It's scary how much better the commentary on the Ma-Xi meeting has been than the reporting. And again, Beijing correspondents completely fail when confronted with Taiwan (for contrast see former Taiwan resident Austin Ramzy's report for the NYTimes). Chris Bodeen for AP provides the latest example of this...
While it isn't yet clear what the impact will be, or whether and when it will happen again, on a rainy Saturday in Singapore, the possibility of a fundamental shift in relations between the feuding neighbors suddenly seemed possible.Note that the nature of this "fundamental shift" was left unexplained, precisely because the writer would then have to observe that any "fundamental shift" would take place over the dead body of Taiwan's democracy.
The actual fundamental shift is that the new DPP era is commencing soon and the KMT is now in a long decline. But Bodeen presents that democratic moment as a problem below...
The meeting was the first between the leaders since China and Taiwan split amid the still unresolved civil war in 1949. Although preparations spread out across two years, it wasn't announced until Wednesday, catching almost everyone by surprise.As always, China and Taiwan didn't split in 1949, because in 1949 Taiwan was still formally part of Japan. What split in 1949 were the two Leninist authoritarian parties, the KMT and the CCP.
"From the mainland perspective, Xi Jinping's decision to meet with Ma demonstrates that he is willing to take some degree of risk in order to change the dynamics of the relationship," said Mary E. Gallagher, a political scientist who studies China at the University of Michigan. "Xi's move further solidifies his image as a strong and confident leader."Note that (1) Bodeen cites only China scholars and (2) this scholar refers to China as "the mainland". Yes, it is -- for Hainan Island. Not for Taiwan. This "Xi is taking a risk!" position is explained in a Foreign Policy piece by Andrew Nathan which also sourced quotes from Jerome Cohen without mentioning that he's close to President Ma and has business offices in China. (Interestingly, in the FP piece, Nathan refers to "anti-Mainland" sentiment in Taiwan. Let's call that what it is: pro-Taiwan sentiment. Again note how pro-China propaganda is internalized in the FP presentation -- Nathan refers to China as "the mainland" and objections to annexation as "anti-Mainland sentiment".)
Ma "wants to drive home the point that cooperation with the mainland is possible and that it is better for Taiwan's residents than the alternative," Columbia University China expert Andrew Nathan wrote on the Asia Society blog ChinaFile.Again Andrew Nathan is a China scholar. Was that the point Ma wanted to drive home? How could Ma want to drive that home when he had already agreed that nothing would come out of the meeting long beforehand?
The biggest obstacle to future talks could be Taiwan's ferociously democratic system — new elections for the presidency and legislature are scheduled for January. The main opposition Democratic Progressive Party, which advocates Taiwan's formal independence from China, is favored to win one or both elections and its presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen has refused to endorse the so-called "92 Consensus," under which China has allowed negotiations between the sides to proceed.Three errors.
First sentence: Catastrophically wrong -- Tsai Ing-wen has repeatedly said she'd be happy to meet with Xi with legislative and popular support, and polls overwhelmingly support this. This was said prior to Ma-Xi mess. Hence, democracy is not an "obstacle" to a Tsai-Xi meet up.
But note how democracy is presented as an "obstacle". That's an obscenity. Let's say what it's really an obstacle to: China's annexation of Taiwan. The problem isn't Taiwan, it's that Xi Jin-ping heads a nation that has repeatedly threatened to murder Taiwanese and take their island.
Second sentence: The DPP does not advocate formal independence "from China" (you can't advocate formal independence "from China" because Taiwan is not part of China). Apparently Bodeen never bothered to look up the actual DPP position. Let's just quote a DPP politics expert:
The DPP passed the "1999 Resolution on Taiwan's Future" which states that Taiwan is already an independent sovereign nation with its formal name the "Republic of China". Any change in the independent status quo must be decided by all the residents of Taiwan by means of plebiscite. In 2001, the DPP passed a resolution elevating the status of the 1999 resolution, making this resolution supersedes the "Independence Clause".The DPP's position is that Taiwan is already independent.
The problem with the second sentence's assertion on the 1992 Consensus is more subtle, for it presents Tsai Ing-wen as refusing to recognize the 1992 Consensus, which never existed, but never clearly states that China does not recognize it, either. A totally one-sided presentation. China merely insists that the DPP hew to it -- proof positive that it exists only to cage a DPP president.
"The big question going forward is whether this meeting will change how Taiwanese view the mainland. Will this meeting improve the chance of further rapprochement under the next administration, which is almost surely to be under the DPP?" Gallagher said....and the piece ends with a quote from a China expert. Nobody from the Taiwan side speaks, so AP readers go home unaware that the public does not want "further rapproachment" with China with the implication that annexation will follow, which is what Gallagher appears to mean. Nor was the "big question going forward" whether the meeting will change how Taiwanese view China. That was never in play, nobody in Taiwan believes Xi Jin-ping. See Mayor Ko of Taipei's remarks, though I think the translation is overwrought.
Fortunately poll data was out today. Solidarity has the translation of the pro-KMT Cross-Strait Policy association -- 80% think there are two countries on each side of the Strait, 48% dissatisfied with Ma's performance. Note also that 49% of the respondents think Tsai will handle relations between China and Taiwan just fine. Other polls in Chinese are here and here. I expect that the pro-Ma numbers will decline once the transcript of Ma's talk with Xi MAC released today starts to circulate.
As J Michael Cole remarked, the second biggest obstacle facing Taiwan is ignorance. But I might add that the third biggest obstacle is the astounding lack of sympathy in the international media for Taiwan, though demand for J Michael in the media shows that there is some hope of change. If only Taiwan were a small Baltic Republic...
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