Taiwan Needs a Loyal Opposition

I was wondering for a while if I should write this post. Should Taiwanese issues be my issues? They are, as a matter of fact. America is involved in “cross-strait” affairs, and any country allied with America is therefore involved to an uncertain extent. I’m also feeling involved because our governments limit our diplomatic and business exchange with Taiwan out of fear of Chinese business sanctions (or of losing Beijing’s cooperation in the UN Security Council). Besides, many blogs about Taiwan are written by non-Taiwanese: Chinese, Westerners, and others.

a desk full of shelf-warmers?

a desk full of shelf-warmers?

Ten days ago, I had a discussion with a European blogger in Taiwan, on one of his commenting threads. He had criticized Taiwan’s president for claiming that a “diplomatic truce” with China was bearing fruit. No question – the blogger challenged Ma Ying-jeou‘s statement with good reasons.

I admitted that there was indeed little to like when it comes to how the KMT governs Taiwan, especially when it comes to their attitude to the rule of law. My point was that the government shouldn’t be accused of “selling” Taiwan to China. After all, the Ma government had taken substantial steps to reform the armed forces.

The blogger reminded that the DPP never had legislative power (a legislative majority) during Chen Shui-bian‘s presidency, that the KMT had blocked the Chen administration, and that my comment hadn’t addressed the issue of the so-called “diplomatic truce”.

Our discussion went no further. The following is my reply of January 30th, which is still awaiting moderation there*):

First of all, president Ma is a bad salesman of his policies, and they’d be difficult to sell even if he was a great communicator. What many Taiwanese – as far as I can tell – fail to see is how narrow the range of choices for every Taiwanese government is. Understandably, neither Chen Shui-bian nor Ma Ying-jeou were or are keen on clearly stating how successful Beijing has been in limiting their options. Ma needs to convey the impression that he is in full control, and Chen used to act and talk like if he could lead Taiwan into independence – but he always stopped short of real action.
I’d either blame both or neither big party in Taiwan for being fundamentally oppositional when out of government. Besides fundamental opposition (I’d prefer a loyal opposition in any country, including Taiwan), here were some very practical reasons for blocking the deal, too.
One is that buying arms equipment is never as smart as to strengthen your own R&D in that field – and Taiwan has the capability / potential for such R&D.
Another problem with the arms package in question is that it lacked (and still lacks) what Taiwan needs most: diesel-electric submarines. This has been an unresolved issue since the days of Lee Teng-hui, and the problem obviously lies outside Taiwan.
Thirdly, I agree with the KMT that the DPP’s economic policies sucked. They were hardly visible as an issue. But without a strong economy, there will be no strong military.
And let’s face it: Taiwan needs to be able to defend itself, with or without American support. This is no civil-rights issue. Whoever denies the government the will to defend Taiwan will only help to divide Taiwan’s society further. The DPP can’t demand loyal opposition from the KMT, when it is no loyal opposition itself.

A house divided in itself cannot stand. It makes no sense to question the preparedness of either the supporters of the KMT, the DPP, or any major political organization in Taiwan, to defend their country – not without good evidence. The “A” priority for the Taiwanese should be to defend their freedom to determine their own future – not to fight against each other. The argument about future designs must not damage the foundation of liberty itself.

Some basic unity on crucial issues would also be helpful for anyone outside Taiwan who wants to make a case for their liberty. The Taiwanese opposition frequently acts as if having the country’s independence internationally recognized was just a civil-rights issue which could be turned into practise by taking to the streets. There is nothing wrong with demonstrations. But if such demonstrations are meant to vilify fellow Taiwanese, and to refuse loyalty to the incumbent government on  Taiwan’s most central issue – the threat from China -, any case for Taiwan loses its persuasive power.

President Ma, his government, and the KMT, also need to do better. They need to safeguard the rule of law. And they should stop trying to make the electorate believe that their policies woud lead Taiwan to another victory in the new wave of global competition as a small country. Who is supposed to believe in such ornamental language? If they can help Taiwan to survive and to ward Beijing’s unrequited love off, that would still be more than what the Chen administration – a government blessed with similar beautiful vocabulary as the incumbents – achieved in its eight years.


*) I’m not mentioning my interlocutor’s name here because the loss of my comment on his blog may just be a coincidence, and this post isn’t meant to be a tit-for-tat response – it’s up to every blogger to decide which comments should appear, and which shouldn’t. I’m only wondering if the massive anger about Taiwan’s government may in part be a refusal to face Taiwan’s situation as it is.


