This government’s ability to capitulate at the drop of a hat when dealing with China never ceases to amaze.
The latest example came on Friday last week when Financial Supervisory Commission (FSC) Chairman Sean Chen (陳冲) told legislators that he would not sign the cross-strait financial memorandum of understanding (MOU) if China failed to respect Taiwan’s request that his full official title appear on the document. He added that he would rather not sign at all if doing so would put “national sovereignty on the line.”
Yet, just three days later, Chen went ahead and signed despite the absence of his title — the MOU reduced to a deal between two financial regulators rather than two governments.
The last 18 months has shown President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and his administration’s definition of “defending sovereignty” appears to be vastly different from that of most ordinary Taiwanese, or anyone else for that matter.
From the signing of the numerous cross-strait agreements to the treatment of flag-waving Republic of China protesters during Chinese negotiator Chen Yunlin’s (陳雲林) visit last year, time and again the Ma administration has rolled over like a puppy having its belly scratched when faced with Chinese demands.
Dissenting voices are always met with the mantra that we should “put aside our differences” on economic matters that will benefit the country as well as references to the numerous “achievements” the Ma administration has made.
The problem is that — apart from a few industrialists and tour operators — who can honestly say they have profited from Ma’s policy of cross-strait capitulation?
Another problem is that it is very obvious that China does not view these deals in the same manner, with Beijing’s officials under no illusions as to where things are heading. Who can forget, for instance, Chinese Consul-General to Fukuoka Wu Shumin (武樹民) saying to Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Hsiao Bi-khim (蕭美琴) in Japan in May: “What international space? Ma Ying-jeou accepts the ‘one China’ principle, so we give him international space.”
Even US academics appear to be more aware than Ma, with US economist Daniel Rosen telling a conference in Washington on Tuesday that China is not interested in the economic gains from an ECFA; instead, Chinese officials view it merely as “lay[ing] the groundwork for a ‘happy ending.’”
This conclusion was backed by US-Taiwan Business Council president Rupert Hammond Chambers, who said China’s overarching goal was unification and that all its policies, including an ECFA, were channeled in that direction.
In the end it comes down to the question of who is fooling who?
Is China fooling the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) or does the KMT believe it is fooling China? The latter is harder to believe, given the KMT’s poor record in dealing with the Chinese Communist Party.
The other option could be that Ma and his administration are fully aware of what is going on and are engaged in an intricate game to see how far they can push Taiwan toward unification without provoking the electorate — the vast majority of whom are against such an outcome.
This would certainly be in line with Ma’s oft-stated preference for eventual unification and his position as chairman of a party that is colluding with Beijing to stifle any other option.