FAPA Expresses Dismay At Upcoming Ma Ying-jeou –Xi Jinping Meeting In Singapore
The Formosan Association for Public Affairs – a Taiwanese-American grassroots organization based in Washington DC – wants to express it deep concern about the sudden announcement that Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou and Chinese President Xi Jinping will meet in Singapore on Saturday, November 7th 2015.
The fact that the plans for the meeting were kept under wraps until the last minute is symptomatic for the undemocratic “black box” approach the Ma government has been following during the past years. This lack in transparency in governance was already evident when the Ma government tried to push through the ill-fated Service Trade Agreement in March 2014, and the changes in history textbooks earlier in 2015. In both cases, the matters led to large-scale protests.
The short notice for this meeting also flies in the face of the “No surprises” approach President Ma promised – in particular vis-à-vis the United States – when conducting policy on cross-Strait issues. However, his announcement that on November 7th he will meet Chinese President Xi Jinping in Singapore is one very big surprise.
What are the main drivers prompting this move by Mr. Ma:
1. He is trying to salvage his legacy. As his standing in the polls is way down, he feels he wants to do something drastic to burnish his image. He is generally considered a down-and-out has-been politician. Very few people outside his own little circle believe him anymore.
2. He is trying to turn the tide in the Taiwan presidential elections, where the Kuomintang with candidate Eric Chu is still way behind in the opinion polls. Mr. Chu’s manipulation of the ouster of the KMT’s previous candidate Ms. Hung Hsiu-chu didn’t earn him much credit, and that his poll numbers have stayed at around the same level as Ms. Hung.
3. He wants to pin Dr. Tsai Ing-wen of the DPP down on the cross-Strait issue, and restrict her future room for maneuver by concluding/agreeing with Xi Jinping that cross-Strait “stability” cannot be guaranteed unless Dr. Tsai agrees to embrace the 1992 Consensus.
Many in Taiwan see the “1992 Consensus” as a slippery slope towards unification. They want to keep all options open for Taiwan, and want the Taiwanese people to have a free and open decision on their future.
In FAPA’s view, the present “peace and stability” is only artificial, as it is predicated on the fact that Ma Ying-jeou has given the PRC the impression that Taiwan is inexorably drifting in its direction. As is very clear from opinion polls, that is simply not the case: the Taiwanese people prefer their democracy and freedom.
FAPA believes that:
1. The timing and the way this meeting came about is not conducive to a balanced and responsible debate in Taiwan on future relations with China. With his approach, Mr. Ma is attempting to preempt a DPP government that will be elected in January 2016 from exploring directions that will provide better safeguards for Taiwan’s future as a free and democratic nation.
2. It is inappropriate for a lame duck president to engage in such a meeting only two months before the January presidential and legislative elections in Taiwan. There is obviously no consensus in Taiwan yet on how to move forward on cross-Strait relations. And Mr. Ma does not have any mandate: to the contrary, his pro-China policies have been soundly rejected in both the November 2014 elections and in recent opinion polls.
3. A truly fruitful and productive meeting between the leaders from the two sides can only be held in due time, after Taiwan itself has reached a broad consensus on future cross-Strait relations in a transparent and open political process.