Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Ma continues to backpedal on Peace Treaty

Ma's "peace treaty" suggestion, which landed in the election environment like a corpse tossed into a besieged castle by a trebuchet, took place against a couple of interesting background events. First, Taiwan's top national security official observed yesterday that Taiwan-China relations are going to enter a more difficult period. With the easy economic stuff done, China will now become more assertive in pressing for political talks. Instabilities may result.

Second, Leon Pannetta praised China for its more restrained response to the F-16 upgrade sale to Taiwan, and said that the Adminstration had notified Beijing of what was going to take place. It is hard to think of a clearer illustration that tensions are (1) caused by Beijing and (2) totally under Beijing's control and (3) a calculated policy response and not some putative visceral reaction, aimed at US support for Taiwan and US analysts and observers. I suppose, though, it is too much to hope that the media will cease writing as if tensions occur without agents causing them, or that Taiwan is the cause of tensions between Beijing and Washington.

In any case, Taiwan's feckless President, Ma Ying-jeou, did some more backpedaling on the proposal for the peace treaty with China. Ma put forth the "ten guarantees" to show that public that he is serious about protecting Taiwan. Perhaps he's signalling to Beijing that they'd better invade because convincing the public is going to be quite difficult....
Ma explained that there are 10 guarantees serving as preconditions for the cautious consideration of a peace agreement. The first is maintaining the status quo of no unification, no independence and no use of force under the framework of the ROC Constitution, while promoting cross-strait exchanges based on the “1992 consensus,” which allows both sides to recognize “one China” but differ on its precise political definition.

Negotiating a cross-strait peace accord would only be possible when two prerequisites are met, Ma said—a high degree of domestic consensus and mutual trust between Taipei and Beijing.

It would also have to meet the true needs of the country, have strong public support and be supervised by the Legislature, he added.

“These three principles will not change, and the government will spare no effort to be as transparent as possible prior to and after negotiations so that the public will understand what actions are being taken,” Ma said.

In addition, talks on a peace agreement would have to ensure ROC sovereignty, Taiwan’s safety and prosperity, ethnic harmony and cross-strait peace, as well as a sustainable environment and just society, the president noted.

Ma referred to the 10 guarantees as “one framework, two prerequisites, three principles and four assurances.”

“It is not an easy task to fill the bill of the 10 guarantees. Therefore, a referendum would be necessary to confirm public opinion, and the government would only take action when the issue has strong public support,” Ma said.
Once again, I observe that the referendum is non-binding and will not take place on the treaty itself and is merely an assay of public opinion. Note that he does not say majority support merely strong public support (I can hear it now: "But we thought 27% was strong public support!!!??"). Note also that Ma's peace treaty is under the One China rubric, meaning that it would make Taiwan part of China. Not likely to play well with the voters. Though by setting up so many apparent roadblocks to a treaty, Ma hastens to assure voters that a peace treaty is unlikely. ROFL.

Unpopular and criticized even by media that support the KMT, the proposal also seemed to give Tsai a boost in the polls and in the prediction market. Not only did it remind voters that Ma thinks that Taiwan is part of China, his proposal for a referendum gave the DPP something to attack. The DPP responded by calling for an amendment to the referendum law to the public the right to oversee any changes in the sovereignty of Taiwan, enabling it to appear the enforcer of the status quo and democracy at the same time, while painting Ma as a radical seeking to overturn the current order by any means.

One observer argued that Ma was seeking to place the cross-strait relationship in the limelight since Tsai's steady chipping away at the KMT's handling of domestic economic issues was paying off. Yet the RDEC released a poll this week, from data collected in May, that says the public is not very satisfied with Ma's handling of cross-strait affairs, suggesting that the KMT may fare no better in that realm. The RDEC, by the way, is being folded into another gov't department next year. Hopefully its often interesting survey work will continue....

Ironically, Ma's call for a referendum on a peace treaty with China pretty much nullified all the arguments the KMT had made in its railing against a referendum on ECFA, as many commentators pointed out this week (Lin Cho-shui, for example), making the KMT look both clumsy and hypocritical. Gotta wonder what they were thinking in KMT land.....
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! Delenda est, baby.


jerome said...

These zongtongs are mere Pu Yis.
Always keep in mind who put the first zongtong in charge of US-occupied Japanese Taiwan.

Anonymous said...

I personally don't see any problem with issues surrounding so called piece talks. Certainly getting the controversial issues out on the table is the correct way to go. Since "peace treaty" means different things in different peoples minds, new issues which is what people like would come later in a more positive manner to build up the momentum. I kind of have a feeling how things are building up, but I hate to pull the rabbit out of the hat prematurely.

When the frogs finally comes out of the well, they may truly be amazed. You might want to ignore my comments since I just finished watching the Steve Jobs story on TV, so I definitely feel optimistic and realistic.


D said...

I still think you're misreading Ma's strategy. I mean, maybe it's a misstep, but given that he's not a total idiot (...), maybe there's some reason to it. To wit:

1. Ma really believes in pursuing this. It's his ideal and he wants to sell his ideal to the electorate.

2. The "ten guarantees" (couldn't have been 9, could it) may be "backpedaling", or may be what he had in mind all along: something that doesn't cross any of China's red lines but still demands some things China is not usually considered amenable to. So that puts Beijing on notice, makes him look tough on China at home (not to you, but it seems others might see it that way), and it sets him up to be ok if talks fail and golden if they produce something. An agreement including his "Three No's" would be quite a coup.

