Sunday, July 28, 2013

Ma and China in the News

My son practices for the driver's license exam.
But they were shut out, listening at a door to words not meant for them: ill-mannered children or stupid servants overhearing the elusive discourse of their elders, and wondering how it would affect their lot. Of loftier mould these two were made: reverend and wise. It was inevitable that they should make alliance.
Lots of stuff on the 1992 consensus, One China, and Ma Ying-jeou this week. China congratulated Ma on his victory in the KMT chairmanship election -- it was a proper CCP/KMT election, with only one candidate. Taipei Times reported:
Chinese officials yesterday gave high praise to the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) statement that both sides of the Taiwan Strait should implement the “one China” principle in their legal and political systems, and conduct cross-strait relations with the principle as its basis.

The remarks by Taiwan Affairs Office Director Zhang Zhijun (張志軍) came in the wake of President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) recent reply to Chinese President Xi Jinping’s (習近平) telegram congratulating him on his re-election as KMT chairman, in which Ma said: “Both sides of the Taiwan Strait reached a consensus in 1992 to express each other’s insistence on the ‘one China’ principle.”
Commentator and former legislator Lin Cho-shui ripped this in a great piece in the Taipei Times, pointing out that at the time Ma rejected any idea that a consensus had been reached....
First, the 1992 talks in Hong Kong did not establish any consensus. The truth is that the talks did not end amicably. After the talks, on Nov. 6, the Chinese-language Central Daily News published an interview with Ma, the then-deputy chairman of the Mainland Affairs Council. Ma said that “the talks in Hong Kong fell short of success at the last moment … the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits [ARATS] ignored the Straits Exchange Foundation’s requests for continued talks and went straight back to China … a lack of sincerity.”

Second, the reason the talks ended on bad terms was that the two parties were unable to reach a consensus on the “one China” principle. Ma said that “there is no agreement between the two sides regarding the interpretation of one China.”
Lin's piece is excellent, and as he notes, up until 2001 Ma was still angrily denying that any kind of consensus had been reached. But now, Ma and Beijing both behave as if agreement had occurred. As I noted several years ago, if both sides behave as if there is a consensus, then there is one. It is nice historiography to dig this sort of thing up, but we already knew that what kind of person Ma is.

Bloomberg ran a report on Ma saying that conditions are not ripe for political talks, though he didn't rule them out.
The more than 1,100 Chinese missiles aimed at Taiwan are less of an impediment to a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) than whether talks would be backed by the people in Taiwan, President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) said.

Any meeting would be contingent on Ma being present in his capacity as president of the Republic of China, he said in an interview at his office in Taipei on Thursday. While not ruling out an engagement with Xi before the end of his term in 2016, Ma said conditions are not yet ripe.
The most interesting thing in that bog-standard set of declarations by Ma is that there is actually a TVBS poll cited that shows Ma's disapproval rating at 70%.

Whether Ma will go to China for "political talks" -- sellout talks -- is going to be decided privately. Public signals like this are strictly for public consumption. Besides, does anyone really imagine that when high-ranking KMT members go to China, they are not engaging in political talks? What does that mean about what is said in public between Ma and his allies in Beijing?

All this is simply noise. It really doesn't matter. As one local anthropologist put it, the Chinese live in the innermost circle of three concentric circles. The first consists of themselves and everyone they consider friends and family. Those people must be taken care of. The second circle consists of everyone how can do them good or ill. Everyone in that circle gets placated. The third circle consists of everyone not able to affect them. That circle is simply ignored.

To the extent that all this noises matters, what Ma is doing is treating Beijing (and the Taiwanese) as a member of that second circle. He's placating. His words don't mean anything, just as his words don't mean anything when he becomes Taiwanese a few months before every election, in which all Taiwanese become, for the duration, members of that second circle. Just like when he promised the American delegation back when he was merely KMT Chairman that he'd get the special arms purchase through the legislature and later, that he'd get ractobeef in. It's all constant placating. Just noise.

What matters are the concrete things he has done. In all this noise the land and stock tax laws have not been meaningfully changed and local governments remain underfunded and debt-ridden. In all this noise defense spending remains in the crapper and the armed forces currently find it difficult to get people to serve as they switch to an all-volunteer military. The land laws have not been revised and at the moment, ordinary people own land only so long as no one wealthier and more powerful covets it. And of course, there is ECFA and the new services pact, which is the real prize in the ongoing sell-out. Stop listening to what people say, watch what they do. If events are moving in a certain direction, then it is because things are going pretty much the way Ma wants them to go.
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1 comment:

Mike Fagan said...

"My son practices for the driver's license exam."

If he is at all apprehensive about driving on roads surrounded by morons who might injure or kill him at any moment, then that's probably a good sign; he really ought to be apprehensive about these possibilities.

Untimely generosity: Contrary to the popular, mindlessly repeated imperative to follow the laws as a prescription for traffic safety, it is actually awareness of what is happening around you at all times which is critical to staying safe, as is calmness of nerve - which can always be artificially induced through the consumption of reasonably small quantities of alcohol.