IMPROVED RELATIONS BETWEEN CHINA AND TAIWAN UNDER MA YING-JEOU

MA YING-JEOU’S PLAN TO IMPROVE TIES WITH CHINA

Almost immediately after he was elected Washington Post Ma Ying-jeou announced ambitious plans Sunday to revolutionize economic and security relations with China, aiming ultimately for a peace accord to end the hostility between Taiwan and China. Edward Cody wrote in the Washington Post, “Ebullient after a decisive victory in the March election, Ma predicted he could reach agreement with Beijing on a wide range of delicate issues because, unlike President Chen Shui-bian, he is willing to put aside the question of whether this self-ruled island should be considered an independent nation or a part of China. "The idea is to shelve the issue," he said. Relaxed but closely following his script, he seemed strikingly confident of his ability to move forward with Beijing on agreements covering direct airline flights, increased mainland tourism, commercial ties, confidence-building military arrangements and even a formal end to the state of hostility in effect since the defeated Chiang Kai-shek fled here in 1949 with his Nationalist followers -- including Ma's father. [Source: Edward Cody, Washington Post, March 24, 2008 |+|]

“Ma agreed he was setting out on a difficult course that would be impossible to navigate without equal determination from China. "These are very ambitious plans," he said. "They require the other side's goodwill." Ma said he based his confidence on three years of contacts between his Nationalist Party and China's Communist Party, discussions that bypassed Chen's government and its relentless emphasis on Taiwanese independence. Those talks have led him to believe that President Hu Jintao and the Chinese government are ready for dramatic changes now that Chen will no longer be Taiwan's leader, Ma said. In particular, he cited a statement by Hu in November 2007 in which he expressed readiness to seek a peace accord with Taiwan under certain conditions. "I think both sides have the strong intention to stabilize the situation," Ma said. |+|

“Chen, a lifelong campaigner for Taiwanese identity, centered his two four-year terms on the independence issue, embittering Chinese leaders and keeping tensions high across the 100-mile-wide Taiwan Strait. In contrast, Ma said China and Taiwan probably would not settle the issue in his lifetime and meanwhile would be better off trying to reach practical agreements. They could begin their talks, he suggested, by returning to an understanding reached in 1992 that was repudiated by the Chen government. China has long insisted that the "one-China principle" -- there is only one China, with Beijing as its government -- is a prerequisite for any negotiations. Taiwan endorsed the principle in 1992 but stipulated that both sides interpret it differently. On the basis of that diplomatic sleight of hand, China agreed that talks were possible on a variety of subjects. |+|

“Discussions would not have to be conducted by the Chinese and Taiwanese governments directly, Ma suggested, relieving China of concern over dealing with a government it considers illegitimate. Instead, he said, as in the past, exchanges could be held through semiofficial organizations such as airline groups, tourism associations or the Strait Exchange Foundation in Taiwan and the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait in mainland China. Ma said the first subject of discussion should be direct charter flights to and from Chinese cities, which he predicted could be in operation every weekend by July. From there, he said, negotiations could begin about regular scheduled flights and increasing the number of mainland tourists allowed to visit Taiwan.” |+|

Keith Bradsher wrote in the New York Times, Ma offered “a mechanism and a formula for achieving a peace agreement with the mainland. For starters, he said that peace negotiations should be handled through two semi-official foundations set up with government backing in the early 1990s: the Straits Exchange Foundation, which Ma helped establish on the Taiwan side, and Beijing's Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits. Using semi-official organizations to conduct talks, instead of government agencies, is like shaking hands while wearing white gloves, Ma said. "If you wear a white glove, it is still courteous, but it is not your actual flesh," he said. [Source: Keith Bradsher, New York Times, March 24, 2008 <+>]

“The trickier task is to find a formula that balances Beijing's position that Taiwan is a breakaway province and Taiwan's position that it is a sovereign country as the legal continuation of the Republic of China, the government that replaced imperial rule in China. Ma said that he accepted the so-called 1992 consensus, in which Taiwanese and mainland officials reached an informal understanding, never issued as a formal document, that there is one China but that the two sides interpret differently. Ma offered another formulation, saying that sovereignty issues were too difficult to resolve but that the two sides would have to move beyond denying the legal existence of each other. He described this approach as "mutual non-denial," while providing few details.” <+>

Two of the earliest signs of a likely thaw in relations with Beijing may be shaggy and four-legged: Ma said that Taiwan would be happy to accept Beijing's three-year-old offer of two pandas. "We have already prepared our zoo for that purpose," said Ma, a former mayor of Taipei. "We've already trained our employees to grow the bamboo they eat." <+>

During the 2008 campaign for the presidency Ma proclaimed a ``three no's'' policy -- no unification, no independence, no use of force -- in outlining his planned approach to cross-Strait relations. According to the Korea Times: “This is a clever take-off on the China's long-standing ``three no's'' -- no Taiwan independence; no ``two Chinas'' or ``one China, one Taiwan''; and no Taiwan membership in organizations where statehood is required. [Source: Ralph A. Cossa, Korea Times, February 1, 2008]