3. Draw the DPP out into cross-strait relation territory. People in Taiwan don't want "unification", but that doesn't mean they want apoplectic reactions to the idea of peace talks either. Get the emotions going and show yourself as the cool steady hand at the helm.

And are you sure the referendum issue plays in DPP's favor? Could it be Ma's bet that the electorate will not say (out loud or silently) "Yes, I want my say at the polls on anything like this" but rather "Actually, I'd rather just have my elected representatives deal with this"? I don't know, but the referendum issue always has a kind of sideshow look to it.

And you got the carrot but not the stick -- you didn't mention Leon's editorial in the Japanese newspapers. That was fairly blunt, wasn't it? Elsewhere, I saw Rick Perry mention Taiwan directly as a foreign policy interest. At least the Republicans are good for something.

But the "Ten Guarantees" is pretty funny. I think he should try a peace treaty with the mosquitoes first.

SY said...

Regarding the title "Ma continues to backpedal on Peace Treaty":

Ma has never talked about a "peace treaty" ("和平條約") between Taiwan and China.

The term that Ma (and China) uses is "和平協議", which is either a "peace accord" or a "peace agreement".

A "和平協議" can be one that officially mark the end of a civil war; this is what, I believe, is in Ma's plan.

A treaty ("條約") is only signed between two sovereign entities that is governed by international laws. Ma (and China) never used this term for a Taiwan-China arrangement.

The fine difference is extremely important to the Chinese (including Ma, of course.)

Michael Turton said...

The fine difference is crucial, I understand. But I'm focusing here on the immediate effect on the election.

Long-term, though, some kind of accommodation will have to be reached. At this point don't see how it can without a war.

Taiwan Echo said...

Throw in couple of my points:

1. In national elections in Taiwan, showing signs of leaning to China is a suicidal move. It has been like that in previous elections, and is more so when the rise of Taiwanese conscientiousness is historical high during Ma's 3 year administration;

2. Because of this trend, even Ma Ying-jeou had to chant that he was a Taiwanese during the campaign back in 2008;

3. Now, with polls showing that people identifying themselves as pure Chinese is less than 4% of the population, Ma's moves using China rushes (including 1992 consensus, now the peace agreement) as the campaign strategy is completely out of touch of the reality -- something must be happening behind the scene to force him to conduct such a bold move.

4. Regarding his "no unification" talk, he has repeatedly elaborated it with emphasis that it means "no talk" of unification. He never said he won't do it. Thus, "no unification" has to be seen as "I will just do it and not talk about it," otherwise he could have just left "no unification" without adding any explanation.

Taiwan Echo said...

new issues which is what people like would come later in a more positive manner to build up the momentum. I kind of have a feeling how things are building up, but I hate to pull the rabbit out of the hat prematurely.

I believe Ma's intention is to manipulate the president election as a form of people's consent to his peace agreement plan -- if he gets elected.

He has played this before. When he got elected in 2008, majority of the international news took it as that Taiwanese approved Ma's pro-China politically. In fact, Ma had to chant "I am a Taiwanese to the bone" during the campaign. That is, Ma got elected because of other factors, not because of Ma's unification feature.

Now we are going to repeat that history - even if the peace agreement is damaging his campaign, he will (and the international media will help to) twist it into that people approve of his peace agreement.

But he has to make sure he got elected first.

Taiwan Echo said...

"When the frogs finally comes out of the well, they may truly be amazed."

A while ago, China canceled their selection of the second Confucius Peace Price winner. They gave a reason that the selection process is unfair.

But, who knows? Maybe China canceled it because Ma wasn't on the list. Maybe China uses that as a bargain chip to "tease" Ma to come up with the peace agreement plan. I won't be surprised if China resumes it with Ma as the winner (not just a candidate). The award will be announced in December, one month before the election.

And how about the Nobel Peace prize ?

Raj said...

It's important that the DPP not bang on about this too much to the point they ignore other issues. They need to emphasise what they would do for job creation and the income gap. Of course they shouldn't let Ma sweep what he said under the carpet if he regrets raising it, but their position on China should be part of a wide-ranging and well-rounded manifesto.

les said...

Can't believe the term '1992 consensus' is being bandied about like it means anything. Everyone knows this was pure fiction. 'One China based on 1992 consensus' actually mean 'One China on Beijing's terms'. No wiggle room, no space for interpretation. Beijing is never going to step back from this and everyone knows it.

richard said...

off the topic - i heard that 'taiwan hand / friend' michael swaine is supposed to visit the island next week.
i wonder what he will be writing and advising after the visit ...

Anonymous said...

I hope that voters in Taiwan have grown to have better judgement than the past elections regardless whom might win. I think the news media is really not educated enough to talk about economics. A relative of mine had worked for an English media in Taiwan specializing in economy. Hear some very ridiculous stories. Pity, because the media needs stories that attract attention of readers to sell.