BJRB: In the Face of National Interests, there is no Space for Illusions, Febr 6, 2010


25 Comments to “Taiwan Needs a Loyal Opposition”

  1. “If they can help Taiwan to survive and to ward Beijing’s unrequited love off, that would still be more than what the Chen administration.”

    You may be giving Ma’s administration too much credit. Explain to me how the actions of this administration can help Taiwan survive and ward off Beijing, and I will concede you a point. One of the many problems of the Ma administration is that they are pushing policies that could very well undermine Taiwan’s survival, and implying that no other option exists. Just drink their Kool-aid, and all will be fine.

    As for economic blundering, if we are in agreement that both the KMT and the DPP have had their share of follies, then I think it is fair to state that when faced with a choice of two parties, one of which has flawed economic policies that will result in faster assmilation by an enemy and the other which has policies that, while not really effective, at least reduce the risk of assimilation as much as possible, I think I would still prefer the second party.

    Few people think that Ma has to jump up and poke his CCP masters in the eye all the time. But many people expect him to at least be able to stand on his feet in the face of aggression. If not even the president of the country can do this, then who can expect anyone in the international community to do so?

    And whether or not Taiwan needs to be able to defend itself, Taiwan will still need international support.

    Therefore, I would say that your argument suffers from a huge assumption: that the Ma administration and/or the Old Guard really are interested in preserving their country’s independence. I would like to believe that they are not selling out, as you do, but from what I have seen so far, I am not optimistic.


  2. Thanks for commenting, Taihan!

    I believe that the center of my argumentation is this: nderstandably, neither Chen Shui-bian nor Ma Ying-jeou were or are keen on clearly stating how successful Beijing has been in limiting their options.
    Let’s leave the quality of ECFA in terms of business out of the account for the moment – if it really has what it takes to keep Taiwan’s economy competitive may deserve a discussion of its own.

    But maybe we agree that signing ECFA will help Taiwanese producers to remain competitive in neighboring markets, especially ASEAN. Taiwan’s remaining diplomatic clout, and its military capabilities, would wane further, without a more or less level playing field there. Taipei hasn’t achieved a lot in bilateral free trade agreements with ASEAN yet, even though members like Singapore do have a “special relationship” with Taiwan (senior minister Lee: “that’s crucial (…) The mainland knows these were the terms on which we established relations with them”) – and hopes to achieve more by signing ECFA. You and I can both imagine why Taipei’s negotiations with China’s smaller neighbors have been difficult, right?

    I’m not claiming that I can feel what the Taiwanese may feel when Chen Yunlin travels the island as if he was an imperial mandarin, inspecting his colony. All I can say is that I find the spectacle spectacle pretty ugly. If it is true that the Ma government had all ROC flags removed along Chen’s travelling route in Taipei, that’s no better. We probably both agree that feeding a shark with blood preservation doesn’t reduce its appetite. But it doesn’t make me believe that president Ma is a traitor.

    As for the KMT, it looks like a hybrid of a gang and a political party to me. It’s hard to assess, even for Taiwanese people, I suppose. That said, it generated a presidency like the one of Lee Teng-hui.

    As you said yourself, Taiwan will need international support. But even America – Taiwan’s staunchest ally – seems to be happier with the Ma presidency, than with that of his successor. If they expected Taiwan’s government of being “sellouts”, Washington would ban arms supplies, rather than approving them.

    I’m not saying they can’t possibly misjudge the KMT and its intentions. But I think the main problem of Taiwan’s government is that they can’t simply state the obvious: “We won’t get to agreements with China’s intimidated smaller neighbors, unless we do our best for creating better cooperation across the strait”.

    I don’t think that Taiwan is expected to achieve that kind of cooperation all alone. If Beijing doesn’t reply favorably, no decent people anywhere would want to blame Taipei for a failed honest try.
    But to give it that honest try is probably the price for the commitment of Taiwan’s main ally.

    Much of what the Ma administration does is hard to communicate to a constituency, even when it makes sense. It understandably hurts the pride of every Taiwaner. But as for your point that you make about Ma Ying-jeou not standing on his own feet in the face of aggression, I’d like to make the reverse point:
    How can you expect people like me to become directly or indirectly embroiled in a war with China, when Taiwan doesn’t prove that it has done its best to avoid such a war?

    As for understandable misgivings concerning the KMT’s history and practise in government, I’d say Taiwan actually has a political culture – and a free press – which scrutinize the government’s moves. This culture is by no means perfect, and it has to develop in an extremely difficult environment. But that’s exactly why I believe there is something for the Taiwanese to share, no matter if they are KMT nationalists, DPP supporters, or else: pride in what they have achieved so far, and determination in carrying on, with every government.


