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Ma's Message to China's Leaders

Posted by: Bruce Einhorn on May 20, 2008

A lot of Taiwanese are counting on Ma Ying-jeou, who took office today as Taiwan’s president, to boost economic ties with China. But Ma knows that the vast majority of ordinary Taiwanese also don’t want him to do anything to disrupt the status quo in which Taiwan is a de-facto independent country. How is Ma going to manage to balance the two demands? He gave some hints in his inaugural address today. First of all, he made sure to use Taiwan’s official name, the Republic of China, several times, a nod to the Communists that he recognizes the island’s links to the mainland. Ma talked about “our common Chinese heritage,” another gesture to Beijing, and spoke about the Sichuan earthquake, saying all Taiwanese “offer our deepest condolences to the earthquake victims and pay homage to the rescue workers.”

Ma also went out of his way to praise Chinese President Hu Jintao - or, as Ma called him, pointedly dropping his counterpart’s official title, Mr. Hu Jintao - saying that when it comes to cross-straits relations, “his views are very much in line with our own.” Added Ma: “People on both sides should do their utmost to jointly contribute to the international community without engaging in vicious competition and the waste of resources. I firmly believe that Taiwan and mainland China are open-minded enough to find a way to attain peace and co-prosperity.” Ma talked hopefully about measures to improve ties, such as the launch of direct flights between Taiwan and the mainland this summer and his government’s decision to open Taiwan for the first time to large numbers of mainland tourists.

But Ma also made it clear he doesn’t intend to move quickly to change the basics of the cross-straits equation: “Under the principle of ‘no unification, no independence and no use of force,’ as Taiwan’s mainstream public opinion holds it, and under the framework of the ROC Constitution, we will maintain the status quo in the Taiwan Strait.” Unlike Chen Shui-bian, Ma’s independence-minded predecessor, Ma figures that the Taiwanese can keep that status quo going for a while by at least talking about the possibility of moving closer to the mainland at some point down the road – if China moves toward democracy. “We care about the welfare of the 1.3 billion people of mainland China, and hope that mainland China will continue to move toward freedom, democracy and prosperity for all the people,” he said. “This would pave the way for the long-term peaceful development of cross-strait relations.” (Emphasis added.)

In an indication of just how long-term that development is likely to be, Ma boasted in his speech about the way Taiwan’s democracy has developed and alluded to the lack of progress in the mainland’s political reform. “On the day of Taiwan’s presidential election, hundreds of millions of ethnic Chinese worldwide watched the ballot count on TV and the Internet. Taiwan is the sole ethnic Chinese society to complete a second democratic turnover of power. Ethnic Chinese communities around the world have laid their hopes on this crucial political experiment. By succeeding, we can make unparalleled contributions to the democratic development of all ethnic Chinese communities. This responsibility is ours to fulfill.”

It must be a huge relief for the leaders in Beijing to have someone in the Presidential Palace in Taipei who at least pays lip service to their concerns. That’s a big improvement over where things stood with Chen Shui-bian. So while they might not like his talk about maintaining the status quo, Ma is likely to enjoy a nice cross-straits honeymoon, as the media on both sides focus on the upcoming news about direct flights and mainland tourists.

Reader Comments

Henry L.

May 20, 2008 1:02 PM

This is the best way to maintain lasting pease. Taiwan not promoting "independence" and China not threathing Taiwan. The longer the status quo is maintained the better off both sides will be. Given time, China would probably move towards more democracy provided this is not derailed by external or internal forces.

Richard Liu

May 20, 2008 5:54 PM

Joining Taiwanese software talent and the Mainland Chinese Hardware availability they are able to capture the world market. As long as both side stop enlarging the policical differences and enhance on the mutual economic strength, they will take the whole world.


May 20, 2008 8:34 PM

Ma is very green in political affairs in the international arena. He thinks he can fool around and gets what he wants from the China’s communist leaders. He is just another independent promoter but of course with a different camouflage.


May 20, 2008 9:32 PM

"independent promoter"? Is there such a thing as "dependent promoter" one can find in Taiwan?


