Taiwan's President Ma Ying-jeou has said that he will not engage in peace talks with China unless voters give their approval in a referendum.No hesitations, qualifications, or conditions. Ma "will not/unless".
Remember that Ma's original proposal did not call for a referendum and said that such a treaty would only be submitted to the legislature -- a KMT fief and likely to be one for the foreseeable future, meaning that the treaty would be free of public oversight. It seems likely that Ma's mention of the hated "referendum" was prompted only by the storm of criticism and a sudden plummet in the internal polling (though the other day the pro-KMT China Times published a poll saying that the treaty idea had strong support). Thus AP reported:
On Thursday, Ma appeared to back off his original peace treaty declaration — at least to an extent.Not only did they back off from rubber stamping a treaty, they also backed off from a firm date today.
"We will consider a referendum for the peace treaty," he said, justifying the new condition on the grounds that a treaty would have an even greater impact on Taiwan than the landmark trade deal it signed last year with Beijing.
This threw me for a loop for a moment:
Meanwhile AFP actually reported that Ma straightforwardly said that "Referendum a must for China treaty: Taiwan leader":
"We will put the matter to vote if we are going to seek the cross-strait peace treaty in the future. We will not sign the treaty if it is not approved in a referendum," Ma told reporters.Bloomberg similar made the referendum similarly unconditional.
The Taipei Times report today, Friday Oct 21, showed the reality of how nuanced Ma's position really is:
“If we decided to proceed with the peace agreement, a referendum would be held first to gauge public opinion about the issue, and we won’t sign the agreement if it fails the referendum ... This is to show both our determination and caution in handling such a pact,” Ma told a news conference at the Presidential Office.Note that referendum will not be a binding referendum on the "peace treaty" itself. It will merely be an assay of public opinion prior to the talks with no binding effect. Ma knows exactly what he is doing. The President could then frame a referendum, passed or failed, any way he liked. Or ignore it completely.
Because they've already done that.
Remember when they said ECFA wouldn't be signed ("conditions wouldn't be ripe") unless it had the support of 60% of the public? (here if you can't). Then that didn't matter, and they signed it anyway, while saying it had strong public support even though few independent polls showed that ECFA had even managed to garner outright majority support, let alone 60% support. Taiwan has already meekly submitted once to an agreement crucial to the island's control over its own future signed with no majority support. Why not again?
Cue the peace agreement shock doctrine: "If we don't have peace, we won't get FTAs! If we don't have peace, we'll have war! If we don't have peace, our exports will collapse! We'll be marginalized without peace!" And don't forgot that Nobel Peace Prize!
- A good piece in The Diplomat: Ma Feeling the Heat. Taiwan is undergoing the same process that brought out the Occupy Wall Street and other movements around the globe: rising wealth concentration and falling real incomes:
But even when Taiwan's GDP grew and labour productivity rose 16 percent in 2010, labour costs for employers fell 11 percent, an indication that workers weren’t receiving a fair share of the gains they were helping create. Real wages have actually fallen by about 4 percent from 12 years ago, and that, coupled with soaring house prices and rising unemployment have left many first time voters in particular out in the cold.
- China warns that trade will suffer if pro-Taiwan side wins in election (Taipei Times report)
- The Writing Baron on Mona Rao and Seediq Bale. Excellent, as usual.
- Lao Ren Cha on getting a CELTA pass A
- The uniformly excellent James Holmes in The Diplomat says China is The Scorpion of the fable.
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