Thursday, March 23, 2006

Ma Ying-jeou's coronation swing through the US is in full bore, with the US media rolling over and wagging its tail for the future Presidential candidate, and the only people who have trouble with the ascendancy of a Hong Kong-born, non-Taiwanese, pro-China politician becoming the leader of Taiwan being US conservatives. US progressives have serious, serious problems on the Taiwan issue....

In any case the Nelson Report noted of the trip:

Informed observers make clear that Ma's treatment is first and foremost a very pointed message to Taiwan President Chen Shuibian, as the latest manifestation of President Bush's personal concerns over how best to maintain the status quo between China, Taiwan, and the US, following Chen's New Years Day speech, and the subsequent fight over the National Unification Council.

At the same time, of course, the Administration's top China handlers want their own sense of Ma personally, and as the presumptive KMT nominee...if not also the likely winner...if the DPP's current difficulties on Taiwan continue. Ma clearly sees this trip as a major opportunity to score points with the Administration, and to demonstrate to both China and the voters on Taiwan that he is the best man to successfully manage relations with the US.

Ma has a huge advantage over Chen -- he speaks English well and went to Harvard. In US eyes this outweighs being a former student spy and serving as English secretary to a dictator, and nurturing connections to local crime gangs, as well as being pro-China. Apparently, as long as you speak good English, you can do just about anything and get thunderous applause in the US.

Ma had some interesting proposals:

The centerpiece of Ma's presentation... is that, first, the KMT will work with the DPP government to complete action on what remains of the US arms sale package of 2001, but which has been cut back in the Legislative Yuan from $18-billion to a more modest $10-billion;

Second, a KMT government headed by Ma, after 2008, will seek a 30 to 50 year interim peace agreement with China which will preserve the peaceful statusquo in the Taiwan Strait, while giving China time to develop toward a capitalist democracy...but which would not work toward either formal legal unification with China, nor formal legal independence;

Third, reinforcing this process, once underway, would be re- establishing direct transportation links, tourism, vastly enhanced educational exchanges, etc., along with the already burgeoning direct investment and Taiwan business human migration to the PRC, which he estimated currently at 1-million and growing.

Before the reader gets too excited about a 50 year peace agreement -- with the Chinese, how much will that be worth anyway? -- conservatives in the audience realized instantly what this really meant -- Ma was proposing bring Taiwan into China's orbit, and taking it out of the US orbit. As the writer of the Nelson Report pointed out (this time was far more balanced than the reporting on the NUC, which was frankly anti-Chen), Ma's responses were evasive on the key point of US-Taiwan defense cooperation, and further, Ma operates from the KMT 'catechism' of One China and thus, believes that "agreeing to disagree" means finding a way to bring Taiwan into the Chinese fold. I'm glad someone reporting on the Hill has grasped this salient fact.

As those of us who have been watching Ma mature from KMT Golden Haired Boy to International Power Broker understand, Ma Ying-jeou is ultimately a product of his background, and that background is essentially a Theology of Return that embraces China, not Taiwan, as its focus. Ma thinks of himself as a Chinese, not a Taiwanese, and thus his dealings with the US will always be from that perspective. Ma's whole career is more or less a search for power under that rubric, and a striving for a way to annex Taiwan to China over the objections of the Taiwanese. The 50 Year Security Treaty is one way of accomplishing this. I've been saying for years now that the DPP is a US opportunity, not a US problem. Perhaps Ma Ying-jeou will finally be able to convince the US of this.

Pursuant to this point, another thing I think Ma's trip will bring out is that the differences between the KMT and the US government are actually greater than everyone thinks. The long and the short of it is that US security policy, and long-term hegemony in Asia, is not compatible with a KMT president in Taiwan. This is because the KMT is cooperating with Beijing -- now that Taiwan is a democracy, the KMT has become a pro-China party. If the implications of this have not sunk in, they had best begin to, and soon. US support of the DPP is, at the moment, not only the ethically correct choice, but the right response to China as well.

6 comments:

STOP_George said...

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Now that Ma's plan is finally starting to emmerge, the DPP strategy should be to convince voters that:

1) China cannot be trusted at present and the PRC does not want anything other than annexation. The so-called status quo is currently being altered by China.

2) Ma would recklessly fall into China's trap of believing in this fantasy that meaningful compromise can be made (and that China can be trusted). And he has NO safeguards in place. Furthermore, the KMT has continued to this day to show disrespect for the principles of democracy and freedom. Ma is incapable of changing the anti-democratic traditions of KMT.

3) The best chance to preserve the status quo is for firm leadership in Taiwan that is not bullied by China. Preserving Democracy and freedom is paramount for the interests of Taiwanese and only carefully managed integration with the chinese economy can occur to preserve what Taiwan has fought for and achieved. The U.S. is Taiwan's ally -- not China.
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shavenpope said...

"Apparently, as long as you speak good English, you can do just about anything and get thunderous applause in the US."

Look no further than Soong Mei-ling for proof of this.

Anonymous said...

Can't people also see that Ma just seems so slimy and insincere. While Chen-bashing is ever so popular these days, at least he doesn't look and act evil. Ma is the epitome of slimy politicians who rise to adored status.

cleverCLAIRE said...

Everytime the KMT or Ma mentioned a 50 year "peace agreement", it gives me the chills. Look at how East Turkestan became Xing-Jiang 'autonomous' region and where Tibet is today.

nostalgiphile said...

I think I agree with the spirit, but not the wording of this, Michael:

"The long and the short of it is that US security policy, and long-term hegemony in Asia, is not compatible with a KMT president in Taiwan."

What the US has (and hopefully will preserve) in Asia isn't really a hegemony so much as it is the role of a "peace keeper." Most nations in E Asia (including China to some extent, for the time being) welcome the Pacific patrols of the 7th Fleet and our presence in places like S Korea and exercises on and off the coast of Thailand. They realize that without the US, there would be more problems than peaceful solutions.

I'm leery of this word "hegemony" because I really would prefer to think of the US as a just, peace-loving nation rather than as a hegemon or imperial state as some would have it--even the actions of our current government sometimes make me seriously doubt it. The policing function (or duty?) that the US has in E Asia is basically good and on course, and it's really not in any country's interest to challenge or try to alter that; especially not the increasingly national-socialist Chinese...or well-meaning, naive liberals.

Michael Turton said...

it's really not in any country's interest to challenge or try to alter that; especially not the increasingly national-socialist Chinese...or well-meaning, naive liberals.

Ouch! Well, let's just say that lots of IPR people would disgree with you, and leave it at that.

Michael