Giving himself yet another pat on the shoulder, President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) again touted his cross-strait policy in a recent interview with the Washington Post, crediting himself and his administration with ameliorating cross-strait tensions and broadening Taiwan’s international visibility.
“Better cross-strait relations have strengthened, rather than weakened Taiwan’s international standing,” Ma was quoted as saying, as he stressed that it was under his administration that Taiwan won “observer status” at the World Health Assembly (WHA) and was allowed to attend this year’s International Civil Aviation Organization assembly as a “special guest.”
Indeed, no one in Taiwan is opposed to better cross-strait relations, because improvements should increase dialogue and understanding about democracy and replace confrontation with peace. However, a number of people have had their doubts about Ma’s claims, with many wondering how he could manage not to choke on his words as he blatantly omitted the facts about the second half of his statement.
The truth is that Ma has a long-standing problem of speaking only half-truths, creating false impressions of great achievements to make Taiwanese beam with pride.
While Taiwan might, as Ma proudly pointed out, under his watch have gained a WHA observership for the first time in 38 years, what he failed to acknowledge was that Taiwan’s observership was conditional on it being regarded as a province of China — an arrangement between the WHO and Beijing, according to a leaked memo.
How could Ma bill his cross-strait policy as having “strengthened Taiwan’s international standing” when the truth is that his administration has reinforced an impression in the international community that Taiwan is part of China? Not to mention that what Ma trumpets as his diplomatic achievement is actually more a victory for Beijing.
The latest survey by Taiwan Indicators Survey Research suggests that most people support increased bilateral exchanges, including visits of officials of the Mainland Affairs Council and China’s Taiwan Affairs Office and the establishment of representative offices in each other’s territory. While the government under Ma is working to “improve cross-strait relations” as Ma stated, it is a different matter if the so-called improved relations with China are achieved at the expense of Taiwan’s sovereignty and national dignity.
In the interview with the Post, Ma showed no desire to change his cross-strait policies despite his sinking approval rate, concluding that “we have made progress in every area ... we have done what needed to be done, and we will keep doing so until the very end.”
As Ma has made no secret of his desire to create a historical legacy, coupled with his recent string of disturbing statements redefining cross-strait relations that appear to be more aligned with that of Beijing, his concluding remarks are cause for concern.
It is hoped that the “we” the president spoke of referred to the collective voice and wishes of the Taiwanese and not that of the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) partisan interests, or worse still Beijing’s, in its ambition to annex Taiwan by seeking to establish a so-called “common understanding on the principle of ‘one China.’”
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Since the rancorous and histrionic breakup of the planned “blue-white alliance,” polls have shown a massive drop in support for Taiwan People’s Party (TPP) Chairman and presidential candidate Ko Wen-je (柯文哲), whose support rate has dropped to 20 percent. Young people and pan-blue supporters seem to be ditching him. Within a few weeks, Ko has gone from being the most sought after candidate to seeking a comeback. A few months ago, he was the one holding all the cards and calling the shots, with everything in place for a rise to stardom. The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) was still dealing with doubts
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US think tanks, societies and organizations have recently not been shy or hesitant to get involved in Taiwanese matters; they seem to do so with an apparent purpose. Earlier this month, Simona Grano, a senior fellow on Taiwan at the New York-based Asia Society, penned a lengthy and thorough primer on Taiwan’s elections next month. In her primer, Grano noted that Washington had “reservations” about all four (now three after Terry Gou [郭台銘] dropped out) candidates for the presidency. With these reservations, one senses a clear change and expansion of purpose from the Asia Society. Originally formed in 1956 by John