May 20, 2008 9:41 PM

I just hope Ma can get Taiwan's economy to rebound.We were ahead of Korea,only o fall due to Chen Sui-Bian's policies.I think it is time we can have Visa free travel just like the Koreans.

ordinary people

May 20, 2008 10:35 PM

The inaugural speech has been being considered as an important guidance to what Mr. Ma might do to improve the relationship across the strait. The princile is still there: No independence, no military threat. I think at this moment both side can live with this. From the long run, this might change. Most of Taiwanese want to keep the status quo. This is fine with me. But I never think that Taiwan is an independent country. Should it be united with mainland? The answer is Yes.

sky zeng

May 21, 2008 3:02 AM

Ma is pig head


May 21, 2008 9:23 AM

ma is wise in his speech.
it is the best choice not to get any tension between the island and the mainland. so both sides can develop peacefully which contributes to world peace.if any tension arise, there would be rumours and the other nations can take advantage of it.


May 21, 2008 10:26 AM

Taiwan has always been separated from China, except for 4 short years, 1945-49. It was ruled by the Portugese and later the Dutch until Cheng Chen-Kong, a Ming Dynasty general who took refuge in Taiwan when the Manchurians conquered and ruled China. Cheng's grandson was defeated by the Mancurians, but then Taiwan was ceded to Japan after the 1st Sino-Japanese War in 1895. Taiwan was later ceded to Chiang Kai-Shek's Republic of China in 1945 after the end of WWII. Within 4 years, China was taken over by the Communists. Taiwan has been separated from China in its entire history, except for 4 short years.


May 21, 2008 10:57 AM

Irrespective of Mr. Ma's real intentions, unification is inevitable, albeit may not be during Mr. Ma's term(s). Mr. Ma knows Taiwan will turn into a wasteland in 20 years or so if it does not reintegrate itself economically and culturally with the Mainland. As a Chinese compatriot, I hope unification will be achieved in my life time. It will be a wonderful life if I can witness the reunification of Xianggang, Aomen, and Taiwan with the Mainland.

Richard Liu

May 21, 2008 11:46 AM

To the businessman who travelled frequently to China, you would want to see that you may take an EVA or China Airline flight from USA to Taipei and have the plane take you from Taipei to any City in China directly.( and not enroute to 3rd location). Much of business man's time can be saved this way. Will this happened from July 2008?
It needs the wisdom of the 2 leaders to make this happened.

Roger L

May 27, 2008 2:08 PM

I'd be surprised to see Ma making any significant policy decisions. He is not known to do so. So don't expect much during his term.


May 27, 2008 10:31 PM

Democracy doesn't work--take a look at America...

Those who are uneducated shouldn't have any decision making power, because they lack the knowledge and decision-making framework(s) of those who are educated... This is a particularly dangerous mix--masses of under-qualified wanna-be decision-makers who play a role in decision-making for a nation's future...

A great example of this is how Bush (the idiot) made it to office, two terms in a row... Leave it to democracy; it's about to happen again--the masses of under-qualified decision-makers (granted power via "DEMOCRACY") will put another inexperienced wanna-be leader (Obama) in the presidential office... The one great thing about Communism is that, when the ignorant and uneducated try to make illogical and irrational changes, they are stopped or moved aside! In the US, this is not the case (it's a cycle of stupidity)...

I hope to never see the day when China puts a democratic system in place... It's like the tortoise vs. the hare; think of communism as the tortoise and democracy (republicans included) as the hare... Do you remember how the story goes?


May 31, 2008 3:57 PM

To Alishan;

You forget the people who lives in both side of straits were from the same stock. People determine political identity, that is, Chinese live on both side of straits belong to one China. Chinese people living in Taiwan now are shortsighted, narrow minded, and closed hearted to their mainland brothers and sisters. We can forgive them since we are the leader in one China.

Go, ABC, MBA; At least for now. Except it is not cycle of stupidity in US, because it is not a true democracy. That is the reason US is strong. Except it wants to fool everyone else into the "stupidity".

Neville Chamberlain

December 7, 2008 3:50 PM

To all those of you who voted Ma and the KMT back into power, are you happy now?

I believe it is peace for our time. We thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

And now I recommend you to go home and sleep quietly in your beds.

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