  3. “How can you expect people like me to become directly or indirectly embroiled in a war with China, when Taiwan doesn’t prove that it has done its best to avoid such a war? ”

    You confuse brinksmanship with patriotism? This is the fundamental flaw in your reasoning. Under your rationale, Taiwan has to take it up the back passage in order to prove that they are doing their best to avoid a war. The problem with the Chinese is their inflexibility. Nothing short of an admission of defeat will do. Hu Jintao, Wen Jiabao, Chen Yunlin among others have all stated this before on various occasions.

    In the Chinese lexicon, Taiwanese patriotism IS troublemaking (brinksmanship). That the US plays into this is beside the point. The US is trying to avoid a war. That is certain. Wars are inconvenient and expensive, besides killing people, and they distract from those oh-so-important “obligations” in the Middle East.

    It is my own opinion that Americans would support the Taiwanese if the Taiwanese themselves could come to a consensus. Naturally, the Americans will choose the path of least resistance when there is no consensus, and when the US is faced with two other foreign wars.

    Of course, one could argue that consensus HAS been reached in Taiwanese society. The number of people who want to unify now or ever is at a record low and keeps falling. Those who keep controversy alive are the pro-China factions of the KMT. Ma is in one of those factions. Therefore, one might say that it is politicians such as Ma that keep Taiwanese from speaking with a unified voice on the international stage.

    As for the ECFA, you have no idea of its benefits and drawbacks. I know this because the explicit details of the treaty are still unknown. This is one of the main reasons the pact is controversial in Taiwan at the moment. Taiwanese hear positive things about the ECFA from the Ma administration. But balanced cost/benefit assessments are few and far between. Until I hear these, I reserve the right to say that your argument about Taiwan’s need to sign THAT treaty in particular are hearsay.

    Please understand that I feel that your intentions in putting forward this line of argument are admirable. We need to give credit where credit is due and give blame where blame is due. And it is true that all Taiwanese presidents will be constrained. No aguments there. But you imply that I should give the Ma administration more leeway because it faces limited options and has to walk a tightrope. Well, limited options does not mean “no options”, and I believe that the particular options that Ma and the Old Guard have chosen are quite problematic. And I see no problem with this line of reasoning.


  4. Brave for you to take on the Taiwanese issue… where nothing makes any sense. For the sake of your sanity, I’d recommend you look elsewhere because Taiwanese politic is your typical politic of a small tribe.

    I am somewhat interested in your usage of “Ma and the Old Guard…”… do you mean to imply there are some sort of enlightened leadership elsewhere in Taiwan that doesn’t pander to nativist sentiments and resort to violence both on the street and inside the legislative hall? The oppositions in Taiwan is either an former authoritarian regime or the ragtag gathering of political opportunists who have about as much political ideology as your far-right gun-owning rednecks in deep south.

    Taiwanese don’t have too much choice to choose from in terms of their leaders. To make the matters worse, all the news media in Taiwan are just tabliod news joints.

    Fortunately, being here in Taiwan, I can attest to the fact that average Taiwanese has developed a much more sophisticated understanding of cross-strait and political issues. Most reasonable people aren’t easily fooled by political posturing from either sides, or our failed news media.


  5. Some Taiwanese are too melodramatic about the cross-strait issues. The underlining facts are simple: Taiwan is a small state/non-state (take your preference because it doesn’t matter) and can only afford the dignity of such small state/non-state. Throughout history, big powers pushes around small countries for their own interest, that include both China and the US. To preserve core interests, sometimes one must kow-tow to the big powers. It is perhaps quite fortunate that somehow the issue that gets picked on against Taiwan is not something material to the livelihood of the people, because for the vast majority of such instances, it directly leads to great suffering to the people. Taiwanese should feel fortunate that people in Taiwan can reasonably expect to live in peace and prosperity.

    Just because US has proped up Taiwan for some times now does not mean Taiwan is US’s core interest. Should US no longer deems Taiwan as important as its relationship with China, US is expected to sell the Taiwanese issue to China for a political price. This should not be surprising for most Taiwanese because it will happen within our life time.

    For a small country like Taiwan to survive and navigate between the crevices of big powers, it takes alot of clear heads. Georgia is the best example to look to if Taiwan missteps. If one has to sometimes bow down and lick some feets, one bows down and licks feets.

    It is important for Taiwanese to not lose sight of the objective. One can vote for peace or one can vote for independence, and I firmly believe the choice is mutually-exclusive.


