Ma -- for all it cares, Taiwanese on Saturday will be voting for "Ma Teng-bian" or "Hsieh Ying-hui." It doesn't care who is in power in Taiwan. What Beijing covets is real estate, all 35,980km2 of it.
Taking advantage of my Taipei Times editors’ forbearance, I thought I would go with a change of pace by offering a few observations on an interesting nature topic, the many varieties of snakes in Taiwan. I will be drawing on my experiences living in Taiwan five times, from my teenage years in Kaohsiung back in the early sixties, to my last assignment as American Institute in Taiwan Director in 2006-9. Taiwan, with its semitropical climate, is a perfect setting for serpents. Indeed, one might say serpents are an integral part of the island’s ecosystem. Taiwan is warm, humid, with lots of
China constantly seeks out ways to complain about perceived slights and provocations as pretexts for its own aggressive behavior. It is both victimization paranoia and a form of information warfare that keeps the West on the defensive. True to form, China objected even to the innocuous reference to Taiwan at April 16’s summit meeting between US President Joe Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga. Neither leader’s prepared remarks even mentioned Taiwan, out of deference to the Japanese side. Biden’s opening statement was modest: “Prime Minister Suga and I affirmed our ironclad support for US-Japanese alliance and for our shared security.
Determined to keep a permanent grip on power, Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) has abandoned former paramount leader Deng Xiaoping’s (鄧小平) dogma of “hiding our capacities and biding our time” along with the “peaceful development” line that prevailed under former Chinese presidents Jiang Zemin (江澤民) and Hu Jintao (胡錦濤). Instead, he is treading a “wolf warrior” path of diplomacy that resorts to coercion, debt entrapment and hostage-taking. Externally, Xi’s China has claimed that it would never seek hegemony, yet it challenges the free, rules-based international order wherever it can. While insisting that it will not export its ideology, it has
As the US’ mass COVID-19 vaccination campaign continues at a record pace, one question under debate is what the administration of US President Joe Biden should do with its extra doses — and especially where to send them. One country that should be at the top of a donation list is Taiwan, in recognition of the help that it provided to the US at the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic last year. After weeks of pressure, the Biden administration announced that it is now “looking at options to share American-made AstraZeneca vaccine doses.” By summer, it is clear that anyone in the