Thursday, June 05, 2008

Ma Fluffs it Again

I'm trying to avoid several things with this blog -- I don't want it to become the "What has Ma Fucked Up Today?" blog. Nor do I want it to become the Taiwan Democracy Deathwatch, a four year wake. So please forgive me for being massively busy the last week or so and not blogging so much (expect avalanche tomorrow), and forgive me also for putting up yet another post on Taiwan's Tallest Invertebrate....

This week the anniversary of Tiananmen passed, and President Ma Ying-jeou, well known for critical comments directed at the leadership in Beijing in the best Catholic-criticizing-the-Pope style on this date in other years, was offered another opportunity to say a few words on behalf of democracy in China. But twice in a month Ma declined to affirm key core values in an important speech...instead offering a speech that was servile (or conciliatory, depending on one's point of view) as Lawrence Chung reported in SCMP (paywall, sorry): Ma shifts from condemnation of crackdown to praise for reforms

Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou has praised the mainland for its reforms, in a shift from his previously harsh condemnation of Beijing over its bloody crackdown in Tiananmen Square 19 years ago.

"Mainland China has made certain progress since it started to open up and reform 30 years ago," said Mr Ma in a statement issued yesterday through the Presidential Office website to mark the 19th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square crackdown.

Instead of lashing out at the mainland as he did in the past, Mr Ma simply asked Beijing to "continue to promote freedom and democracy" for the sake of the 1.3 billion mainland people and "paving the way for long-term peaceful development of relations across the Taiwan Strait".

He said since the crackdown in 1989, he has either taken part in activities or written articles annually to mark the incident.

He stressed his concern about the incident was due mainly to "my concern over whether our mainland compatriots are able to enjoy a life of freedom and democracy".

Chung pointed out how much things have changed, noting:

In 2006, when he was still Taipei mayor, he said it would be impossible for Taiwan to talk about unification with the mainland if Beijing refused to redeem those killed in the bloody crackdown. In 2005, he said he would not relinquish his anti-Chinese communist stance until Beijing admitted the crackdown was a mistake.

Chung also listed the changes that Ma plans to make:
* Senior officials can visit mainland on case-by-case basis
* Mainland tourists can use credit cards in Taiwan by end of August
* Mainland tourists can convert yuan into new Taiwan dollars by end of next month
* Taiwanese funds to be invested in mainland shares before end of this month and mainland funds to be invested in Taiwanese shares before end of year
* Ban on Xinhua and People's Daily journalists in Taiwan lifted before end of next month
* Policy to establish mutual military trust
* Taiwanese universities may be able to set up branches on mainland and mainland academic qualifications may be recognised
* Island's official title, Republic of China, to be used on stamps from August

Watching Ma toadying up to Beijing like this, I am wondering if eight years of Ma is going to quietly rekindle the debate on whether democracy is possible in a society that imagines itself Chinese -- and how soon those people in Singapore and Hong Kong who fondly imagined that Ma was going to be a voice for Chinese democracy are going to give up that fantasy. One also wonders how soon China is going to start screwing Ma because he is so servile. And when you reflect on Ma's long political career and its almost total lack of stands on principle, as well as the way Ma has always inclined himself toward Power like a plant turning into the sun, well.....

Taiwan News had some tough comments for Ma, especially in that dead-on first paragraph below:
Ma's statement included not a single word of criticism aimed at the leaders of the CCP regime on the PRC's worsening human rights performance, the bloody suppression of "disturbances" in Tibet since mid-March, the tightening restrictions on news freedom and freedom of expression in the run-up to the Beijing Olympics in August or the continued expansion of the deployment of missiles and offensive forces of the People's Liberation Army opposite Taiwan.

It is understandable that the KMT leader might moderate criticism of the authoritarian PRC regime as part of his legitimate efforts to improve cross-strait relations.

However, the "June Fourth" anniversary offered Ma a natural opportunity to reaffirm his core values and even raise new perspectives or concerns to the PRC authorities without especially disturbing the Beijing regime, which is now accustomed to being pilloried on this date.

