Friday, October 21, 2011

What did Ma Actually Say about a referendum? It doesn't matter!

The international media -- who may well have been the target of Ma's proposal for a "peace treaty" -- making the Preznit and longtime democracy foe look like an advocate of "peace" -- can't seem to agree on what he said about a referendum.

The BBC:
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.

"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.
Not only did they back off from rubber stamping a treaty, they also backed off from a firm date today.

This threw me for a loop for a moment:

Yes, TaiwanNews has AP's report presented as if from AFP. *sigh*

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!
Daily Links:
  • 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.
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.


Dixteel said...

Yea...I think anyone who actually takes what Ma said serious are either a fool or did not pay attention (or forget) what Ma said back in 2008.

And the one written by James Holmes is extremely well points out a very likely faulty assumptions made by a lot of politicians around the world.

Anonymous said...

Lot's of stories from the news as we have hear that they have to create based on what little is said.

First, to void conflict, you never put yourself in a situation where YOU don't agree. So you set the stage for the possibility that it could go either way.

Second, take firm stand on the right issue at the right time. Timing is very important.

Come on, this is simple politics. The news guys are dreaming things up, probably their job to do so under reader headcount pressure?


les said...

Ma is obviously going to do an end-run around the referendum to get his way, just as he did with ECFA. Anyone who votes for him has to be hell-bent on annexation or terminally stupid.

Anonymous said...

If Ma gets elected by the thinnest of margins he's going to declare a "clear mandate" for his cross strait policies.

Raj said...

Poll in the Taipei Times (National Chengchi University’s prediction center) suggested Ma's lead over Tsai has now effectively disappeared. Hopefully his blunders over the peace agreement issue have at least in part snookered himself.

I think even Taiwanese voters will grasp this is an important issue and Ma being so evasive and contradictory over how the public would have a say will raise doubts in their minds. The DPP needs to keep this going as long as they can whilst still setting out a positive agenda they'd have if they won next year.

Anonymous said...

Remember that a famous actor joking said the election is a joke?

At least compared against US elections, lots more excitement going on. Hope everyone is having fun.


Anonymous said...

DPP came back with a brilliant move, to legislate the referendum on any political agreement with China into law.

Next day Ma also said media polling and legislature endorsement would sufficiently hand him a consent on the peace agreement. I see the ruse of pushing the peace agreement through the legisltaure or just make up a frivolous polling coming.

Ma effectively exposed his referendum precondition as a sham when refusing to pass this legislation. Obviously due to backdoor Chinese pressure and blue backlash.

I suggest the DPP push forth a bill on the referendum precondition and further expose Ma's sham.

Also the Wu premiere said the unification doctrine of the past government would be the basis of the peace negotiation, and the parties would be the freedom area (Taiwan) versus the mainland area. Great, another statement of Ma being head of area (not state)

Amy said...

Translations of 和平協議 are also all over the place, which is a big problem because the choice of terminology has serious implications in the context of international law. See this op-ed in the Apple Daily:
Surely, Ma with with his Harvard law degree knows this, and the deliberate choice of 協議 is another tell-tale sign of his 1-China position. And isn't it strange that the website of the Presidential Office does not yet have an English press release about the 和平協議 proposal? Once that is out, international media techincally will not be able to refer to it as a peace "treaty," but whether they will bother with the nuance is another question.

Anonymous said...

If the treaty included terms that required the Mainland to remove all missiles and other means of warfare from the Taiwan region, how much support would it get?

If the treaty further requested that Taiwan participated in peace keeping of the Taiwan region, what kind of support would it get?

How would this Change the Taiwan/US relations? What would be US reaction?

This is what we really should be thinking about if we talk politics.

I think I should emphasize again that our current Government is smart enough to take these into consideration. The general public needs to get more knowledgeable on the true consequences on a more international scale to really weight the pros and cons for a knowledgeable decision.


Michael Turton said...

George, no peace treaty can stop China from attacking Taiwan. What would stop China from putting the missiles back once a treaty is signed? Nothing.

Thus, how could a peace treaty change anything? The US would still have to guarantee the security of Taiwan, the Senkakus, and other areas China wants to annex. Japan could not rest, and Beijing would not give up wanting to annex Taiwan. So all a peace treaty can do is sell out Taiwan's interests while getting nothing useful in return.

In any case, Beijing never keeps its agreements.

les said...

Lack of US comment on this issue is very worrisome.

Anonymous said...

Nothing is going to stop any country from attaching another. History shows that. When any country launches attack on another, there is always a reason to justify it in the attacker's mind. Methods may vary, including as getting political support from other countries. So nothing is unique to the cross straight issues.


jerome said...

les said... “Lack of US comment on this issue is very worrisome. “
Les, Les, you are smarter than that.
Washington’s comments are unnecessary to who can read.
Ma’s attaching the peace treaty proposal to a referendum is in and of itself Washington’s comment.
Remember who put the first zongtong in charge of US-occupied Japanese Taiwan.
These zongtongs are mere Pu Yis.