  6. Taihan, Falen,

    I might not catch up with every point you make above, but I’ll try. So…

    1) brinkmanship / patriotism
    I don’t think I’m confusing the two. So far, I see no difference in how you, Taihan, and I view the CCP. The only way to keep Beijing away from Taiwan in the long run is the preparedness to fight if there is a Chinese aggression. My point isn’t that Taiwan should “take it up the back passage” to prove to people like me that it isn’t the “troublemaker”. But I can only speak for myself. More about the back passage in the next para. My point is that Taiwan needs to convince some of its neighborhood that it has done what it can to come to agreements with them that include Beijing. You have more reason to expect commitment from Taiwan’s neighbors as well as from America – still a major force in the region – to support bilateral rather than unilateral agreements once Beijing has been proven unconstructive – not only in our views. I believe that you can’t expect all relative outsiders to take risks for Taiwan’s sake only because you feel that their pride is being hurt.

    2) “back passage”
    One can argue that the Ma govrenment is going to far in preparing the ground for accomodation with Beijing. But suggesting that Taiwan is “humiliating” itself is very questionable. That would suggest that there was a unified view among the Taiwanese on their national status. But there are “ROC” Republicans, “Taiwan” Republicans, and dunno who else. You might say that every time a Taiwaner opposed to the ROC concept sees an ROC flag, he or she is being humiliated. If such concepts are allowed to divide Taiwan, it will need an even bigger lot of luck in the coming years. At this point, they can only defend their right to choose tomorrow’s definition of their nationality – not so much because war across the strait will break out otherwise, but because unity within Taiwan would take a big hit.

    3) ECFA
    You say that I can’t have an idea about ECFA, because explicit details are still unknown. I can understand concerns that once there is agreement between the negotiators, the government may rush the whole thing through the legislative to avoid thorough discussion and decisionmaking. That may or may not happen. But if it happens, I doubt president Ma will see a second term in office, and many legislators won’t get another term from their constituencies.
    Besides, I believe it is wrong to equate not knowing the explicit details with having no idea. Yes, the negotiations look more like a family affair between the KMT and the CCP than a transparent process with sufficient scrutiny at every stage by the legislators. But that hasn’t kept Lee Teng-hui or DPP politicians from commenting on the treaty.

    4) Dispassion
    There’s a great need for that. Yes, China is a threat, but that shouldn’t drive Taiwan’s politics nuts. The opposition is so busy with labelling the government “traitors” (in a judicially passable way of course) that the issues are out of sight anyway. That isn’t only the fault of the KMT. A lot of real questions would need to be asked: will ECFA – if agreed – be agreed upon within the framework of the WTO? It probably will be, as both China and Taiwan as WTO members are obliged to respect the WTO rule – but the opposition better make sure. Will ECFA indeed give Taiwan free access to ASEAN markets to the same degree as China and ASEAN have to ach other? Without that, the treaty can’t sell.
    Is the opposition being informed about the stage of the negotiations? If not, make it known, but don’t drown such – really relevant – criticism in a stupid bluster of “character” or “loyalty” assessment. Nobody opposed to the KMT can enforce an informative debate when the goal isn’t the best deal for Taiwan (including the option of “no deal”), when the oppositions real goal is the delegitimization of the government, rather than real information. “Put it on the table” needs to come before “you are a traitor”. Loyal opposition isn’t essential because it makes government’s life easier. It is essential because it provides debates about real issues.

    5) What’s at stake, and for whom
    I believe that solidarity is a practical matter. It may also be a moral matter, but I’m not feeling qualified to dwell on the second point. Strife for freedom is natural and something much of the world and Taiwan have in common. It doesn’t matter if the three of us agree or disagree on the details of our discussion – you speak for yourseves, and I speak for myself.
    Falen, you say that you believe that one can vote for peace or one can vote for independence, and that there is no scenario in between. I’m not sure about that, but I agree with you that the second choice comes with a high likelihood of war. That’s exactly my point. That’s why I’m saying that a proclamation of independence is no matter of civil rights. Beijing’s position is wrong, but that doesn’t make it go away.

    That’s what I’m trying to point out. It’s easy to blog and make statements, but to kill and die, or to see family or friends die or suffer isn’t. You can’t expect any stakeholder – not even America – to come to Taiwan’s help unless there is some preparedness among Americans to side with Taiwan. Geostrategic issues come first for a government, but a democratically-elected government must be able to make a case for war to its people. No country will help Taiwan just to defend its feelings or its pride. As obvious as you, Taihan, or I may think the situation is – Taiwan needs to make a convincing case for the global public. I think that president Ma isn’t doing a great job at that, but a better one than president Chen used to.


