On October 17, Taiwan’s president Ma Ying-jeou suggested that there could be a peace treaty with China within a decade, provided that there was “a high level of support from Taiwan’s public”.1)
Two days later, oppositional Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) chairwoman and presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen told a press conference that
a peace agreement with China would not necessarily guarantee cross-strait peace and security. Using the 17-point peace agreement Tibet signed as an example, Tsai said that despite promises to ensure genuine autonomy, freedom of religion and Tibetan culture, the Chinese occupation of Tibet only brought repression on the Tibetans, their religion and culture, forcing the Dalai Lama into exile in 1959.
Ma then accused Tsai of downgrading Taiwan’s status as a sovereign country, by comparing it with the Sino-Tibetan agreement, which had been one between a central and a local government.
This looked like a game with partly2 reversed roles – the president upholding the banner of Taiwan’s sovereignty, and the opposition leader belittling it. In fact, Tsai had reminded the president of how China views Taiwan – which, after all, is exactly the way it viewed Tibet, half a century ago.
But by Thursday, one day after Tsai’s press conference, the president himself apparently felt a dire need for a pit stop, and moved to reassure voters over his proposals for a peace treaty with China, saying it would only be signed if it was first approved in a referendum. Channel News Asia noted that observers have so far tended to believe a peace treaty is a rather remote prospect, because it will involve difficult questions, such as who should sign the agreement on either side.
And not only who, but who in which capacity, I’d like to add. If Ma trusted the polls, which seem to show him clearly ahead of Tsai Ing-wen, he may not have triggered this debate. Early this month, Wong Chong Xia (黃創夏), in an article for the KMT-leaning China Times (中國時報), had warned that the pan-blue camp better led by more than ten per cent in the polls to make sure that voter turnout wouldn’t bring about pan-green election victories after all.
On October 19, China’s Global Times quoted a UDN (blue-leaning) opinion poll as showing Ma’s support rating at 43 per cent, some nine per cent ahead of Tsai Ing-wen, his “US and British-educated” rival.
Formosa (美麗島電子報), an internet news website, criticized Ma for not planning before acting on something as big as a peace agreemeent3).
Since his preace talks deliberations eight days ago, Ma had
managed to make a joke of his own proposal and give the DPP not only tremendous election momentum, but huge momentum for referendum law reform,
notes A-Gu, who translated some of the Formosa article. And very much to Wong Chong Xia’s chagrin, Ma Ying-jeou, the should-be winner, still acts the opposition leader, following Tsai “right at her bottom”.
But it looks as if even that can’t be done steadily.
1) The Voice of America (VoA) added a somewhat sloppy review of cross-strait relations and their history to its report, apparently with some input from AP and AFP.
2) The reversal would only have been only partly anyway, because Ma explicitly kept to the KMT tradition of regarding Tibet from a “Chinese central government’s” perspective.
3) Formosa’s vice chairman is Wu Tsu-chia (吳子嘉), whose political leanings I don’t know, but who doesn’t seem to care which side will like or dislike a news story, so long as it may be considered a story anyway.
If Tsai doesn’t play the ‘Race Card’…, July 5, 2011