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May 19, 2009

Excuse me?

President Ma can't keep his sovereignty position straight. Just look at yesterday's press conference:

President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) challenged the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) yesterday to produce concrete evidence that he has jeopardized Taiwan’s sovereignty and urged them to be practical and flexible....

Ma said his cross-strait policy has gained local and international recognition and he didn’t think he had made any mistakes.

“If sovereignty was lost, I can get it back,” he said. “But nobody can tell me exactly what was lost.”

Ma said the Republic of China (ROC) Constitution is a “one China” Constitution, and before both sides of the Taiwan Strait could talk about unification or independence, he would suggest “mutual non-denial” of each other’s existence.

Although critics complained that school textbooks are vague about Taiwan’s sovereignty, Ma said it should be made clear to the public that the sovereignty of the ROC belongs to the people.

“Taiwan is the ROC,” [in Chinese: 應該清楚告訴下一代,「中華民國主權是屬於國民全體,台灣是中華民國」,這點非常清楚。]he said. “We should clear this up from a historical and constitutional viewpoint. The public must not be confused into thinking Taiwan’s sovereignty is undefined. We should never let anyone distort history for political reasons.”

Ma said the nine agreements and a joint statement his administration signed with Beijing are conductive to Taiwan’s development and none have hurt Taiwan or echoed China’s political overtures.

His administration’s definition of cross-strait relations was not new, he said, because former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) introduced the idea that Taiwan and China are two regions under the framework of the ROC Constitution and former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) did not alter that stance.
If "Taiwan is the ROC," than the Chinese mainland is not ROC territory, a position in clear contradiction with the "one China" principle. To be sure, saying "Taiwan is the ROC" is awfully similar to saying "one side, one country" or "two Chinas."

Or is this a case of 「台灣是中華民國」 being technically interpretable as "Taiwan is [a part of] the Republic of China?"

Either way, Ma is misleading either himself or the public.

Though I agree the DPP policy direction is feeling especially unclear in contrast with Ma's clarity.

We've got an update: Presidential spokesman has clarified that Ma meant "Taiwan belongs to the Republic of China." 「台灣是中華民國的。

Which means that Ma is saying, "congratulations Taiwan, your sovereignty is in the hands of the people of all of China!"

That, my friends, is not empty rhetoric. That is the warning bell.

Another update: Ma apparently made the comments in the context of criticizing the "unclear" position of current textbooks. But that's pretty much BS, as this article points out.


NJ said...

<< If "Taiwan is the ROC," than the Chinese mainland is not ROC territory, a position in clear contradiction with the "one China" principle. To be sure, saying "Taiwan is the ROC" is awfully similar to saying "one side, one country" or "two Chinas." >>

I agree but all the interpretations are just playing with words.
Is Taiwan = ROC the same as ROC = Taiwan. IMO, no. But it depend on how you want to define in the end.

Gilman Grundy said...

Picking on minor semantic variations is as much a 'warning bell' for reunification as, say, Barack Obama saying that he was for a 'fair' taxation system is a 'warning bell' for the advert of socialism in the United States. Ma will play down reunification the same way Chen played down independence - because in the end there is not sufficient support among the Taiwanese people to achieve either - and it is only the Taiwanese people that matter.

Unknown said...


If it was only the Taiwanese people that mattered, then Taiwan would be independent (just look at any pool, specially when the question is asked for their oppinnion without Chinese threat).

Gilman Grundy said...

@MiguelNunes - As long as China exists, it will influence Taiwan - the common language, shared history and culture etc. guarantee this. This is not to say that Taiwan cannot be independent, obvious it can, and de facto, already is, but people in Taiwan will always have to keep a weather eye on affairs in China. If the China threat can be eliminated through closer relations, then perhaps what you say will come true - no?

Unknown said...

The threat from China is being weathered by accepting their conditions. Note that both parties have said that unification is their purpose, so independence is now simply a dream of a few millions in Taiwan. If they are the majority here, we don't know, but Ma is going merry'go'round on his position, because in one side he needs to show commitment to independence, and on the other, he needs to show commitment to unification. Remember that only independent countries can speak of sovereignity, so when Ma says Taiwan is sovereign, he is speaking of independence. Unless, of course, he considers that the PRC is a rebel province that will come to unify again with the ROC...