The pro-China forces were sprinkling the land this week with little reminders of just how life will be when China annexes Taiwan. First, the ongoing controversy over the changes to the high school textbooks showed the full colonial thrust of the Deep Blue pro-China academics who drafted them: aborigines in Taiwan are referred to as China's 56th minority, the "high mountain people" (高山族). Hey, way to go! And this an election year too. This controversy couldn't have happened at a better time.
Meanwhile this week China refused visas to journalists from Apple Daily and Radio Free Asia for the historic government to government talks, an action condemned by the International Federation of Journalists and Freedom House. Thus giving a very public demonstration to Taiwanese of what rule by China will mean. Hey, way to go! And this an election year too. This couldn't have happened at a better time.
Speaking of the "historic" talks, the awesome Jon Sullivan is everywhere these days since opening the China Policy Institute blog. See what a blog can do Jon?* His latest was a cautiously hopeful piece in WSJ this week on the historic Taiwan-China government to government talks, and he has a piece similar in tone in The Diplomat with my friend Michal Thim. In the strong WSJ piece, the first public mention I've seen of the fact that meetings between the two parties go back to the 1990s, Sullivan observes:
Suspecting that President Ma might be tempted to authorize such concessions, regardless of public opinion, the legislature last week imposed restrictions on the scale of the MAC mission. In an extraordinary move, it passed a resolution barring the MAC chairman from speaking about, negotiating or signing any documents relating to sovereignty. In response he pledged to reiterate Taipei's commitment to the "1992 consensus."I don't think it is unrealistic to fear that the KMT and CCP will make clandestine agreements about the future of Taiwan since that is the nature of the two parties and open public agreements are not on the table. It is hard to imagine that whatever they are doing in formal meetings, in private settings they are not mapping out the fate of the island in fits of mutual fantasizing about the greatness of China, before they discuss which American university is the best one to send the kids to.
In the early 1990s when representatives from the KMT and CCP met for the first time in an unofficial capacity, there were genuine fears in Taiwan that the two would come to a clandestine arrangement about the island's future. Such fears are unrealistic in democratic Taiwan, but the legislative resolution is testament to Taiwan's lack of trust in Mr. Ma, even within his own party.
While some have speculated that Mr. Ma is motivated by the glories history will bestow on the man who helps "unify China," a more prosaic explanation is that he and the KMT are operating with different time horizons. The president has two years left to cement any sort of legacy, while the party is looking ahead to mid-term elections later this year and national elections early in 2016. Heeding the public's opposition to quick or irrevocable decisions on changing the status quo is not the priority for Mr. Ma that it is for his colleagues who will stand in upcoming elections.
The stalled services pact and the legislature's restrictions on the meeting show how little influence Ma has over the legislature despite his status as Chairman of the KMT. I suspect it portends another local election in which Ma's face disappears from election posters since no one wants to be associated with Mr Unpopular.
Although the foreign media has been all a tizzy about the "historic meeting" of "two governments" it is, and always has been, the two parties, the KMT and CCP, dickering about the fate of Taiwan over brandy and cigars...
* It bringeth fame, yet increaseth not wealth.
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