In President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) recent interview with CNN reporter Christiane Amanpour, he firmly said, “We will never ask the Americans to fight for Taiwan. This is something very clear.” After Amanpour’s repeated efforts, Ma finally exposed the Achilles’ heel he had tried to hide.
It is not unusual that CNN made the interview the top story on their Web site. Nor is it unusual that government Web sites in Taiwan all substituted the word “never” with “will not” in the Chinese translation.
There is a tremendous difference between “will not ask” and “will never ask.” Why would government Web sites lie about what the president said? Because he let the cat out of the bag.
Amanpour’s CNN show is called The Power of the Interview and if she had not been able to make Ma say the word “never,” she would not have lived up to the program’s name. Following the entire interview, it is not difficult to find out what her main concern was.
Amanpour was straight to the point from the beginning. She started by saying, “There are many in Taiwan who worry that you [Ma] are not pro-independence” and “… that you are, perhaps, compromising Taiwan’s sovereignty in order to be in the good graces of China.” Ma could only reply by saying “all these accusations are ungrounded,” and then began to play tricks by saying that “nothing in this [economic cooperation framework] agreement [ECFA] compromises Taiwan’s sovereignty or autonomy.”
The journalist was obviously not satisfied, so she went on by wondering if that was the case, then why had Ma’s approval ratings remained below 40 percent after the debate on the planned ECFA with China? This of course implied the political/sovereignty aspect of the ECFA debate.
Amanpour then went on to ask why the Taiwanese public did not understand what an ECFA really was and why they would think an ECFA would make Taiwan too dependent on China. It was clear she was sticking to her main theme.
The next question was the first step to Ma’s letting the cat out of the bag. Talking about next year’s APEC summit in Hawaii, Amanpour asked Ma if he would accept an invitation to participate if such an invitation were extended by the US. It is quite certain that former presidents Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) and Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) would have immediately replied “yes” to such an opportunity.
However, Ma glossed over the question by saying that it was a “hypothetical situation.” Not giving up, Amanpour asked again: “If you were offered a formal invitation … would you accept such an invitation to APEC?” Ma still didn’t dare give a straightforward answer and once again said, “This is really very hypothetical” and refused to reveal his position.
In some ways, hiding one’s position can have the effect of actually revealing it. Amanpour was aware of that and that was why she used Ma’s reply to make him contradict himself. She then set the tone by saying that “some are concerned about … [China’s] growing military capabilities,” before wondering whether Taiwan needs US arms sales to protect itself. Ma said Taiwan is “only seeking the procurement of arms of a defensive character” and said this was in accordance with the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA), which is US federal law. This is where Ma began contradicting himself.
Amanpour then made her next move by asking Ma, “What do you think would happen if the US started to reduce arm sales to Taiwan in order to improve relations with China?”
She then added: “And that’s your goal too, to improve relations with China.” In other words, since Taiwan is improving relations with China, why purchase weapons? And why should the US sell these weapons? It was only because of Ma’s contradiction that Amanpour’s next question, “Why should Americans risk so much on behalf of Taiwan?” was so powerful. This was when Ma said, “We will never ask the Americans to fight for Taiwan.”
Now we finally see Ma’s real intentions. He no longer relies on the TRA but is only looking for “reconciliation” with China. Here, “reconciliation” means “surrender.”
The US has two options for solving this problem. Instead of supporting Ma as it did in the 2008 presidential election, Washington could do a 180-degree turn and boycott and restrict Ma in the 2012 presidential election. The alternative would be to abandon Taiwan and follow the suggestion of former US official David Rothkopf, who was quoted in the interview as saying that “it is certainly not worth going to war for, regardless of what US rhetoric has been for decades.”
Ma has betrayed the US, so what should the US do? We have no say on this issue. What Taiwanese see, though, is Ma betraying Taiwan by declaring that he would forgo all military support from the US forever.
Every Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) legislator is now trying to explain Ma’s “never” statement.
Lin Yu-fang (林郁方) said English is not Ma’s native language, while retired army general Shuai Hua-ming (帥化民) used the TRA as a shield to deflect accusations against Ma.
However, it was Ma — and by extension, Taiwan — that said “never,” not the US, and that is why this is such a serious issue.
Ukraine’s opposition criticized their government for having worked out a “plan to destroy the country” by agreeing to an extension of Russia’s lease on the naval base for its Black Sea fleet and by agreeing to Russia taking over Ukraine’s natural gas company. The same thing is happening in Taiwan as Ma plans to “destroy Taiwan” with the planned ECFA and “never” asking the Americans to fight for Taiwan.
Chin Heng-wei is the editor-in-chief of Contemporary Monthly.
TRANSLATED BY WU TAIJING
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