Monday, July 28, 2008

Sovereignty and Freezes

Typhoon Fung wong is closing in, and here in Taichung, a steady rain is falling as of eight this morning, Taichung time. No wind at all yet. Schools and offices across the island have shut down in anticipation of a major load of rain.

Yesterday the email lists were abuzz with the claim of Rupert Hammond-Chambers, the president of the US-Taiwan Business Council, that the freeze could be lifted in August and that the bureaucratic wheels could spin in time to have everything wrapped up before December. The Taipei Times reported:

Echoing comments over the past week by the incoming Taiwanese representative to Washington, Jason Yuan (袁健生), as well as council chairman and former US deputy secretary of defense Paul Wolfowitz, Hammond-Chambers told the Taipei Times that his “optimistic expectation” was that the sales could start to move within weeks.

With a key shortcut in the process and speedy work by the administration and Congress, the Letter of Offer and Acceptance could be signed by the end of December, capturing the budget allocations approved by the Legislative Yuan in December last year.

Hammond-Chambers said that his prognostication was not based on personal assurances by the State Department, which has held back the deals, or congressional aides, but was his “speculation.”

Hammond-Chambers pointed out that the comments from the US government are the same: the process is still under interagency review. Joseph Wu, the talented former "ambassador" to the US, observed:

“That statement seems to be quite uniform,” Wu said. “That means if it’s in the process, the process is going to go through eventually.”

Hopefully the freeze will end soon. If not, rebudgeting all those weapons systems and rewriting all the contracts will be a mess....

This morning the Taipei Times reported on the ominous developments -- long prefigured on this blog, thank you -- in cross strait relations. What DPP Chairman labeled "a crisis" in Taiwan's sovereignty is revealed in Beijing's plans for using the KMT to control our weak willed President:

The Chinese government plans to team up with the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) to force President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) to push Taiwan closer to unification with China, a top Chinese official has said.

In this month’s edition of the Chinese-language Hong Kong publication Xinbao Caijing Monthly, Ye Guohua (葉國華), honorary chairman of the board of the foreign affairs think tank China Foundation for International Studies and Academic Exchanges, said China wants to force Ma to adhere to the five point statement issued by former KMT chairman Lien Chan (連戰) and Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) in 2005. This would then set the framework for unification talks.

Ye said Beijing looks at the talks between the Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) and the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait (ARATS) merely as “holding hands” and does not think the “small three links” represent true direct transportation.

Ye said China will not enter into a compromise that easily and that “China will force Ma into implementing the KMT line,” adding that if this cannot be done, China may not be as lenient toward Ma.

He said that to accomplish its goal, China will strengthen the KMT’s position and increase party to party talks to help the KMT control Ma and make him adhere to the Lien-Hu statement. Whether or not the ARATS chairman meets with Ma during his visit to Taiwan later this year would be a good indicator of China’s view of the situation.
Lots of people write "Ma this" and "Ma that" as if Ma were in charge of the process. Nope. He is merely one player, and his position is outflanked by KMT elites who want annexation. The key is the party to party talks, which are headed toward annexation as this article makes clear. How long before the spineless and apparently incompetent Ma gets painted as a "radical" by the rhetoric out of Beijing? Will the US wake up before then? Stay tuned -- Film at 11.

The Taipei Times pointed out all this in an editorial today. Discussing plans for a Hong Kong-like economic agreement between Taipei and Beijing, the Taipei Times observed:

Placing the original common market into a new framework palatable to Beijing does not bode well for the nation’s sovereignty and is indeed just another ruse to force Taiwan into a “one country, two systems” framework. Chiang’s notion that negotiating an FTA with China will somehow magically make political problems disappear demonstrates the same hubris Siew exhibited in thinking that a common market could be negotiated with Beijing.

This policy shift demonstrates a growing problem confronting President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration in its negotiations with China: The number of campaign promises Ma made are forcing his administration into a corner and as a result, in negotiations it is giving up Taiwan’s sovereignty.

The fact is, as I have pointed out many times here, and as the Taipei Times again points out in the above editorial, Ma's extensive promises to the electorate mean that Beijing holds all the cards in the cross-strait negotiations. A commentary yesterday in the Taipei Times pointed out the consequences:

When the Straits Exchange Foundation and China’s Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait resumed negotiations last month on administrative and functional matters, the Chinese representatives simply removed the issue of chartered cargo flights —which is unfavorable to China — from the agenda, as they knew the Taiwanese government had to carry out President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) campaign promises of weekend chartered flights and opening up the nation to Chinese tourism by July 4.

There is no boundary or limit on what Ma will concede and there is no need for him to act in the interests of Taiwan, unlike the DPP, which drew the line at sovereignty and which had a clear idea of where the island's interests lay. Even if he sincerely does not intend to sell out the island, he is not running the show, and the structure of the situation is such that each negotiation with Beijing threatens the island's sovereignty.

