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Nov 20, 2008

Intent vs effect

I don't believe Ma Ying-jeou is intent on selling out Taiwan to China or making unification/annexation a reality in his life time. I think he believes his policy of "no unification, no independence, and no violence" is a middle-of-the-road path that will improve Taiwan's security and economy while improving relations with China, which he sees as a win-win situation. I think he's genuinely frustrated with accusations directed at him for trying to sell out the island.

I also think his policies will lead Taiwan not directly into unification, but to a point of no return, where economic and political relations are at a point where China will be have even such enormous leverage in both the cross-strait and international sphere that the CCP will be able to push for a unification time table of its own choosing and Taiwanese leaders will have few options but to comply and negotiate for minimal concessions.

I think Ma probably is aware of a "point of no return" possibility, but he likely foresees a cooperative, mutual reconciliation and believes China has no motivation to force a political capitulation of the Taiwan authorities. Naturally, I think he's wrong.

Of course, all of this is speculation, as the only person who knows what Ma Ying-jeou really thinks is Ma Ying-jeou. And that is the point I'd like to raise in this post. We are quick to assign the worst motivations to those carrying out policies we believe will be destructive, when they likely believe they are working for the greater good.

So I'd rather see the rhetoric of the Green camp retreat from the emotionally laden attacks of Ma "selling out" Taiwan or Ma's eagerness to bow to China, and instead focus on both the genuine dangers of his vision and presenting constructive alternatives.


David Chang said...

You got good points.

janice said...

I tend to agree, although like you said we have no real way of knowing, I do think it's possible that Ma genuinely believes that he is following a good middle-path policy by taking a pragmatic approach and avoiding ideological extremes. And the DPP and its surrogates do need to dial down the shrillness of the rhetoric, if only because it's just BAD for the overall level of political discourse.

But the part that you don''t address here is the intent of other actors within Taiwan, like Lien Chan and KMT elders -- that is, can we know the extent to which Ma's perception of his own policies is being shaped by the people around him? After all, couldn't we also say that George W. Bush genuinely believed he was doing the right thing in trying to bring freedom and democracy to Iraq?

Anonymous said...

Like you pointed out, only Ma Ying-jeou knows what Ma is really thinking. Everyone else can only speculate. Then, how can you say your 'speculation' is more accurate than the Green camp's notion, albeit more extreme?

I agree that the Green camp can be better at offering constructive alternatives but they are as free as you to express their views and speculations on Ma's action.

Dixteel said...

I agree with you on Ma is bring Taiwan to the point of no return, but hmm...I must disagree with you on Ma's intention, although there is a possibility that you are right. It's the same old argument on wether Ma is stupid/soft/naive or having ill intend for Taiwan.

Recently I watch and listen to his speach, and he actually has me convinced, until I think more about it, watching some more news, talk shows and discuss it with others. His speach etc has a lot of holes and right out lies, but I think he has a talent of hiding those holes well. In other words, he is a very, very good liar. I am 100% sure a lot of people are convinced by his pretty words, "genuine attitude" and soft speaking manner, and never bother to check the facts against his statements, thus ignore his wrong doing and lies.

I am convinced he intend to unify Taiwan with China, and be praised as Chinese national hero and perhaps winning Nobel Peace prize. I am convince by his action that his heart is with China, not Taiwan.

But like janice said no one really knows exactly what he thinks...the important thing is what he does. And so far his actions don't look to be beneficial to Taiwan at all...the only helps China in its quest to annex Taiwan, and that's where the real problem is.

Taiwan Echo said...

Lets assume that someone keeps putting poison into my drink.

He can try to convince people that it's not poison but medicine, with pretty words, "genuine attitude" and soft speaking manner (stealing from Dixteel). What else can he say ?

Yea, we have no way to know what his intention really is.

But when I find that I am getting sicker and sicker, it's natural for me to argue that he is trying to kill me.

In fact, it would be more normal for me or anyone to suggest that his intention is to kill me.

Anonymous said...

I don't you can tell others to tone down their speculation on Ma's intent when you are speculating yourself. It's just that you don't agree with the Green camp's notion and expression.

I like Taiwan Echo's analogy. When we look at one's behavior, we can't ignore concrete evidence, the person's history and interpret behavior out of context and in isolation of their intent. I agree with Dixteel that Ma's inconsistency in his arguments proves him a good lier. If he doesn't intend to do harm, he doesn't have to lie. He doesn't have to bypass the parliament, avoiding parliament overseeing the deals.

Raj said...

Excellent post. I don't think that Ma has any intention of "selling out" Taiwan, because he sees a future for the KMT as an autonomous political body - which can't happen if a sell-out occurs, because the CCP is paranoid about organised political opposition. It tolerates it in Hong Kong because:

a) legally it has to;
b) it's just a city; and
c) it can control the system with the functional constituencies.

Taiwan would be completely different if allowed to do its own things.

Also I agree that the focus should be on what Ma/the KMT government does, rather than say "it's a conspiracy". The former is factual, whereas the latter sounds paranoid. Paranoia never wins a majority of people over.

Taiwan Echo said...

Raj:"he sees a future for the KMT as an autonomous political body - which can't happen if a sell-out occurs, because the CCP is paranoid about organised political opposition."

This is not the way I see it.

When Chen Yi (陳儀), the governor of Taiwan, sold out Taiwan back in 1945~1947, he was actually promoted by the central government in China.