  7. I think you need to get a better sense of the Taiwan situation:

    1) Taiwan has NO chance, NO chance at all in a military show down no matter how strong a stand Taiwanese makes. And the balance is only going to get much worse. This is not some movie story-line in which some miracle occurs. NOBODY in their right sense would come to Taiwan’s support because Taiwan is nobody’s national interest compare to China.

    2) Some people cares about the whole hide-n-seek with the flags, I quite frankly am beyond caring. The time to care about “dignity” has long past. This is all about keeping heads down and survive while maintaining core interest.

    3) Shrug… I trust the terms are as good as one can expect from ones imposed by a bigger power, whether it be ECFA or the US beef issue.

    4) And you are misunderstanding the political discourse if you think the issue is really about ECFA. Get real. This is about throwing all kind of mud at your enemy. This is about finding the “gotchas” to put the opposition in bad light. The real issue? Facts? Truth? Nobody knows and nobody cares. Typical of Taiwan’s political dysfunction.

    5) Things like “justice”, “right or wrong” is a luxury a small country can not afford. Doesn’t matter if something is right or wrong… hack, Republic of China used to claim the whole of China so I really don’t begrudge PRC for claiming Taiwan as well. This goes to the intrinsic core of Chinese nationalism, and I understand it very well myself. That is also why I trust China to attack Taiwan at all cost should Taiwan declares independence. Makes no mistakes, the political will to proceed with such an attack is unlimited.


  8. Falen,

    maybe I do need to get a better sense of the Taiwan situation indeed. But from your comment, I can’t see in which way I’d need to. I also believe that many within Taiwan’s political class would disagree with your view. The reforms of the army are one step to keep America committed. They are no fun project. And yes, Taiwan does have a chance in the real world – but it certainly depends on the determination of the Taiwanese and it’s not for me to judge such a determination. We can’t predict the circumstances under which Taiwan may formally declare independence, or under which China may pull an ultimatum which would decide the status either way. I understand that you live in Taiwan (I can’t tell for sure if either you or Taihan are Taiwanese or not), but to suggest that Taiwan has NO chance doesn’t look convincing to me.

    As for what you write about (4), I have described the process as it should be if the opposition wants to get something done. That*s not to say that I reckon them to be that kind of opposition. Mind you, I wrote that Taiwan needs a loyal opposition.
    Don’t worry. I’m not the man sitting at the lever which would decide about peace or war / life or death. I’m a blogger who allows himself the liberty to publish his ideas, and to listen. The present tense is no highway code where every rule and its effect are clearly predictable.

    To date, a widely accepted concept has been that noone can by-pass the Chinese market. That may remain the case – but we may also see a more protectionist globe in the coming decades. In such an environment, political and military concepts may also change. The way Taiwan suddenly appeared on the American radar in the 1950s was kind of a “movie story-line”. It may appear on even more radars in the future. No matter which take one may have on current affairs, it isn’t reasonable to simply suggest that there would be “no way”.

    Most people in most generations underestimate their options. I see no need to do that.

    I may not be able to write replies until Thursday night, but I will read here once in a while, and I invite everyone who reads this to take part in this discussion – in accordance with these golden rules, of course. Let’s make the issues talk.


  9. Yes I am very much a “Taiwanese”. By “Taiwanese”, I simply mean I am born in Taiwan. I am still very uncomefortable with the term because it is so sullied over the years by the deep green, who used it to exclude the populace into “insiders vs outsiders”. Some people have hijacked the term “Taiwanese” and defined it into some sort of mystical non-Chinese Japanese hybrid with some wierd invented origin. It comes with it own sets of crass and crude arrogant attitude, to which many deep green uses to target the so-called “outsiders” and attack anyone who disagree with them as unpatriotic and not “Taiwanese”. Their childish dogma is quite laughable and a sad sight to see. Believe me, if such people were in the US or elsewhere, you would have no trouble calling them bigots and hope they get hit by a truck walking down the street.

    I understand it to be something silly and Nazi-like, such as 3 generations living in Taiwan and speaks the local dialects. Previously it also include being able to speak Japanese. I personally would fit all the eye-rolling stringent definition for “Taiwanese-ness”, whatever that means. But even if I were not, and I have many friends who don’t, I’d beat the crap out of anybody daring to take that garbage on me or my friends.

    I digress. Getting back to the subject: Of course the political class and the army have to do the best they can given the deck of card dealt to them. They are not going to simply come out and shout that the sky is falling. They would try to get some semblence of international support and tout Taiwan’s democracy, etc… They are simply operating at the most rational approach possible given such circumstance.

