Taiwan Vignette III, Vincent Siew and the High Cost of Humiliation

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Sunday April 27, by Jerome F. Keating Ph.D.

A short while ago, vice-president-elect Vincent Siew of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) returned from the Boao Forum in Hainan. Siew's trip was hailed by Taiwan's Pan-blue press as a breakthrough; the kind of thing we need to stimulate Taiwan's allegedly faltering economy, after all, we only had 5.7 % growth last year. While there at the forum, Siew had a chance to have a twenty minutes meeting with China's president Hu Jintao. At that meeting Siew brought up four requests including the resumption of a cross-strait dialogue, normalization of bilateral trade and economic ties, weekend cross-strait charter flights and opening Taiwan to Chinese tourists. Hu endorsed two of these proposals, the opening of Taiwan to more Chinese tourists and weekend charter flights.

As for other matters, he said he would give them deep thought, probably similar to the deep thought he is giving to Tibetan matters.

Since all previous problems between China and Taiwan were Taiwan's fault, just like all previous problems between China and Tibet are Tibet's fault, this was a breakthrough. But let's look more closely at what constituted this great breakthrough. First of all, for Siew to attend, he had to fork out a quarter of a million dollars US no small change plus expenses for him and his delegation (a charter plane and 12 member entourage). All this for twenty minutes of Hu Jintao's time and the promise that we may be seeing more Chinese tourists, quite a breakthrough. But that is not all, Siew could not sit in a place of respective honor, he had to sit with the other lackeys of China's Special Administrative Regions (SARs). Yes, here was Taiwan's future VP sitting with the lackeys. Nothing like getting Taiwan needed exposure in international eyes. I wonder what kind of message that sent about what we could hope for from the new in-coming Ma Ying-jeou administration and its views on national sovereignty.

Ma had come later and was to have a press conference with reporters and media on Thursday; that was later cancelled and transferred to Sunday; then Ma cancelled again because he wanted to get his facts straight with Siew. Of course Ma promised that they would pick up the tab for hotel expenses etc. for all media because they would have to spend another night. That's nice; I wonder who actually paid the bill for all these expenses and miscommunications? Was it the Cross-Straits Common Market Foundation? The Taiwan taxpayers? When the dust had settled, I am left with the nagging question, is this really a breakthrough or a premonition of the high cost of humiliation?