Ma Ying-jeou is following the exact same path. When he eventually completes his sell-out-Taiwan project, there will be billions of Chinese to support him as a unification hero in Chinese history. Certainly KMT will be dismantled, but he doesn't really need KMT to keep his power thereafter.

You can see how carefully he behaves not to make China angry, not to hurt Chinese feelings. What he cares more is how the Communist Party and Chinese see him.

Raj:"the focus should be on what Ma/the KMT government does, rather than say "it's a conspiracy". The former is factual, whereas the latter sounds paranoid. Paranoia never wins a majority of people over."

Not sure about this, man. If the poisoning example I raised previously in this thread happened in USA, the person who puts poison into my drink will be convicted with "attempted murder" by the jury.

Is that "paranoia?" It seems to me that even the law is on the "paranoia" side.

阿牛 said...

I'm glad for all the comments but really don't have much to add at this point. I just believe it unlikely Ma sees himself as subjugating Taiwan's interests to China's, although I find this the likely result of his policy.

Dixteel said...

I think people have to take this more seriously. Trying to sympathizes with Ma's position or trying to figure out how his good intention leads Taiwan to ruin in my opinion is useless. If people feel that he is subjugating Taiwan's interests to China's and don't like it, whether his intention is good or bad, we have to stop him from continuing some how otherwise we all get screwed.

For example, when you see someone that is about to commit a crime, you will try to stop it if possible. When you see a guy who doesn't pay attention and walk right into on coming traffic, you will try to stop him. In both case, you try to stop someone from doing something, one has ill intend the other one is just being stupid. But both require immediate and decisive actions.

In my opinion, what people really need to do is first exposing what Ma is doing wrong and stop him from continuing. Afterward people can come up with "alternative" or maybe just don't do a thing with regard to China (in this case doing nothing is better than Ma doing something). You don't stand there and think maybe the guy should walk more like Michael Jackson when he is about to walk into traffic right?

janice said...

Well, of course in the end it's the actions and results that matter. But I think an accurate assessment of intent is important for plotting out the most effective tactics to change those policies that one considers harmful. If you believe that Ma is not actually trying to sell out Taiwan on purpose, then you would focus on initiating a dialogue around a substantive analysis of why or how his policies are going to lead to an undesirable end-state -- in other words, trying to convince someone who simply disagrees with your judgment about the situation, rather than making conclusory statements with the aim of demonizing him. If on the other hand you subscribe to the conspiracy theory-type explanations, then you wouldn't waste your breath explicating the precise causal relationship between, say, direct shipping links, and the eventual loss of sovereignty.

My personal opinion? Ma is probably not setting out with a main objective of destroying Taiwan's status as a self-governing entity, but on the other hand he wouldn't care too much either if it did happen. In fact I think there might be something to the Nobel Peace Price theory. Since he's basically been groomed his entire adult life to become president, now that he's achieved that, what else is there left for him to accomplish?

Raj said...

When Chen Yi (陳儀), the governor of Taiwan, sold out Taiwan back in 1945~1947, he was actually promoted by the central government in China.

Yeah, and was the CCP in charge then? Look what they did to their own man, who was VERY popular and had his own support in the party, Zhao Ziyang. If someone like that can go for the chopping block Ma would have no chance.

Not sure about this, man.

People do not generally buy anything that smacks of paranoia. Just because you think you are right does not mean others do too.

Why is it a problem focusing on the facts? Why can't grand conspiracy theories be put aside? It just makes you look like part of the tin-foil hat brigade.

Seriously just take this from someone who hasn't got sucked into party preference in Taiwan. Going on about Ma thriving as part of the CCP just sounds loony EVEN IF IT MIGHT HAPPEN. Do you not get that? If you can't then there's no hope for you.

Taiwan Echo said...

Wow, Raj, now you think you are righteous enough to judge who has and who has no hope out there? Maybe you should say that to a mirror.

Anyway, thanks for the laughters, man. Sorry for not knowing that you are such a funny guy.

Scott said...

The way the Ma administration and the KMT-dominated judiciary has been acting lately, it almost looks as if they have forgotten that their conduct will be judged again in the next election. And soon after he was elected president/regional administrator, Ma was already speaking confindently of serving TWO consecutive terms.

The way Ma acts with such little regard for public opinion makes me wonder if he believes that he has found a way to remain in power indefinitely without having to worry about details like public opinion and the next election.

It would not surprise me very much if Ma and high-ranking KMT members are actually planning (in cooperation with Bejing) some well-timed incident or sudden crisis in the Strait to occur in 2012 (such as a blockade, a boarding of a Chinese ship by Taiwan's coastguard, attack on Chinese tourists or buisnessmen in Jinmen, etc.), that would regrettably necessitate an indefinite suspension of the normal election process, thus leaving Ma and the KMT perpetually in control.

Of course many Taiwanese see him as shifty, two-faced and unpatriotic, but for a lot of Taiwanese, he fits their image of an up-right Chinese scholar-official perfectly.

In a 2012 crisis secario, Ma would use his charisma to play the "good cop" to Beijing's "bad cop", assuring Taiwanese that he is the only man who can protect their interests in negotiations with Beijing. It would be the end of Taiwan's sovereignty as we know it, but many Taiwanese will still be grateful to Ma for standing up for Taiwan and steering Taiwan though the crisis without any large-scale disruption of the economy.

What do you think? Is that so extremely far-fetched?

阿牛 said...

I suppose its not impossible but I think the KMT just figures they were always supposed to win and always will win (with 2000 and '04 being flukes, and one of them an engineered fluke); I don't see them feeling the need to create a crisis to make it happen.