    But the bottomline is simply to glaring to ignore. Taiwan can only move forward under the constraint of China’s strength. And it is also important to note that China’s strength that is very widely recognized in Taiwan to have originated from the their success in the economic reform and “having done the right things.” I think that idea is perhaps even more powerful than the thousands of missiles China has deployeed. China is not just some big bad 2-bit dictatorial country that’s flailing around doing things that suits the moment; it is in fact treating Taiwan as it has approach many other issues, with long-term planning, patience, caution, and fore-bearence. If foreign policy is a chess, Taiwan will still be out-played even if the military dimensions is not a factor.

    China is only going to get stronger and is never going anywhere. And this is not simply a purely intellectual debate on China’s rise — many Taiwanese believe it to be the case and have invested real money betting that future. As someone who has to live in Taiwan for the next 50 years or more, I too have no choice but to undertake the daring exercise that most academic or experts refuse to: predicting China and Taiwan’s future the best way I can. And the conclusion is clear to me: Taiwan must engage China either for its own survival or its economic future. Whatever independence aspiration there is in Taiwan is doomed to fail, and is dangerous not only to Taiwan, but also the entire region. It is in fact in my own interest to oppose such aspiration by voting accordinly, which is “for peace”(AKA “Status Quo”).

    Taiwan has been blessed and cursed with the accidents of history indeed. Taiwan was given some disproportional historical and strategic prominence which brought wealth and opportunities as well as dangers. Sadly, Taiwanese can only recognize such history while resigning to the fact that they have never had a say in any of them. The only option available to Taiwan is often-time “not an option.” We can only await what history has in store of us.


  10. Then it appears that we differ the most in one thing: Our belief in the degree of damage that the Ma administration is doing. As most of the results of his policies cannot be fully known until the conclusion of his presidency, we can set this issue aside for now. We won’t come to an agreement because we don’t really know the outcome.

    As I said before, and I will say again, one of the biggest criticisms aimed at the Ma administration is its tendency to present a course of action as the only legitimate course of action. The refusal to incorporate dissenting views is related to this. Add in a touch of poor communication and of information restriction, and you could potentially have a disastrous situation. I am not saying that an ECFA would be all bad. I am saying that there has been no clear analysis of the benefits and the drawbacks, and no official discussion of alternatives to signing the pact. Success is not only built on free-trade, for example. Taiwan would probably enjoy more economic stability if it provided more support to businesses to invest in other markets besides China. The ECFA, on the other hand, would funnel ties to ASEAN through China, thereby increasing the push for investment in China. This is problematic when Taiwan is already dangerously reliant on the Chinese market.

    The effects of this push could be mollified with transparent oversight of the negotiation process, participation by the opposition, and proper review of the results of the negotiations by the legislature. However, up to now, I have seen no indication that the administration is supportive of allowing such oversight or involving the opposition. And I do have doubts over the legislative oversight. While some KMT legislators have been quick to make their independent voices heard, the fact remains that, as politicians that owe their future political careers to the decision of their party chairman, who just happens to be the president in charge of the branch of government that is pushing the negotiation of the treaty, many of them are not about to stick their necks out to ensure Taiwan’s interests are maintained.

    So we go back to this: I believe that you are giving the Ma administration too much credit. And now I believe you are giving the KMT legislature too much credit as well.

    As for the criticism of Lee and the DPP, we are in agreement that they need to be more than just the party of NO. I feel that they have not gone far enough in presenting an easily understandable and workable plan for the future under a DPP administration. This is doubly irritating because they are in a position to reap enormous benefits off of the unpopularity of Ma. Yet we hear nary a peep about how the DPP would run the country better. However, I believe the volume of their criticism is related to their perception that their views are being ignored.

    Finally, you are right that Taiwan needs to market itself better to the international community. But I think that Ma has actually done marketing of Taiwan a disservice. You are right that you can’t expect countries to come to Taiwan’s aid to salve wounded pride. But you are overlooking the fact that countries also need to believe that there is something to defend. Chen was a big-mouth who, with a softer touch, could have greatly improved Taiwan’s image. But he did market “Taiwan” as a separate national identity. Ma markets only the ROC. This is a problem because the ROC formulation maintains a discourse of temporary separation from “the mainland”.

    Some would say that this gives Taiwan the wiggle room that it needs to surivive. Others would say that it has the potential to greatly reduce support for an independent entity because it reinforces the claim that the two halves of the strait are now and originally were one country. North and South Korea, North and South Vietnam, and East and West Germany all fit into a mould of two halves that should, in the eyes of their citizens, make a whole and that have been artificially separated. And, like it or not, this is how the international community perceives the situation too.