Moreover, a principled statement by Ma would have indicated to the CCP leaders that progress toward cross-strait peace must be founded on respect for Taiwan's values of democracy, freedom and equity and not simply short-term interests or economic stimulation.

Ma's decision to imitate the late CCP Wang Ming and interpret "united front" as "all alliance and no struggle" will inspire only contempt and no respect in the eyes of the Beijing authorities.

If Ma cannot not even dare to criticize the CCP regime for the Tiananmen Square massacre, how can we expect the "Chinese Taipei" leader to stand up for the national security and collective interests and democratic rights of the 23 million people who elected him on March 22?

The answer is simple. We cannot.

Sadly, the question isn't "Will Ma stand up?" We always knew the answer to that. The question is: "When Ma doesn't stand up, will the people notice?"

I sure hope so.


Anonymous said...

OK, Ma is an a appeaser.But trying to delay the invasion is a valid strategy IF there is no way to stop the invasion.So I ask in all seriousness,how is Taiwan to prevent a PRC invasion?

skiingkow said...


I don't think you should worry about calling a spade a spade. PandaMa is demonstrating what we have been predicting for years. As long as he continues to do so, you should not feel the need to make things more rosy than they actually are. These are dark days indeed for Taiwan. Naturally, your postings are going to reflect that. And I couldn't agree with you more with the question you left us on this posting.

Will it be too late when people decide to take the red pill?

Anonymous said...

I beg your pardon. But I really enjoy reading your "what did Ma fuck up today". Please keep going ....

If you don't continue doing it, I will call you the "tallest invertebrate". (You probably are taller, right?)

Enjoy your writing. Just let you know.

Anonymous said...

"I'm trying to avoid several things with this blog -- I don't want it to become the "What has Ma Fucked Up Today?" blog"

Haha, sorry, good luck with that. No really, I really did laugh when I read your post. Like someone mentioned, it's so bad the plausible explanation is that he's fucking things up on purpose, to lower the expectations so he can exceed them.

Today's big news headlines:

1) In order to "increase demand" by increasing government spending, the government is taking money out of the Education dept's budget and all the universities want to raise tuition.

2) The Foreign Ministry announced that it's removing mentioning Taiwan in all formal documents and changing everything to "hua", which translated into English, will just be China. After being criticized, the Foreign Minister, who applied to become an American while posted at Guatemala, said he would temporarily not do that. Who wants to bet that they are just going to do it anyway, just silently?

3) It appears to tons of money is being used to pad the budgets and pockets of local village leaders through a special budget (i.e. illegally, but I'm not sure that illegal+being exposed really is going to do anything). Green counties are having infrastructure projects cancelled or budgets slashed. Today, a deep-Blue KMT legislator gave an earful to the head of the election voting commission adding that "he's been waiting a long time for this".

Yep, we're in for a looong 4 years. These guys are ideological, and they want revenge, bad. Be scared. Be very, very scared.

Fili said...

I'm a bit confused.

What do Ma's plans have to do with democracy in Taiwan? None of what he suggests seem to say anything about the democracy of Taiwan.

In a way - this is what he was elected to do, warm up relations with China. I agree that some of what's been happening, like the previous Wu story and now this Ma speech, is troubling. But, the general direction they're taking is where the Taiwanese initially wanted to be taken. His later explanation (3 sentences) claimed that it was because of the earthquake, which only goes to say that he was drilled about it, and had to respond with a reply that would explain this. Some glitches, surely, but I'd say the basic democratic mechanism is still there... wouldn't you?

corey said...

ROC is going to be used on stamps? Isn't it already?

I guess this means the stamps that are used to seal postage and such for shipment...

To me, this seems a bit hypocritical for the KMT to do; they call the DPP's changes of names, such as CKS Memorial Hall and the CKS Airport, frivolous, but then they go ahead and spend time changing the name of something just as much so. Where do they think they live? If they only live in the ROC, they should propose dividing Taiwan into a North and South if they like being so close to China.

