Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Ma Interview on CNN: More integration, less tension

Huge news this week as Ma Ying-jeou was interviewed by Christiane Amanpour on CNN. Amanpour obviously wanted to come across as hard-hitting, and Ma underwent his toughest grilling since the excellent Hardtalk interview several years ago. The highlight was Ma saying:
That is why the current administration, like previous administrations, is very pleased with what happened in the last two years. And we will continue to reduce the risks so that we will purchases arms from the United States , but we will never ask the Americans to fight for Taiwan . This is something that is very, very clear.
These remarks caused a public outcry, but since we all knew which side Ma wants to align himself with, it's more of the same, though a bit more openly than normal. In any case Ma can sidle out of it any time by saying "...not Taiwan, but the ROC should be fought for." Remember always that in Ma's view "Taiwan" is just a region in the Chinese imperium.

Furthermore, Ma must know perfectly well that the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA) does not include Taiwan itself in the decision loop about whether to defend the island, and thus, knows that "Taiwan" need not ask. America will do what it wants to, period.

Finally, from a practical standpoint, this is the fourth time Ma has answered a closely related question on the US and defending Taiwan. There may not be any real meaning to this, nothing more to see here than an exasperated overstatement from a non-native English speaker. Here's what she asked:
AMANPOUR: That was US President Barak Obama speaking to students in Shanghai last November. As we continue our discussion with President Ma, we asked him which power is rising in the east. I wanted to carry on this conversation with the US-Taiwan relationship but of course the US-China relationship, many have thought over the past years and decade that this is the issue that would cause a conflict or could cause a conflict between China and the United States. Do you think that that is still a realistic concern?

AMAPOUR: Well on that note you were talking before we went to a break with the need to sort of de-escalate any notion of an arms race. And of course, recently it was announced more than 6 billions of arms from the United States to Taiwan and that obviously caused a fairly stiff response in Beijing and I want to play you what the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said about that.

AMANPOUR: And yet many Americans are saying, you know is it really worth given how extended America is in Iraq, in Afghanistan and fighting terrorism. Is it worth the risk of going to war on behalf of Taiwan? So again, the question that I wanted to ask you is, what do you think would happen if the US started to reduce arms sales to Taiwan in order to improve relations with China? And that's your goal too to improve relations with China?

AMANPOUR: Obviously you've spoken about the Chinese missiles pointed towards Taiwan but let me ask you a quick response if you can, to the question that's sometimes posed here, why should Americans risk so much on behalf of Taiwan?

The whole point of all this repetition was to get Ma to say something controversial, which he obliged.

In any case, Ma, who is strongly backed by American global financial firms, is merely mouthing things he thinks his backers in the US want to hear. Note that at the same time he continued to call for arms sales. The cynical among us might recall that years ago Ma promised the US he'd get those weapons sales moving in the legislature, back when he was Chairman of the KMT. Still no sign of new F-16s... After that, President Ma also promises to sell us a bridge....

Meanwhile the real integration continues apace, with Chinese financial services firms now entering Taiwan....

Mainland Chinese banks, insurance companies and securities firms will soon be competing for Taiwan’s financial services market following a Cabinet decision to further ease regulatory controls May 3.

Under the new policy, mainland firms can set up representative offices in Taiwan. Insurance carriers and securities houses from across the strait are also permitted to take stakes in their local counterparts.

Link to the CNN transcript of the interview

As for understanding the impact of the upcoming integration, read Harold Myerson's excellent commentary from last year on the US Congress' vote to send America's industry to China...
Some foresaw the problems that would be unleashed. By nearly a two-to-one margin, House Democrats refused to ratify the agreement when it came to a vote in May 2000, but enough Democrats aligned with Republicans to ensure passage. (In the Senate, both parties favored it overwhelmingly.) Along with union leaders, many House Democrats predicted that the pact would cost American jobs and deepen, rather than lessen, our trade deficit. That they were right while mainstream economists and representatives of economic elites were wrong has not increased their credibility among mainstream economists and economic elites.
....alongside Lin Cho-shui's wonderful piece today on Ma's debate with Tsai -- how wrong the man was in each of his claims....
Finally, Ma said that even if restrictions are lifted on the more than 800 Chinese agricultural products currently banned from Taiwan, this would still be less than the 900 items permitted for import by the DPP administration. He also said that an ECFA would have less of an impact on Taiwan than WTO accession.