    Taiwan does not fit into this mould because Taiwanese genuinely do not want unification. This idea was actually gaining traction under Chen. Then along came regional administrator Ma, who redefined the status of the country. You can’t expect other countries to want to defend a country that doesn’t even consider itself a country. Whether the opinions of Taiwanese have changed or not since Ma’s election, his comments and choice of a marketing direction have increased the risk of abandonment, not decreased it. Ma has been terrible at marketing.

    I agree that Chen could have spoken more prudently on many occasions, and resorted less to populism. Yet my belief is that the fundamental course he was on was the correct one. His fault was in the execution. In contrast, Ma’s course is fundamentally problematic. By actively redefining Taiwan as a region of the ROC, rather than letting old dogs lie, he has greatly enhanced the PRC’s claim that the “Taiwan problem” is a domestic issue.


  11. I just want to clarify that, when I said in my first paragraph that we can set aside the question of the damage that Ma is doing, I was referring to the nuts and bolts of the agreements and of his domestic policies. I was not referring to his approach or ideology.


  12. Perhaps you overestimate Taiwan’s freedom of action internationally? Does Taiwan under Ma or anyone else really have other avenue of investment that would secure Taiwan against China? Is Taiwan really in any position to “negotiate” at all given China has basically sandboxed Taiwan and sucked all the oxygen out of Taiwan’s “international space”?

    The whole “international support” talk is quite frankly silly. I don’t understand how “international support” will be a factor given how powerful China is now and will be. “International support” has long cease to be a factor in the resolution of Taiwan’s suitation because it is simply not possible that “international support” will halt or even faze China’s action against Taiwan. Perhaps somebody mistakenly believes China can be “detered” from if sufficient pressured is applied in the event of Taiwan independece? International support is a non-issue.

    Maybe some deep green people are still operating under the delusion of Taiwan being part of the anti-China containment axis. US has no real interest in doing that. US quite frankly has better things to do elsewhere than committing American life and resources in a major war with China that’s only going to end massively ugly. It is simply a matter of time US-China relation outweights any committment US has to Taiwan. Better leave Taiwan to its fate. You can expect Taiwan Relation Act to be amended sooner or later.

    On the contary, Taiwan issue is core to China’s soul. China will spare no expense pursuing the Taiwan issue even if they ruin the economy and international reputation. Perhaps China’s will to unify is even stronger than Taiwan’s will to become independent…

    The mismatch of political will is glaring, and pundits and newspapers always fail to point out this fact.

    My perception is, no ECFA = no FTA anywhere else and also forget about any Asian regional grouping. Taiwan can do very little without hurting itself economically in exchange. DPP seems to be quite unfazed at such damage in pursuit of their goals.

    KMT can at least somewhat guarantee that Taiwan will remain in peace no matter the outcome.

    I’ve never felt safe any single day when Chen was president, I felt like the missile is going to rain down any moment because he was going to spontaneously declare independece on any given day. I don’t care if DPP is filled with political or administrative geniuses, until DPP can show that they have a sensible path to peace for whatever endgame, whether it be unification or independence, I’ll always hesitate to vote for them. And no I am not willing to die for “independence”.


  13. If US let Taiwan falls to China, so what? So US got a dent on international credibility… not something that’s worth a major war.

    Why the hell would ANYBODY want to fight China in support of Taiwan?


  14. “Perhaps you overestimate Taiwan’s freedom of action internationally? Does Taiwan under Ma or anyone else really have other avenue of investment that would secure Taiwan against China? ”

    Are you saying that Taiwanese companies are not free to invest in countries besides China? I gave, as an example, the provision of greater incentives to invest in third countries. How is this not possible?

    As for your comments about international support, if it had long since ceased to be a factor, then China would not now be throwing a hissyfit over weapons, now would it?

    “China will spare no expense pursuing the Taiwan issue even if they ruin the economy and international reputation.”

    Really, Feiren? That is so enlightening! You talk as if I have never heard before of the CCP’s intense interest in taking Taiwan, by force if necessary. You also seem to imply that other countries should just steer clear of such situations. Other countries’ interests are not allowed to overlap those of China, it seems. And access to the Pacific, as well as the support of other allies across Asia, is very much in the US’ interests. Or do you think that the US would be readily willing to give up its freedom of movement throughout Asia just to please the CCP? It might happen one day, but not right now.

    “Why the hell would ANYBODY want to fight China in support of Taiwan?”

    Yes, Feiren, I get it. You are rabidly against the defense of Taiwan and you have no compunctions against throwing out every scare-tactic line of argumentation out there in order to prove your point. Some people here are trying to rationally discuss this subject.

