Alexa
  • Directory of Taiwan

Forget about China’s president, mend Taiwan’s economy

Forget about China’s president, mend Taiwan’s economy

Even during the past five years of President Ma Ying-jeou’s push for improved relations and major trade deals with China, political issues remained in the background, with the government officially claiming it was pursuing the ‘easier’ economic issues first before dealing with the more ‘difficult’ politics of the relationship.
Over the past few weeks however, change has been in the air. Ever since October 10, Taiwan’s National Day when the president is expected to make important statements about important affairs of state, he has been on a roll.
During his Double Ten speech, Ma said relations between Taiwan and China were not international relations, harking back to the old Kuomintang myth of how the Republic of China encompasses both so neither is a real independent country.
He followed that statement up by also claiming that direct flights between Taiwan and China were not international flights but rather ‘special’ flights. Ma reportedly compared the situation to what he had experienced during his student days in the United States, when airlines made more money from domestic flights between major cities than from overseas services.
The president’s remarks seemed to be just one example in a long row of statements downgrading his own country. If Taiwan was not a country, then how could Ma still call himself a president, and how could a head of state insult his own nation’s sovereignty and independence, critics raged.
Ma’s sudden emphasis on Taiwan and China not being separate and different countries has been said to have found its inspiration in a sudden drive for a historic meeting with China’s President Xi Jinping.
While previous presidents vaguely mentioned having tea or coffee with their Chinese counterparts, Ma seems to be more eager in arranging a meeting which might save what remains of his faltering eight years in office and put him squarely in the history books. A high-profile achievement drawing global attention would suit Ma just fine to make the public forget about his years of economic failures and other policy flip-flops.
A first suggestion to arrange a meeting between Ma and Xi in the margin of an international event failed though. China dealt him a blow by refusing to use the annual Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit – to be hosted by Beijing next year – as the background for an eventual meeting between the two leaders.
The reason is that China wants to keep treating Taiwan like a province of its own and therefore a domestic issue not suitable to parade at an international summit.
While Xi would have no problem in attending an APEC summit in the usual capacity as president of the People’s Republic of China, Ma’s nametag would be more problematic. He might be invited as the ‘leader’ of an ‘economic entity,’ but even that might be too much to stomach for Beijing. Xi would of course prefer to call him just ‘Mister Ma’ and to treat him as chairman of the KMT, but APEC is not a forum for party leaders, but for leaders of governments. It is thus safe to assume that Taiwan will continue to be represented at summits by former vice presidents such as Vincent Siew and Lien Chan.
If the president really wants to meet Xi, the other side will demand concessions in exchange, and those will be unacceptable to the people of Taiwan. Beijing will insist on Taiwan downgrading its own sovereignty, accepting a name it is not comfortable with, and turning back from the few achievements it has already made. The president and other government leaders will have to forego their titles and learn they will be addressed as ‘mister,’ as if they held no government positions at all.
President Ma should put away his dream of global fame and Nobel Peace Prizes. Taiwan is not a toy he can play with and mold into any shape he wants to just for China’s benefit.
The belief that Xi will take a different and more sympathetic approach to Taiwan is erroneous, as shown by his aggressive moves against Japan and the Philippines over disputed islands and his clear intention to challenge the United States for leadership in the Asia Pacific.
Despite the smiles during meetings between party officials and trade negotiators from both sides, it is wise to remind ourselves that the basic nature of China’s government has not changed. Beijing is still run by a Communist Party which tolerates no dissent and no challenges to its hegemony, whether in domestic politics or in overseas relations. Whoever is in charge in China will never acknowledge the desire for independence, whether coming from already separate and sovereign Taiwan or from Tibet and Xinjiang.
That even in the Ma Administration, some minds are still thinking clearly about the grave peril of moving ever closer to China, was proven recently by comments from Defense Minister Yen Ming.
He dared to describe China and Taiwan as enemies and antagonists, a daring phrase for a member of Ma’s team. More truths like these need to be heard if the country wants to avoid being dragged into a trap.
The latest example of the government’s quest to move ever closer to Beijing’s views is this weekend’s KMT-Chinese Communist Party forum in Nanning, Guangxi Province.
As on several occasions before, KMT Honorary Chairman Wu Po-hsiung will represent the Taiwanese side, but that could be a cause for concern since the close Ma ally is no stranger to making outlandish remarks. At his first meeting with Xi, he described China and Taiwan as two areas, causing an outcry on the island. As on a previous occasion when the KMT’s other honorary chairman, Lien Chan, said political talks could no longer be avoided, the Ma Administration rapidly distanced itself from its wayward confidants.
Wu’s latest visit to China, the most recent in a long line of trips, will again require vigilance from the media and the public. Any small remark might undermine Taiwan’s sovereignty and signal a climbdown ahead of future discussions or negotiations.
President Ma needs a strong reminder that that what the people of Taiwan want and need right now, is not another headlong rush into China’s embrace, but an improvement in living standards through boosting the economy, and an environment where consumers can buy and eat local products without fear of compromising their health.
The Ma Administration need to put its priorities in order, or it will face the wrath of voters once the next election comes around about a year from now. No government can neglect issues close to home while selling out the dignity of the nation abroad and expect to receive a reward.


Updated : 2021-05-13 14:29 GMT+08:00