The pan-green paper Liberty Times editorialized on Ma's weaknesses:

Taiwan is an independent and sovereign nation and Ma was elected as president on this basis. During the campaign, Ma said he was competing for the presidency of a sovereign country. Once he was elected, however, especially since taking office, he has viewed Taiwan merely as a part of China. He believes the best name to use when Taiwan applies for membership in international organizations is “Chinese Taipei” (中華台北.) In order to please Beijing, Taiwan calls itself “Taiwan Region” on visas for Chinese tourists. Ma has also been content to be referred to as “Mr” instead of “President.”

Again, Lai should say whether Taiwan’s name change to “Chinese Taipei” and “Taiwan Region” as well as the use of “Mr” to refer to the president represent an unprecedented crisis in terms of sovereignty.

During Ma’s campaign, he adopted the mainstream view that the “status quo” must be maintained. Since the election, however, his intentions for unification have become evident.

Judging from Ma’s inaugural speech and policy talks, we can conclude that he does not think Taiwan has any sovereignty at all and that Taiwan is just a geographical term in the “one China” context. In the past, the country on the other side of the Taiwan Strait was commonly referred to as China. Since Ma’s election, it has become “Mainland China” to emphasize that both China and Taiwan are parts of “one China.” These changes in terminology make one wonder if Ma’s statements that the 23 million people of Taiwan must decide its future may already be changing to “Taiwan’s future must be decided by the 1.3 billion people of China.”

Not only are the references to Taiwan on the visas absurd, but the scuttlebutt circulating around the island is that Ma's desire to fly to the US on an ordinary commercial carrier is because he wants to show China that he is not really the President of an independent and sovereign nation. In both foreign policy and in economics, Ma appears to have reneged on all his promises. No shit, sherlock. How could anyone have expected things to be different?

Finally, the wild card, Ma's domestic situation, is still a developing problem. Lin Cho-shui, the former DPP legislator, had a piece in today's Taipei Times arguing that Ma faces serious domestic problems thanks to the silly promises the KMT made during the election:

Former President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) needed six years to drive his popularity ratings below 40 percent. President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) managed the feat in just two months. Public confidence in the government is now close to collapsing.

Premier Liu Chao-shiuan (劉兆玄) has said that Singaporean officials are envious because Taiwan’s inflation figures are much lower than theirs, and the second-best in Asia after Japan. Vice Premier Paul Chiu (邱正雄) says economic fundamentals are good and that foreign investors are optimistic. The government blames its problems on rising global raw material costs. Even if all these claims are correct, they will do nothing to improve public confidence.

The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) only has itself to blame for the public’s hopes being so high.

At some point the creeping annexation process currently being carried out by KMT elites over Ma's head is going to become obvious even to the local public, and at that point the level of domestic support for Ma will become a crucial factor in the KMT's ability to bring the process to fruition. Can the KMT buy off the pro-DPP working class with a flood of infrastructure money? Can it make the economy go? With economic growth set to fall more than a point this year, the KMT faces serious problems on the home front, even as Beijing advances.


Tommy said...

Another article on the arms freeze. Nothing new here, but it is decidedly free of stupid comments:

skiingkow said...

For all of us who have been watching Taiwan politics closely for the past several years, these KMT / PandaMa developments are passing like clockwork -- mind you, it's a clock that is ahead of schedule even by us pro-democracy advocates.

I'm hoping all of those swing voters (a.k.a. "suckers") won't be as apathetic as the American population when that moment of "what was I thinking" sets in. Methinks the Taiwanese population, when angry, are not as complacent.

Anonymous said...

Ma is the Chinese version of the Trojan Horse. A candidate with charisma, education and looks that appeals to the Taiwanese public. The Taiwanese bought the bait and voted this China-born candidate into its top office. Now they are using Ma to push toward annexation.

Wake up people!

Richard said...

Anyone know how martial law is declared in Taiwan these days under the current laws or constitution? Does President Ma have the sole power of declaring that, or is it something that can be bypassed and confirmed by the LY or something. A scary thought, but what if martial law was declared when things "got out of hand" when practically all of Taiwan except KMT-unificationists are marching on the streets in protest to some sort of agreement signed between the KMT and CCP for a "one country, two systems" approach?

Anonymous said...

If Ma manages to sink the economy quickly and get his ratings low early in his term, will help or hurt is re-election chances? Will it be a case of a lasting first-impression, or will it allow him to make his last 1 or 2 years in offices seem like a huge relief and improvement (while subtly blaming the troubles of his first 2 years on his predecessor)?

Anonymous said...

Mr. Mark Ma is the Hong Kong or China-born, Chinese-American running the Republic of China, right? He is the ultimate Chinese Trojan Horse. The whole of the US goverment (both Democans and Republicrats) is at partial blame for supporting economics and greed over the political and cultural sovereignty of the people of Taiwan. Great article and comments, Michael!

Anonymous said...

Ma, the Manchurian candidate.