KMT Chairman Ma Ying-jeou In Washington: Unreal, Unclear And Unacceptable

The visit of KMT Chairman and Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou to Washington DC on March 22nd and 23rd 2006 raised more questions than that it brought answers.

The main theme of his presentation at the various think-tanks was that he could forge a peace agreement with China for 30/40/50 years, and that he could pull this off because “both sides” would work forward based on the so-called “1992 consensus”.  The key problem with this rosy scenario is that China never accepted the KMT’s version of “each side its own interpretation” (of what ” One China” means).  In fact, it recently became clear that the “1992 consensus” never existed: KMT legislator Su Chi admitted that it was a fabrication.

Mr. Ma’s proposal is thus unreal at several levels, but mainly because it presupposes that the PRC will accept the ROC as a sovereign entity — an ROC to which Mr. Ma said he proudly “pledged allegiance.”  China has consistently rejected the ROC as a continuing political entity.  The proposal also looks very much like the old “interim agreement”  proposed by Prof. Kenneth Lieberthal, which has been dismissed as unacceptable by both China and Taiwan.

Mr. Ma said that he wanted to work towards “common vision” of  peace and  prosperity between Taiwan and China.   He said that if the KMT comes to power, it will keep the five noes, and  affirm the status quo.  Throughout his stay in DC, he never discussed the fact that Taiwan’s democratic transition was driven by the DPP, and that the KMT  — as Taiwan’s former authoritarian regime —  had been responsible for the island’s  unhappy,  undemocratic past.

When asked during the Brookings session and at the National Press Club why it seemed that the Kuomintang was seeking reconciliation with the undemocratic rulers in China when it was unable to move towards reconciliation with the democratically-elected DPP government in Taiwan, Mr. Ma was again evasive, and started to talk about totally unrelated topics.

However, Mr. Ma was most vulnerable when he started to discuss the KMT’s plans for the future: he said the five noes are too passive, and that therefore he proposes the “five do’s”: 1) resume talks between two sides, 2) work towards a peace accord in which both sides agree neither move towards independence or unification for 50 years.  3) Have Military Confidence Building Measures, 4) try to achieve a modus vivendi on Taiwan’s participation in international organizations, based on pragmatism  (no specifics….), and  5) accelerate cultural and educational exchanges, recognize degrees from Chinese universities and accept Chinese students in Taiwan universities.

FAPA President C.T. Lee commented, saying that for the past six years the DPP government has expressed its willingness to sit down with the Chinese government, but that Beijing has always insisted that Taiwan accept the “One China Principle” as defined by Beijing.  As this would violate the sovereignty of Taiwan as a free and democratic nation, the DPP government has refused.  Mr. Ma said nothing about whether he would accept  Beijing ‘s “One China” definition.

Mr. Ma’s plans were also criticized by think-tank scholars at the American Enterprise Institute and the Heritage Foundation, who said that Ma’s plans seem to draw Taiwan into a Chinese sphere of influence, and that this would be detrimental to US strategic interests in East Asia.

On  another important issue on the table – the KMT’s blockage of the special budget for the arms package approved by President Bush in 2001 —  Mr. Ma tried to play a partisan game by blaming the DPP government, while neglecting to mention that it was the KMT caucus in the Legislative Yuan that blocked the budget proposal for 47  times during the past two years, preventing it from even being placed on the agenda of the legislature for any discussion.   He also did not mention that the arms package was defined in the late 1990s, when the KMT was still in power.

In response by a direct question on the issue by former DOD and  National Security Council official Kurt Campbell at a meeting at Brookings, Mr. Ma remained characteristically vague, only saying that the KMT supported a “reasonable arms package”, but adding that this depended on a) Taiwan’s defense needs, b) the Cross Strait situation, c) the financial picture, and d) public opinion.  In other words:  just some generalities and no commitment.

Mr. Ma also said he opposed the purchase of PAC-3 missile defense system on the basis of the logic that it “failed” in the March 2004 referendum (it actually received an overwhelming support — some 90% — of those who voted, but didn’t receive the required 50% of eligible voters –  as is required for a referendum), but at the same time he does support Cross-Strait Dialogue, which was the topic of the second clause of exactly the same Referendum.

(March 24, 2006) KMT Chairman Ma Ying-jeou In Washington: Unreal, Unclear And Unacceptable