I don't know, things like this make me so angry...who the hell has even heard of the ROC? The only people that know it are China, Taiwan, and people who follow politics! It seems to me bad for business...people already have a hard enough time identifying Taiwan correctly, but if you say ROC, they'll just think it's another name for...

...oh, that is what they are getting at. Damn.

Amy Lin said...

In the little time since Ma took office, he has reneged on almost every one of his campaign promises.

Why can't the Taiwanese ever wake up from this Chinese nightmare?

Richard said...

Why in the world are they pushing to un-ban Xinhua and other CCP news agencies? Is the KMT trying to propagandize Taiwan with CCP propaganda? I'm very confused.

Anonymous said...

Many young Chinese bloggers are quick to point out the Tiananmen pro-democracy protest/massacre was long ago and insignificant. Usually you also get the "as long as we are making money who cares" attitude in their comments.

Yesterday there were several articles online that pointed out that 130 people are still in jail over that incident. Rights group to China: Release Tiananmen prisoners

TicoExpat said...

Invasion or no invasion, Ma was elected by the people IN Taiwan to govern this island and the other little islands around it. So far, the problem is that he and his party are so busy drooling over would be riches on teh otehr side of teh Starit, that they have not done a relevant thing to: 1. bring back investments to Taiwan, whether foreign or from Taiwanese in the PRC and 2> improve the living conditions of the citizens under his Administration.

Sincerely, many things have happened since His Handsomeness took office. Rather than rowing a dragon boat, he needs to get his team of advisors and row this country forward.

Anonymous said...

d. corey asks, "ROC is going to be used on stamps? Isn't it already?"

Actually, apart from the "Republic of China (Taiwan)" inauguration stamps, all stamps so far issued this month have said "Taiwan."

As supremely irritating it is that Ma's administration are making all these changes/reverses, I say it's all part of the political pendulum.

Remember when Clinton signed a rather huge spate of legislation in the last months of his office (esp funding for human and social services and wilderness protections), only to see Bush & Co. reverse it all? Par for the course, I'm afraid.

But the message this kind of behavior sends is that government is an entity of the government, by the government, and for the government. The people be damned.

Tommy said...

Richard, they will be lifting a ban on the journalists. This means news teams from the mainland can come to Taiwan to report on things, and does not amount to opening the Taiwanese to CCP propaganda.

However, what it does do it allow two nefarious news orgs to report more fully on Taiwan from their own perspective within China. They both already report on Taiwan. It makes me sick how many "Taiwan news" shows I have seen played on their channels, all of which are, naturally, one-sided. All this changes is it gives those channels more fodder to use in their reports.

Dark days for Taiwan indeed. Ma had better hope his brilliant plans make everyone's lives much better soon. The changes seem to be coming a bit fast. It is one thing to make over Taiwan into a Chinaphiliac country. But "identity" related changes that happen too quickly almost always raise tensions. Unfortunately, Taiwan does not have reliable polls to track public opinion.

Anonymous said...

I notice no one is willing to address mlitary countermeasures to protect Taiwan from invasion.No wonder the PRC leadership gives the ROC no respect.Is there only going to be talk of Taiwan's slide into a status like Hong Kong or will there be consideration of how to save the island's independence?f not how can anyone call Ma an invertebrate?I think Taiwan can be saved by the right weapons and strategy.When Taiwan becomes an SAR,remember that it could have been diifferent.

Michael Turton said...

You're right. because no one on a blog wants to discuss military countermeasures with you, the PRC will triumph and they are thoroughly vindicated in their contempt for Taiwan.

Anonymous said...

Why avoid having a theme for your blog? Rush Limbaugh (and I know you're not a fan) was very successful with his "America Held Hostage" theme when President Clinton was elected, and it didn't keep him from discussing other things too. And just two years later when the Republicans won a majority in the House he was able to switch to "America the Way it Oughtta Be". If Ma screws something up everyday then you might as well tell us about it everyday. By keeping the mistakes high profile you might help the DPP get a voice back in the legislature and possibly help stop Ma a 4 years instead of 8. All you need is a good theme - we don't need the vulgarity. "Taiwan in the Clutches of the Fascists" or "Taiwan Held for Ransom"...

