Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Ma Clarified

For the last year or so I've been arguing that Ma might well just hang himself as party chairman, and this weekend we got a sneak peek at what the next two years will bring us. Yesterday I blogged on Ma's speech in Far Britannia, in which the KMT's golden boy said that there should be no negotiations with China unless the missiles that China points at us are removed. Here's the recap:

China must agree to discuss dismantling its missiles pointing at Taiwan before talks can be held, Kuomintang Chairman Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) said in comments aired Saturday by Taiwan's ETTV Station.

"No one likes to live under the threat of guns, knives or warheads of missiles. This should be included in the agenda if we hold talks in the future," he said.

Ma, who is viewed as a shoo-in for KMT nomination in the 2008 presidential election, made the comments to a group of Taiwanese and Chinese students at Cambridge University in England.

No mincing words for our Ma. Nope, he just spits it right out, in the best fools-rush-in manner. In case there should be any confusion about what Ma, the Chairman of the KMT, actually meant, the KMT whip reinforced this on Sunday:

KMT caucus whip Tsai Chin-lung (蔡錦隆) on Sunday added that Beijing has no chance of forcing Taiwan to negotiate under the threat of its missiles.

That was apparently too much truth for the Forces of Weasel, however. Today the KMT was in a panic as Ma's statements conflicted with the mainlander theology that China is the source of All That Is Good:

The nation's main political parties fought a war of words over cross-strait relations yesterday, with the top pan-blue leader backtracking on his stance regarding talks with China, while a pan-green lawmaker dubbed the opposition's policies hypocritical.

Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) said in London yesterday during an interview with Taiwanese and British reporters that engaging in negotiations with China to seek a breakthrough in relations remains the only way for Taiwan to solve thorny cross-strait issues peacefully.

Even in the face of more than 700 missiles targeting Taiwan, the country's leadership should seek to negotiate with China and solve the differences between the two sides to achieve permanent peace across the Taiwan Strait, Ma said.

Oops! Even Nixon can go to China, but Ma simply lacks the dangling round ones to say flat out that the Source of All That Is Good In The World may well be in the wrong. Ma's position is now that Taiwan should negotiate even though China points missiles at Taiwan....what a great idea! Boy, nobody's ever had that one before, eh? I can feel the world-epoch turning, and the dawn of a new age! For those us who enjoy the spectator sport aspect of local politics, there was a nice reversal of roles too:

Yesterday, DPP caucus whip Chen Chin-jun (陳景峻) accused Ma, who is viewed as a shoo-in to win the KMT nomination in the 2008 presidential election, of irresponsibly making remarks aimed only at gaining support for his presidential bid.

Saying that cross-strait relations are not built upon slogans or one-sided wishful thinking, Chen asked Ma to shed light on remarks he made last month to Newsweek calling for "eventual unification."

"Wishful thinking!" That's a line that the KMT usually aims at Taiwan independence. Mr. Chen must have relished delivering that crack.

Meanwhile, the Taipei Times goes on to report, Wang Jin-pyng, Ma's rival for leadership in the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), seems not to have gotten the Word from the top, for he is still on the old message:

Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) also weighed in with his view, voicing support yesterday for "missile talks" with China.

Wang said that he agrees with Ma's position that Taiwan should not hold talks with China if Beijing refuses to dismantle the missiles aimed at Taiwan.

Saying that Taiwan and China should discuss the issue to break the current impasse across the Taiwan Strait, Wang said the people of Taiwan will undoubtedly believe Beijing has good faith should China remove its missiles targeting the nation.

On a more serious note, we recently had DPP leader and national President Chen Shuibian make an important China policy suggestion without consulting anyone in his cabinet, Minsitry of Foreign Affairs, or the US. Now we have the Great White Hope of the KMT doing exactly the same thing -- not only announcing China policy without consulting anyone, but also making China out to be the bad guy. Think those on the KMT side who attack Chen for being autocratic will say that about the mayor of Taipei? I think we'll see snow at Taipei train station before that happens. Both of the nation's major leaders have now given us displays of unthinking, self-centered, factional leadership. Can we have some national leadership, please?

Another fascinating thing about this affair is it reveals just how difficult it is for KMT leaders to say out in public that China can do anything bad. Ma's statement was a step in the right direction both politically and ethically, after all, a strong move that made him look tough, gave him the moral high ground, and positioned him closer to the center of the local electorate. One could even envision a joint statement by the KMT and the DPP on just this issue. With potential for national unity on a China policy issue looming, what happened? After frantic overnight consultations, the KMT leadership agreed that it was OK for China to point missiles at Taiwan. It is screamingly obvious which nation the Chinese Nationalist Party loves: they'd rather have missiles pointed at them than find common ground with the DPP.


MJ Klein said...

as always, a great post and analysis, Michael. how can there ever be hope for cross-straits unity when where is no hope for unity on this side of the straight?

just how long does it take to get the act together?

Anonymous said...

That it isn't just about the message, but also about the messenger is quite common in politics. In Israel, it took right-wing Ariel Sharon, a former general probably guilty of human rights violations, to move towards recognition of the state of Palestine and unilaterally withdraw, negotiating nothing out of the concession. There's an excellent on Slate by Christopher Hitchens on it that puts it better than I can.

Ma Ying-jeou was raised in a deep-Blue environment, and he's a big believer in "Big China" (大中國主義者), but on the other hand, he's a pretty boy driven by public opinion (though he's good at looking authentic too). Who says shit like I hope the KMT will have a Hu Jintao too or whatever it was? Just cause you're in China you say this?

You're right--he's saying a lot of things that look really Green, and while I agree with David's comment so far as it makes MYJ palatable to the pan-Greens, I don't think it necessarily means that it's game over. If the KMT continues to make centrist statements and people eat it up, and then they realize that these are equivalent to pan-Green centrist statements, then that also makes the pan-Greens more palatable as well.

I wonder also if MYJ is showing his hand too early too. If he continues down this road, can he really be Nixon and go to China? Does it count if he's already centrist before he's in office? Unification in MYJ's newly expounded terms is extremely long-term and without a time table and is exactly what the China's anti-seccession bill says is cause for invasion.

By the way, how purposeful was your word choice in selecting "The Great White Hope"?

Anonymous said...

umm, whats that post about a mall?

on politics - Ma will be wanting to keep testing the waters like this if he is to have any hope of coming out from Lien Chan's shadow. Going on a lot of his past statements I'd suggest what he has said earlier was the closest to his real thinking (ok...as far as I can tell).

Michael Turton said...

A spammer dropped by to leave the bit about the mall. I have no idea how these people live with themselves. I'll have it deleted in a jiff.