Thursday, October 20, 2011

Ma Proposes, the DPP Disposes

Today's you-can't-make-this-stuff-up moment: Heritage scholar Walter Lohman found this gem in a 2008 State Dept report by Kerry Dumbaugh:
Apparently mindful of its previous experience with the 11th Panchen Lama, Beijing late in 2007 took steps designed to solidify its future control over the selection process of Tibetan lamas. On August 3, 2007, the State Administration for Religious Affairs (SARA) issued a set of regulations, effective September 1, 2007, that require all Tibetan lamas wishing to reincarnate to obtain prior government approval through the submission of a “reincarnation application.” In a statement accompanying the regulations, SARA called the step “an important move to institutionalize management on reincarnation of living Buddhas.”
No reincarnation without a license. Can messiahs resurrect without a permit?

Speaking of Tibet and broken treaties, the headline dominator this week was President Ma's proposal for a "peace" agreement between Taiwan and China. The DPP responded (Taipei Times):
Speaking as the head of her party, Tsai, the DPP’s presidential candidate in January’s election, told a press conference that Ma’s proposal was “irresponsible and impetuous” and that it amounted to the manipulation of a highly sensitive political issue to cover up his administration’s failures, as well as a bargaining chip that benefits his presidential campaign.

“It’s a pity that President Ma, as a national leader, has put the nation’s future at risk with this reckless initiative and pushed the future of Taiwanese into a political danger zone,” Tsai said.


A DPP Central Standing Committee resolution yesterday said the proposal exposed Taiwanese to four serious risks — the sacrifice of Taiwan’s sovereignty, a change in the “status quo” across the Taiwan Strait, the jeopardizing of Taiwan’s democratic values and damage to the nation’s strategic depth in bilateral negotiations — Tsai said.

The initiative could make the cross-strait situation a “domestic” issue by agreeing to the “one China” principle, she said, as well as going to the negotiating table without a public mandate and a national consensus.

Tsai cited the 1951 peace deal between Tibet and China as an example of Beijing’s lack of credibility as a signatory.
Ma's move appeared to be a misstep, since it attracted criticism from all sides and this week he's been forced to defend it in public. Ma placed the "peace" proposal in his usual context of "national dignity" by which he means the ROC virtual state, not Taiwan. Hence, a peace agreement negotiated by the KMT would most likely include Taiwan in China, which has always been the goal of the KMT. Once again Ma raises doubts among independent voters and Light Blues by unnecessarily calling for another lurch toward China.

AP had some good coverage of the domestic tumult:
Ma’s declaration was lambasted by the opposition, which saw it as a boon to its chances in January’s presidential elections because it appeared to make Ma vulnerable to charges that he might be willing to compromise Taiwan’s sovereignty. It was also criticized by normally supportive media outlets as an unnecessary embrace of an issue that lacks popularity among Taiwan’s mostly China-wary population.

“Swing voters have doubts about the treaty,” wrote the pro-Ma United Daily News on Thursday, adding that recent government polls showed a firm bias in favor of Taiwan’s political status quo.

The China Times, another pro-Ma paper, likened opening peace treaty negotiations with the mainland to “plunging into a trap set up by Beijing.”
The China Times prides itself on being stuffily pro-KMT, but UDN is basic frothing at the mouth for the KMT. For Ma to lose both with this proposal may show a decidedly out-of-touch campaign team. Ma backed away by saying that his government would "consider a referendum" (they mean "think about it for a second before rejecting it forever"), a significant backpedal since the KMT hates the idea of national level referendums, since they tend to reify Taiwan as an independent polity in its own right.

Ma has to please his allies in Beijing, so this may be a sop tossed in the direction of the CCP. He may well be setting the stage for political talks in his second term, but in the short term the proposal appears to have helped the DPP. Though without reliable political polls, it is difficult to say for certain.