Richard said...

Thanks for the clarification Thomas. I was really surprised when I first read it, and as I said, really confused.

anon- I don't think a military build-up by Taiwan would help things. But that's just my opinion. Sure it may give Taiwan more leverage, and some would say that China only understands negotiations with weaponry... but, I think that would only escalate the situation. IMO the U.S. is what is keeping China from stepping into Taiwan. The TRA gives the U.S. the right to step in and intervene, although they aren't obligated to do so- although I think if China does actually start firing across the strait, the U.S. will back us up. Sort of off topic, but Obama has been the most vocal about Taiwan these past few months out of the candidates, and it seems like Obama might win the presidency.

Winston L. said...


Obviously, the use of the expression "democracy" on this site means "pro-Taiwan independence."

So far, virtually all of the allegations about Ma breaking his campaign promises that I've seen have come from the DPP, Taiwan News, Green bloggers, and others who never supported Ma in the first place. Obviously, if you didn't vote for him, there's no rational basis for you to feel deceived since presumably you never believed him to begin with. I'd be interested to know if there's any widespread buyer's remorse among those who did vote for Ma.

Be careful what you wish for in demanding democracy. It was a huge mistake for the US to bring democracy to the Palestinians (they voted for Hamas). It was a huge mistake for the US to force democracy on Iraq (they voted for a pro-Iranian Shiite government). The Taiwan separatists wanted democracy in Taiwan and they got the KMT back. In retrospect, they should have created a Green dictatorship when they had the chance.

Anonymous said...

"they should have created a Green dictatorship when they had the chance"

What would be the point of independence if it means having no control over your own life?

Anonymous said...

Sorry Michael.I thought that the comment section of a blog was a place to exchange ideas.I thought that Taiwan's survival as an independent,democratic state was the most important issue in local politics.(If not, what's wrong with Ma's policies?)I don't claim to have all the answers but I care deeply about Taiwan's future.I'll listen respectfully to any realistic ideas about how to save the island from becoming a PRC possession.Too bad you don't feel the same way.

Michael Turton said...

orry Michael.I thought that the comment section of a blog was a place to exchange ideas

Yes, it was, but when you make silly remarks like...

I notice no one is willing to address mlitary countermeasures to protect Taiwan from invasion.No wonder the PRC leadership gives the ROC no respect.

...why would you expect anyone to take you seriously?


Anonymous said...

Be careful what you wish for in demanding democracy. It was a huge mistake for the US to bring democracy to the Palestinians (they voted for Hamas). It was a huge mistake for the US to force democracy on Iraq (they voted for a pro-Iranian Shiite government). The Taiwan separatists wanted democracy in Taiwan and they got the KMT back. In retrospect, they should have created a Green dictatorship when they had the chance.

So true!

Anonymous said...

Michael,So do you have any serious ideas on keeping Taiwan free or are you just going to sneer at those who do?Nothing "vindicates" the CCP attitude towards Taiwan.The party is simply engaged in an amoral pursuit of its own selfish interests.Its military buildup is clearly aimed at a takeover of Taiwan by invasion or intimidation.US support can counterbalance that but for how long?The main concern of Beijing is the economy.As long as a future conflict over Taiwan is confined to the island and the seas around it,war is an acceptable option.But if PRC major cities face serious damage the precious economy is endangered and the calculations of risk and reward change.Right now war is only feared on one side of the Taiwan strait.It should be feared on both.

Anonymous said...

Winston I said: Obviously, the use of the expression "democracy" on this site means "pro-Taiwan independence..."

Sorry, but this person's reasoning is flawed.

First, implying that Taiwan's democracy is the same as American democracy is a gross oversimplification.

Suggesting that the US expects to promote the same type of democracy abroad as its own is illogical, even if the US government is culture blind.

Political theory defines at least 20 types of democracies.

Stating that those who didn't vote for Ma have no rational reason to feel deceived, and that Taiwan separatists want democracy but got the KMT, is implying that no one else in Taiwan wants accountability or democracy.

This is a seriously fallacious argument.