The Ma Government on Taiwan: Zelig, Ah Q, or Worse?

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Tuesday February 25, by Jerome F. Keating Ph.D.

It's no secret that Ma Ying-jeou has been regularly called a "bumbler" in both local and international media. Nor is it a secret that his competence has been called into question even by members of his own party, the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT). But a different and more serious question has been popping up recently. This question arises whenever Ma and/or his people attempt to "clarify" his position on matters like the ROC's Constitution, Taiwan's territorial rights, its history etc. That question is, "What universe or fantasy world do they live in?

For some, at first it had seemed that Ma simply did double talk. He would speak out of one side of his mouth when talking to Taiwanese and another to people outside Taiwan. For example, he has repeatedly stressed that the time is not right for political negotiations with China and that he will only do it with the approval of the Taiwanese people. Yet without consulting the people, and even to the point of ignoring them, he seems to be feverishly and desperately trying to set up such negotiations. Here, the recent cross-strait Wang-Zhang meetings are a case in point; though the Legislative Yuan had stated that there should be no political talk; serious doubts hang in the air.

Such double talk had happened in the past. Ma has told the people that they should respect the Republic of China (ROC) flag and yet when students have shown it at an international sports event in Taiwan and with the People's Republic of China (PRC) participating, the students were scolded and told to remove it. Even worse there was the case when people had displayed the flag during the visit of Chen Yunlin of the Association for Relations across the Taiwan Strait (ARATS). The police manhandled those people. Such harsh treatment would not happen unless the perpetrators knew they had approval from higher up.

Posing adds to this questionable matter. Ma basks in the fact that he is president of the ROC and yet he sidesteps and omits his title when visitors of the PRC are present. Similarly, the failed "political assassination" of Wang Jin-pyng over ECFA has been masked as being "anti-corruption." Further, Ma says that he is Taiwanese but never acknowledges a "Taiwan minzu;" instead he constantly stresses a zhonghua minzu and that he is a descendent of the Yellow Emperor, something from the history of China and not Taiwan.

Others have interpreted Ma differently and see him as a "Zelig figure," one trying to please everyone. Some go so far as to suggest that he may be schizophrenic or suffer from Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD) or even have a "sociopathic streak." Whatever perspectives people have of Ma, however, it seems that no sooner has one issue quieted down than again the public is reminded of the problem. Hence the question, "What universe or fantasy world do Ma and his associates live in?"

The most recent kerfuffle arose with the February 5th op-ed by James Wang "Distortions about Cairo Declaration aid China" and the response to it by Taiwan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) on February 12th "MOFA on Taiwan's status." Wang in turn ably responded to that with clarity on February 14th, "What is MOFA hiding?"

In this, for the man on the street, the simple, obvious question about any relationship between the San Francisco Peace Treaty (SFPT) and the Cairo Declaration would be this. "If the Cairo Declaration was so clear in intent on Taiwan's retrocession to the ROC as MOFA goes into great detail to claim, then why would the treaty not state such instead of just saying that Japan "renounces it rights" over Taiwan without designating anyone as the recipient?" This treaty took effect seven years after WWII (1952); it was not a hurried decision in any confusion or generosity of victory in 1945.

All this is the raison d'etre of the renewed question "What universe or fantasy world do Ma and his associates live in?" For after much twisting, MOFA had concluded that Taiwan is "Chinese territory," which in turn is the ROC, "as far as we are concerned."

MOFA tried to bolster its argument that the fate of Taiwan cannot be "undecided" with an out of context quote from US president Harry Truman in January 1950. It ignores the fact that in that same month Truman "at the time" said he was finished giving any more money to the corrupt government of the ROC and in June of the same year stated, "The determination of the future status of Formosa must await the restoration of security in the Pacific, a peace settlement with Japan, or consideration of the United Nations." That was pre-SFPT, and the treaty never went any further.

MOFA also totally ignores that since then the US government has consistently and repeatedly stated to this day that Taiwan's (Formosa's) status is still "undecided;" Raymond Burghardt, Chairman of the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) said such just a few years ago in Taiwan. Yet MOFA makes the conclusion that this "holds no water." The question continues, "What universe or fantasy world do Ma and his associates live in?"

James Crawford whom MOFA had also taken out of context acknowledges, "The ROC has no status as far as the UN is concerned." Since the Ma government has given up applying for membership in the UN as the ROC, is the Ma government waiting for a tooth fairy like figure to give it status and return it to the UN in glory and as the rightful owner to China? Who will break the bubble of this world of Ah Q?

One can only wonder and ask another question, namely that of the heading of Wang's rebuttal of MOFA. "What is MOFA hiding?" Are these the coping mechanisms of MPD? Is what is at stake, the covering of the shame of some 40 years of the ROC's White Terror and Martial Law while masquerading under the guise of supporting Taiwan democracy? Or is there something deeper and more devious?