Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Constitutional End Run around the People

"The avalanche has started, it is too late for the pebbles to vote."

Several months ago a commenter argued that the government could never get around the people and annex Taiwan to China -- even though just that event had occurred with ECFA. In fact it is unfolding before our eyes...

Weirdness in this Taipei Times story the other day. In it Ma trots out the same misreadings of history that pro-China types always do, but with the bonus of apparent confusion at the Taipei Times. Take these opening paragraphs:

President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) yesterday said the Republic of China (ROC) has had sovereignty of Taiwan since 1943, when Japan “agreed” to give the ROC government claim to Taiwan proper and the Penghu Islands.

While some argue that the Cairo Declaration of 1943 was little more than a press release, Ma said, in his view, the communique signed by the three leaders — ROC president Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石), US president Franklin Roosevelt and British prime minister Winston Churchill — in Cairo should be treated as a “treaty” in international law.

The Cairo Declaration isn't a treaty; it is merely a declaration of intent by the three Powers, which can change as time changes. But as I often note when people mention Cairo, neither the UK nor China nor the US owned Taiwan in 1943; Japan did. None of those powers had the right to give away what they didn't own, and certainly not without consulting the people of Taiwan.

The current status of Taiwan is determined by the San Francisco Peace Treaty, for which it was arranged that Japan would give up sovereignty over Taiwan. No recipient was named -- hence, the status of Taiwan is undetermined. That is the way the western powers wanted it, since things had changed in the intervening nine years.

The strange thing is the 1943 date for Japan "agreeing" to give away Taiwan. At first it was suggested to me this might be some kind of ROC Year error for the 1952 Treaty of Taipei (in which Japan does not give Taiwan to the ROC, never mind what the pro-China team says) but it looks like some kind of weird translator or editor error. UPDATE: I have heard from someone who knows that the TT screwed up, not Ma.

The Taipei Times excellently editorialized a few days ago on a habit of Ma's in public events and speeches -- using assertions of mutual Chineseness between the two countries on either side of the Strait to blur over differences....

During the portion of his Double Ten National Day address that focused on cross-strait relations, President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) turned to ethnicity to play down the differences between the two countries.

“The people on the two sides of the Taiwan Strait are ethnic Chinese — descendants of the legendary emperors Yan and Huang,” Ma said.

While many would dispute this contention, emphasizing ethnicity and ancestry as a means to encourage reconciliation or, conversely, foster alienation misses the point completely. The reason is simple: The longstanding conflict across the Taiwan Strait has nothing to do with ethnicity and lies instead in the political, ideological and imaginary spheres.

A function of Chineseness is this discourse of expansion is to provide the rationale, half of which is spoken: we're all Chinese... The other half is assumed: ....so we must be in one country. As the article notes, the real problem isn't ethnicity but the differing political and historical experiences of the two sides. Ma deploys "Chineseness" as an antidote to the evolution of a democratic identity based on historical and political experience. Again, this is yet another version of the struggle between the KMT's vision of Taiwan as an ethnic Han state in which citizenship is based on "race" vs the DPP's vision of Taiwan as a multicultural nation in which citizenship is defined democratically.

Ma continuously plucks at three strings of the annexation lyre. One is that Taiwan belongs to the ROC via the Cairo Declaration. The second is the unity in "being Chinese". The third is the ROC Constitution. Ma invokes the Constitution because in his discourse it says that Taiwan is part of China, which means there is no need to hold referendum on the subject of Taiwan's status (remember ECFA -- no need to hold a referendum -- same program, different objective).

Of course, the reader might well ask hasn't Ma promised that Taiwan's future will be decided by its 23 million people? There are several fixes for that. One is to follow the ECFA model and simply have the rubber stamp legislature provide some kind of popular cover. Another would be to treat the issue as already decided -- didn't the public implicitly approve the Constitution when they voted for the President of the ROC? I suspect Ma is leaning toward some version of the latter.

Note also that Ma has changed the Status Quo in the Taiwan Strait by moving toward China and rejecting the relationship between Taiwan and China that evolved under the Lee and Chen Administrations. Needless to say, no one will complain about this change in the Status Quo; no one has even mentioned the Status Quo since Ma Ying-jeou came to power in 2008 (bet ya hadn't noticed that it has more or less disappeared from the discourse...). The Status Quo in its dying stages became merely a rhetorical shackles to handcuff Taiwan's growing democratic and independent identity. I'm curious to see whether a DPP President in 2012 will resurrect the Status Quo zombie-like from its grave....
_____________
Daily Links
_______________________
Don't miss the comments below! And check out my blog and its sidebars for events, links to previous posts and picture posts, and scores of links to other Taiwan blogs and forums!

6 comments:

STOP Ma said...

.
.
.
...bet ya hadn't noticed that it has more or less disappeared from the discourse...

The silence is deafening to me. As it was in the big media during the so-called "Anti-secession" law or when China increased it's missile count against the country of Taiwan.

I don't know why the DPP aren't raising the zombie now (or yesterday for that matter).
.
.
.

Michael Turton said...


I don't know why the DPP aren't raising the zombie now (or yesterday for that matter).


The DPP has a lot on its plate.

mike said...

"..all we've done in Central Asia is bankrupt the US while making the area safe for Chinese expansion. How they must laugh themselves to sleep each night in Beijing at the thought of US stupidity."

Nonsense...

Spending this year for operations in Afghanistan will come to $65 billion on top of the $533.7 billion overall defense budget - only some of which will go toward operations in Afghanistan. So we are talking a few hundred billion for this year.

Compare that to what the Feds will be spending this year alone on Social Security ($677 billion) and Medicare & Medicaid ($743 billion).

It is the socialism that is bankrupting the States, not the half-hearted attempt to destroy the Taliban. You are so full of crap you could give Ma a run to the toilet.

Michael Turton said...

Compare that to what the Feds will be spending this year alone on Social Security ($677 billion) and Medicare & Medicaid ($743 billion).

Mike, (1) how is Social Security funded? (2) Afghan budget for 2010 was $130 billion originally (here. That was as of Jan, another $33 billion supplemental appropriation was passed later in the year as I recall.

So yes, one of us in this conversation is totally full of shit and has no clue what he is talking about. But it isn't the blogger ;).

Why don't you come back when you can be civil, as you demand on your own blog?

Michael

mike said...

"...how is Social Security funded?"

Taxation - which is ultimately economic value extracted by force, or more simply, theft. Each dollar that is forcibly taken from payroll and other taxes is a dollar that could have been saved, spent or invested toward more productive ends if only its rightful recipients had been free to do with it what they wished.

There are two types of bankruptcy going on here; along with the brute financial rip, there is also the moral violation of each American's freedom to decide and choose among alternative values.

As for civility - let me explain something to you:

The application of my principles does not require me to call for the use of force against you and your family to pay for what I want.

Mine may be an incivility of words, but yours is an incivility of deeds.

Michael Turton said...

Mine may be an incivility of words, but yours is an incivility of deeds.

Perhaps, but you specifically ask others to engage in on your blog what you refuse to offer on mine.