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Jan 5, 2010

Ma's New Year message

Sometimes I wonder if I should repeat myself as often as I do on this blog, especially on those handful of topics that most excite me. But considering I am not yet hearing the DPP caucus responding to me in chorus, I think I'll just take a deep breath and try again ...

Ma Ying-jeou's New Year's message, aimed largely at a domestic audience but with the understanding that China would glance over it, inadvertently emphasizes the difference between the KMT's actual policy -- hidden between the lines -- and the policy they want you to think they're pushing.

As I start getting into the speech details, I'll mention the most annoying and dangerous of KMT refrains, oft repeated, is that none of the documents being signed with China mention a "One China" or the so-called 92 consensus which Taiwan pretends to define as "one China, two interpretations." Therefore, the KMT argues, the agreements are not political and do not touch on "core" issues that might attract the people's willingness to push through a referendum.

Ma makes that case here:

During the fourth round of talks held 10 days ago between Chiang Pin-kung, head of Taiwan's Straits Exchange Foundation, and Chen Yunlin, head of mainland China's Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait, the two sides signed three agreements. Along with the nine agreements signed previously, altogether 12 agreements have been signed over the past 19 months. These agreements have yielded considerable results, for they cover regular direct cross-strait flights; direct postal services; allowing mainland Chinese tourists to visit Taiwan; financial cooperation; food safety; cooperation on fishing crew affairs; product testing and certification; inspection and quarantine of agricultural products; and joint crime-fighting and judicial cooperation. Each agreement enhances and safeguards the rights and interests of Taiwan's people and has nothing to do with sovereignty.

In reality, each agreement is being signed on the understanding that Taiwan is adhering to the "One China" policy/fantasy. We all know the DPP supported most of the measures mentioned above and in some cases, even did the groundwork negotiating behind the scenes. But the DPP roundly rejected the notion that either Taiwan or the Republic of China were part of the same country as the People's Republic of China. So China didn't agree to anything. The new KMT administration reversed that position, claiming that Taiwan and China belong to the same country. So now the agreements can be signed faster than you can say "Pat-a-cake." Each agreement is premised on the falsehood that Taiwan is part of China and not a sovereign, independent entity.

And, despite a number of prominent examples of Chinese interests eclipsing Taiwanese ones (such as shipping), each agreement is loaded with carrots to please Taiwanese interests; these same carrots will make very handy sticks when China grows tired of waiting for Taiwanese to accept political demands. I'm no tactician, but arming the enemy is generally not the way to go.

Now I'll cut back to the beginning of Ma's "cross-strait" section of the speech:
My fellow citizens, the people of the two sides of the Taiwan Strait are all of Chinese ethnicity. We share a common heritage, language, history and culture. But the two sides have been separately governed for 60 years now. In that time, each side has operated under different political, economic and social systems. As our ways of life and experiences are vastly different, we require a certain period of time in which to connect and gain a better understanding of each other. At present, making political choices hastily, whether they be for immediate unification or immediate independence, would cause serious confrontation and tumult. No one would be the better-off, and neighboring nations would all be affected.
Two things to note here. First, the reference to the Chinese ethnicity, or the Zhonghua Minzu. That topic has been covered rather extensively on this blog. The Zhonghua Minzu as Taiwanese understand it (and they understand it to essentially mean Han people) is not quite nonsense, but it is not exactly a good reason to pretend to be running another country.

Second, check out the last sentence I've highlighted. It's essentially true; there is no obvious way to solve the Taiwan-China issue in a peaceful way within the foreseeable future. This is, of course, because China threatens to pummel Taiwan into dust should the Taiwanese get the crazy idea to openly declare their home an independent country, as it obviously is. Taiwan does not threaten war, only common sense.

There is more meat in Ma's next claim:

And so, for cross-strait relations, I have always called for adherence to the principle of "no unification, no independence and no use of force" under the framework of the ROC Constitution, and have sought to promote cross-strait interaction and cooperation within the parameters of the 1992 Consensus. This is not passively maintaining the status quo, but rather an active attempt to gain enough time in which to allow for the peaceful development of the cross-strait relationship. This will help the people of Taiwan and mainland China better understand one another and eliminate prejudices through greater communication and cooperation in the areas of trade and culture. With Chinese culture as the foundation, we can seek pragmatic and feasible solutions to cross-strait disputes.

If Ma is saying his appropriation of Chinese terminology about "One China" is simply a stalling ploy, a "kick the can" maneuver, then he's merely repeating the KMT policy line, which has been officially aimed at stalling a "unification/independence" choice for a couple of generations ever since about 2003, when Lien Chan was running.

But remember China has given no indication that a 30-50 year time line is acceptable to them. You must also remember that the KMT aims to do stall not on the chance that China will consider the merits of Taiwanese Independence, but to intertwine Taiwan and China to the point that unification is the only feasible option.

(By chance, the best pro-KMT argument I ever heard was that Taiwan and China were already at that point, so edging in the direction of unification, as slowly as possible to ensure the most favorable terms, was the only reasonable policy).

And note the "common culture" claim that wraps up the paragraph, which is aimed domestically to re-define the Taiwan/China relationship on claims of common linguistic, cultural and ancestral heritage instead of the fact that they're two different countries. (That is why Holo Taiwanese/Southern Min will be nearly dead in Taiwan fifty years from now, even as we now promote shoddy mother language education.)

The true travesty is yet to come:
My fellow citizens, since I took office in 2008, the government has resumed cross-strait talks, insisting all the while on parity and dignity. The ROC is a sovereign, independent nation, and Taiwan long ago became a democracy in which sovereignty lies in the hands of the people. We should have full confidence that Taiwan's future is, as a matter of course, in the hands of its 23 million people. Precisely because the Republic of China is a democratic country, cross-strait policy must be subject to both supervision by the Legislature and to public opinion. As to cross-strait agreements that concern the people's welfare, the government must be responsive to public opinion and increase communication with opposition parties and the people to seek out consensus and gain support.
Ma is first saying that the ROC -- including the "mainland" and Taiwan -- is one sovereign nation. Then, he factually notes that Taiwan is a democracy. These two sentences are juxtaposed to make the Taiwanese voter think the administration is equating Taiwan to the Republic of China, which he is decidedly not. Finally, Ma claims that democracy will ensure the Taiwanese people's right to freely decide their own future.

Back here in real life, the ROC does not control or enjoy sovereignty over China. Taiwan is obviously a democracy, but we cannot ignore the KMT's anti-democratic determination to prevent any referendum related to Taiwan's future to ever occur, even in a theoretical scenario where unification and/or independence are being considered.

Finally, of course, the cross-strait agreements have not been properly supervised by the KMT-run legislature, for honestly baffling reasons. Most branches of government jump at the opportunity to expand their power.

The rest of the speech is much more boring.

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