In fact, the Chinese agricultural products approved for importation by the DPP were those that Taiwan does not produce. In contrast, the 800 Chinese agricultural products that are still barred are sensitive items produced in both Taiwan and China. The same applies to industrial products.

How is it, then, that the impact of ECFA on Taiwan would be less than that of accession to the WTO?
O brave new world....
Don't miss the comments below! And check out my blog and its sidebars for events, links to previous posts and picture posts, and scores of links to other Taiwan blogs and forums!


Anonymous said...

What the hell? Instead of being a syncophant to the Chinese govt, Ma should be strongly making the case in front of the English-speaking audience WHY Taiwan is worth defending. Taiwan needs all the allies it can get.

When Tsai Ing-wen becomes president, Americans are going to get a rude wake-up call when they hear someone discussing Taiwan's ACTUAL status and ACUAL history in sophistication. It's going to be weird when it's commonly known among Americans that bother with foreign affairs that Taiwan has a Taiwanese perspective rather than just a CCP vs KMT one.

Michael Turton said...

I also love how Ma claims that Rothkopf's nonsense is just one academic, and then turns around and essentially confirms his position. LOL.

You're right, but the case for defending Taiwan will have to made by its defenders in the US.

Richard said...

Do we know where Wang Jin-pyng's loyalties lie as of now? I know he used to be considered a light blue, with T.I. tendencies, but over the past couple years since Ma has come into power Wang seems to be siding with Ma on a variety of issues that I would think would raise concern for T.I. sympathizers. Here's a quote from an article on Wang's comments on Ma's comment on never asking for U.S. help:

President Ma has received strong support from within his party for his comments, with Legislative Yuan speaker Wang Jin-pyng saying Monday that Taiwan's government has actively sought arms sales from the U.S., reflecting its strong determination to defend itself.

"Only when we are capable of defending ourselves can we be treated equally and fairly at the negotiating table with China, " Wang said.

I'm pretty sure anyone slightly intelligible can reason that Taiwan will never be capable of defending themselves. Really confused with this guy.

Michael Turton said...

Klaus discusses some of the problems here.


mx said...

The canary in the coal mine will be when it becomes legal for Chinese firms to fly their ChiCom flag in Taiwan.

For the record, I do not believe their will ever be another presidential election Taiwan. The game is over. Taiwanese let it happen by their own ignorance and apathy. I use to truly care about free Taiwan, now its just a soap opera for me.

Unknown said...

Wang Jinping is just the bagman. Look at all the gangster funerals he attends.

Anonymous said...

I fear you might be right MX.

Anonymous said...

cold feet for arguments?
or now becoming prc-like?

SY said...

I still don't know what to make of Ma's notion.

I first thought that it was a tongue slip by a non-native speaker of English. But, not seeing him immediately come out of his way to clear the air has made me wonder.

Today (May 6), the United Daily News reported that Ma, at a meeting inside KMT, noted the following:

1. What he said (referring to the "will never" notion) was meant for the American audience. (Don't know why that is an "explanation"),

2. "'How could it be something that I can ask for whether or not the US will send troops [to fight for Taiwan]? They have their strategic considerations. We should show our determination to defend our sovereignty.'"

3. "Ma explained that neither the [now terminated] Sino-American Mutual Defense Treaty nor the Taiwan Relations Act can act as the basis for the US to send troops to assist Taiwan. ... Ma also said ... ' [what I said] had nothing to do with the language I used; in Chinese, I would have said the same thing.'"

Ma's message today was unclear: the #2 (above) seems to show that he was trying to clear the air; yet, the #3 shows that what he said at the interview was premeditated.

The question should not be about what he said. The question is rather why he seeks to remove the ambiguity regarding the US stand.

To Japan, South Korea and India, Ma seems to have proved to be someone not trustworthy and unreliable.

Anonymous said...

How is the traitor today!

Anonymous said...

It's up to America to defend Taiwan or not. Pres. Ma who is not welcome in the UN, Washington and the White House will look like a fool world wide if he demands for US military umbrella like Japan via CNN.