With his re-election on Jan. 14 to a second four-year mandate, rumors have begun circulating in pan-green circles that President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) could be tempted to broach the issue of a peace accord with China before the end of his second term — or even within a year.
Even if the executive here and in Beijing had such intentions, the chances of a peace accord are very slim, as too many variables will act as brakes on any such move.
Ma first raised the issue of a peace accord in October, saying it would be feasible for Taiwan to sign such an agreement with China within a decade. Those remarks, ostensibly the result of pressure from Beijing and Washington rather than Ma’s initiative — given the awkward timing of the announcement, three months before the election — immediately alarmed Taiwanese and forced Ma to add conditions for the signing of such an accord, including a referendum.
Beijing would be expected to seek to include in the accord such conditions as the framing of Taiwan as a province of China rather than as a sovereign state, the cessation of US arms sales to Taiwan and perhaps the abrogation of the US’ Taiwan Relations Act. For Beijing, the ultimate objective of the accord would be the unification of the two countries.
Such fundamental changes in Taiwan’s relationship with the US, its one longstanding security guarantor, cannot be accomplished overnight, even if some elements within the White House appear intent on neutralizing the “Taiwan question.”
Rare is the Taiwanese who would welcome a decision by Taipei and Washington to sever a relationship that, for the most part, has benefited Taiwan, if only by providing it with the political and military backing it needs to deal with Beijing with confidence.
This also applies to the armed forces, which over decades have developed close ties with the US military and whose promotion system remains largely tied to the acquisition of US weapons systems. Ending that relationship would not only take time, it would risk alienating an important component of political stability and a key supporter of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT).
However much Ma and Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) may desire the Nobel Peace Prize, most members of the KMT are not in favor of unification and would oppose any rash move by the president. While under the Constitution Ma cannot run for a third consecutive term, his would-be successor within the party must already be looking to 2016 and would not want to see his or her chances scuttled by Ma rocking the boat and alienating Taiwanese voters.
The new legislature, in which the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) added seven seats and its ally the Taiwan Solidarity Union won three, is also a more balanced one, meaning that the executive will be unable to dictate policy to the same extent it has since 2008. Despite Ma’s wishes, he is constrained by a Constitution and a democratic system that imposes checks and balances on his ability to act. He cannot simply sign a peace accord into law.
One thing the DPP and its allies should push for is the requirement to hold a referendum before a peace accord can be negotiated and written into law. Given that Ma has already mentioned such a need and added to divisions within the KMT on unification, such a law would likely gain enough support from pan-blue legislators to pass the legislature.
For its part, China faces its own series of challenges. The Chinese Communist Party will have a new secretary-general at the end of the year and China will have a new president the following March. Added to signs of economic trouble and internal instability, Beijing will have enough on its hands and will also favor continuity and stability in the Taiwan Strait over the uncertainties of a rush into political negotiations.
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