    Out of curiosity, do you know how to be anything but contrarian? If so, I will welcome a discussion with you on this subject. Otherwise, I will just turn to the editorial page in the People’s Daily. They at least use amusing English vocabulary.


  15. Sorry, I just can’t resist this. I just love your last paragraph, Falen:

    “I don’t care if DPP is filled with political or administrative geniuses, until DPP can show that they have a sensible path to peace for whatever endgame, whether it be unification or independence, I’ll always hesitate to vote for them. And no I am not willing to die for “independence”.”

    Wow! Now that is classic reasoning! If the DPP comes up with a sensible path to peace, whether by unification or independence, you may consider supporting the party. But since, by your earlier estimation, independence can only lead to war, and since you are not willing to die for independence, then the only course that the DPP could take that would please you would be a sensible path to unification.

    So much for the false attempt at balance. [Taihan turns to the People’s Daily…]


  16. What does “Feiren” mean?


  17. Feiren is someone who I see commenting on other blogs from time to time. I did not look at Falen’s pseudonym closely enough, and I mistakenly typed Feiren twice. Because feiren is someone else’s pseudonym, I thought that the clarification was necessary. My apologies.


  18. I have no idea who the hell feiren is. I’ve used the same Falen tag name across a number of blogs including peking duck, china law blog, etc.


  19. I am not interested in scaring anybody else and quite frankly I don’t discuss politics even with my family. What i say is what I percieve to be true, no more and no less. And so still ask the question: Why the hell would ANYBODY want to fight China in support of Taiwan?

    Perhaps you can answer that question for me to clear up my mind?


  20. Or if perhaps DPP can convince me that independence can be achieved peacefully? Where’s their grand strategy for peaceful independence? Or are they just all bunch of loud mouths, and the biggest of them is a liar to boot who is right now sitting in jail? To think I voted for that cheat 9 years ago brings me inordinate anger.


  21. Thanks for the clarification, Taihan.

    Or are they just all bunch of loud mouths, and the biggest of them is a liar to boot who is right now sitting in jail?
    I have no personal or economical stake in Taiwan, and I’m thinking of myself as a rather sober man with something to lose, Falen, but I can think of situations where I would fight for Taiwan. I’m sure I’m a minority with that in my country, and worldwide, but then, as I wrote earlier, it would be premature to judge the situation before it is here.
    One more point, I don’t think that that Chen Shui-bian is any more guilty of crimes (if guilty at all) than many other Taiwanese politicians who aren’t even under investigation.


  22. Then again… Chen is not just “any” politician. He alone has done more harm to the Taiwanese independence than any single individual.

    Look…. anytime Taiwan negotiates with China it is never about singular issue. Anything and everything, even trivial issue, always comes back to the whether there is a shift on the sovereignty issue. There’s always the sight on the overall balance as well as the “end game”.

    It is very much a game of chess. So it is never “premature” to think about the overall situation. That’s why there’s always the cat-and-mouse game with the “Chinese Taipei” and the flags.

    And please don’t say irresponsible things. Why would you fight for Taiwan? What is Taiwan to Americans? No American president would risk the potential for thousands of American deaths, the wholesale destruction of world economy, collapse of the dollar, and even nuclear war, just to support Taiwan against China. It is simply much easier to give Taiwan up or even force Taiwan towards an settlement.


  23. Sure: Chen isn’t just another politician. But that alone doesn’t mean that he should be in prison.
    I won’t specify here how I might be technically involved if it comes to a war – that would say too much about myself. But you can be sure that my comment above isn’t written on the spur of a moment. I have carefully thought about it.
    You see, a game of chess is just one board with two people making their choices. It’s kind of pictorial to think of life as being just that, but I think that would be the wrong picture. Both circumstances and rules can change without prior notice.


  24. Or if perhaps DPP can convince me that independence can be achieved peacefully? Where’s their grand strategy for peaceful independence? ”

    But you are already convinced that there can be no peaceful independence. Why should the DPP waste its time on you?

    As you said, “On the contary, Taiwan issue is core to China’s soul. China will spare no expense pursuing the Taiwan issue even if they ruin the economy and international reputation. Perhaps China’s will to unify is even stronger than Taiwan’s will to become independent…”

    So why are you asking for a “grand strategy”? It seems to me that you are just posturing. Your comments in this thread, to this point, have amounted to saying, “This is the way it is, things can be no different, and there is nothing you can do about it.” This is precisely the type of non-flexibility that I criticise from Beijing. Even the KMT bigwigs make at least a show of being flexible from time to time.

    Therefore, I take very little of what you say seriously. You could have saved yourself the trouble of all of your responses by just typing: “This is the way it is, things can be no different, and there is nothing you can do about it.”


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