Peace proposals are old hat in elections, dating back to James Soong's 50 year peace proposal and before. Soong's proposal included a kind of EU-framework under which Taiwan would recognize itself as part of China. Like Ma today, Soong defended his proposal as aligned with the mainstream opinion in Taiwan. His proposal included an escape clause -- President Ma's does not appear to.
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Anonymous said...

I just love how all treaties, deals and referenda are leveled purely on a unification model with no alter.

Anonymous said...

I find it weird to talk about referendum on the issue of peace. Normally we don't see referendums for declaring war, and we need one on peace?

I think Tsai had grossly oversimplified the Tibet issue as well.

So in my view, both candidates just blew some air.


Readin said...

Your AP quote on the DPP started off looking like the typical US media treatment of Republicans - act as though they're just playing politics. AP wrote "Ma’s declaration was lambasted by the opposition, which saw it as a boon to its chances in January’s presidential elections because it appeared to make Ma vulnerable to charges that he might be willing to compromise Taiwan’s sovereignty" when they could have written "Ma’s declaration was lambasted by the opposition, which suspected Ma might be willing to compromise Taiwan’s sovereignty".

But then the coverage took a decidedly different turn - noticing that the media in Taiwan is generally pro-KMT.

Would that the AP would study their coverage of Taiwan and then look at how they cover America.

Readin said...

@Anon: "I just love how all treaties, deals and referenda are leveled purely on a unification model with no alter."

If there is any more important issue in Taiwan than the question of whether it will be annexed, then there is no question of whether Taiwan will be annexed - it will by its own choice.

Perhaps it is time for we foreigners to realize that Taiwan is already making its choice for national destruction and it is timer for us to stop trying to help them up off their knees.

D said...

I think Ma, or his advisers, must have known they would get a bad response even from KMT-leaning papers. So why float the peace proposal?

1. Defuse the issue by being proactive. Reports about this were circulating anyway, so step up to the plate and show presidential responsibility. Also: get it out early so that it's not as much an issue come voting time.

2. Push the DPP's buttons a bit. When it comes to relations with China there's always a chance they'll say something that reinforces the "irrational and unreliable cult of A-bian" perception. The Tibet thing comes close.

3. A sign to Beijing, like Michael suggests. I don't know about that.

4. This is the best one: a peace treaty is his real true-to-heart goal, the legacy he wants to leave. He might be able to sell one that was based on a "Three No's" framework -- who knows, maybe even in a referendum.

Anonymous said...

It's strange... it should be enough the point out that any kind of peace agreement will mean One Country two Systems to get the KMT into trouble.

Anonymous said...

We should also remember that Ma Ying-jiu lives in a different reality than most Taiwanese; one that is constructed as the result of being an ROC ideological insider for several decades, and thus a proposal like this might make perfect sense to Ma. It would not be the first time ma was shocked to discover how divergent his ideas are from the reality of Taiwan's mainstream.

Taiwan Echo said...

People are saying that Ma either:

thinks he definitely wins by a landslide so he doesn't have to worry about the backfire from the peace agreement issue;


thinks that he has no hope anyway, so desperately tries to please China not to give him up. After all, Soong is pro-China, too.

richard said...

i agree with D's 1st point - maybe take the wind out of DPP's sails and take charge, to be the one who can say in the future - this is how we handle this, it was our idea

or a hidden agenda with the CCP ...

first impression however is - how stupid and out of touch with reality !

Michael Turton said...

maybe take the wind out of DPP's sails and take charge, to be the one who can say in the future - this is how we handle this, it was our idea

perhaps, but Ma usually goes after the missiles. This time he said nothing about them. So if we wanted to undercut the DPP, all he had to do was pose as a the defender of Taiwan.... but instead we got the familiar Ma the Ideologue.


Philip L said...


A 'peace treaty' negotiated with China under China's 'One China' 'principle' (which is the only way Ma will be able to 'negotiate' a 'peace treaty' with China, is no peace treaty but surrender, plain and simple. As such, it needs to be put to the people of Taiwan in the form of a referendum. Plain and simple.