Chinese Leader Meets Taiwanese Vice President and Kuomintang Chairman

In April 2008, less than a month after Ma Ying-jeou was elected president, Taiwan vice president-elect Vincent Siew met briefly with Chinese President Hu Jintao, with both saying they wanted closer economic ties. "The visit signals in concrete terms a beginning of detente across the Strait," said Lin Chong-pin, a former Taiwan government official and president of the Taipei-based Foundation on International and Cross-strait Studies. "So far that (detente) has only been atmospheric." [Source: Reuters, April 12, 2008]

Reuters reported: “Siew and Hu talked one-on-one, mostly in private, for 20 minutes with 12 delegates each at the April 11-13 Boao Forum for Asia, which takes place every year in Hainan province of southern China. They sat side by side after shaking hands. "Economic development is the mutual expectation of people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait," Siew told Hu, calling himself an "old soldier" of economic policy. "I'd like to exchange ideas with Mr. Siew on the issue of economic cooperation across the Taiwan Strait," Hu said in televised remarks.

The two sides have not met formally since the 1990s. They avoided politics in the live broadcast portions of their meeting. Siew is attending China's annual high-level annual conference for government and business leaders as chairman of the private, Taiwan-based Cross-Strait Common Market Foundation. He traveled with Su Chi, a defense specialist and former legislator from Siew's Nationalist Party (KMT) as well as with a handful of scholars and businesspeople. Su described the meeting as "candid and harmonious" with "harmonious chemistry." Later China's Taiwan Affairs Office Director Chen Yunlin met for dinner with Siew's delegation.

In May 2008, a few days after Ma Ying-jeou was inaugurated President of Taiwan, Hu Jintao met with Kuomintang (KMT) Chairman Wu Poh-hsiung at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. Xinhua reported: “Hu said that with the joint efforts of the CPC and KMT, and of compatriots on both sides of the Taiwan Strait, the political situation in Taiwan has gone through positive changes, and the cross-Strait relationship faces a precious opportunity. "We should cherish this hard-earned situation," said Hu.He expressed hope that the two parties and both sides across the strait could make joint efforts to build mutual trust, lay aside disputes, seek consensus and shelve differences, and jointly create a win-win situation. [Source: Xinhua, May 28, 2008]

Hu said Wu's first visit to the mainland as the KMT chairman is a major event for relations between the CPC and the KMT and relations between the mainland and Taiwan. He expressed hope that on the basis of previous exchanges and dialogues, the two parties would further exchange views on promoting the improvement and development of relations between the mainland and Taiwan and looking to the future, jointly work for peaceful development of relations across the Taiwan Strait. Wu said the "sky has cleared after the rain" for the cross-strait relationship, and an opportunity for building up mutual benefits and renovating the cooperation has come. The mainstream public opinion in Taiwan expects the relationship to become more good-willed and interactive. There will be cross-strait chartered flights on weekends and residents in the mainland will be able to travel to Taiwan for pleasure, starting from July. He expressed hope that the giant pandas people in Taiwan, especially children, are very fond of, can come to live in Taiwan soon.

Ma Ying-jeou Meets Chinese Envoy and Exchanges messages with Hu Jintao

In October 2008, Ma met with a senior Chinese envoy in Taipei as part of an effort to improve diplomatic ties between Beijing and Taipei after the envoy signed transportation and trade agreements with Taiwanese negotiators. The New York Times reported: The meeting was one of the highest-level exchanges between officials from mainland China and Taiwan since 1949. The meeting between Mr. Ma and the Chinese envoy, Chen Yunlin, began at 11 a.m. and lasted only five minutes. The two officials exchanged gifts: Mr. Chen presented Mr. Ma with a painting of a horse (Mr. Ma’s surname means horse), and Mr. Ma gave Mr. Chen a piece of fine porcelain. Despite the warming of relations, Mr. Ma told reporters on Thursday that “we can’t deny that there still exist differences and challenges, especially regarding Taiwan’s security and international status.” [Source: Edward Wong, New York Times, October 6, 2008 |~|]

“Mr. Chen did not address Mr. Ma as zongtong — president. Doing so would have implied that the mainland recognizes Taiwan’s de facto independent status. The question of how Mr. Chen would address Mr. Ma was much discussed by political analysts in the mainland and Taiwan before Mr. Chen arrived in Taipei, and pro-nationalist Taiwanese were irate after learning that Mr. Chen avoided using Mr. Ma’s formal title.The meeting came as hundreds of protesters opposed to close ties with the mainland gathered around the meeting site, a government guest house, to denounce the two officials, according to news agencies. Riot police barricaded streets and stood in long lines with shields and batons. The previous night, Mr. Chen had been trapped by protesters in a hotel, the Grand Formosa Regent Taipei, while attending a banquet there. Hundreds of protesters surrounded the hotel, chanting, throwing eggs and burning Chinese flags, according to news agencies. Riot police intervened and dozens of people were injured.” |~|

In July 2009, Ma Ying-jeou and Hu Jintao Chinese exchanged messages, marking the first time in 60 years that Chinese and Taiwanese presidents communicated directly. Tania Branigan wrote in The Guardian, “First came direct flights, then freight links, and now a single telegram. Hu Jintao wrote to Taiwan's Ma Ying-jeou to mark the latter's election as chairman of the Nationalist party. Because of the enduring mutual sensitivities, the message was sent simply to Mr Ma, while Ma's reply was addressed to Hu as general secretary of the Communist party. "I hope our two parties can continue to promote peaceful cross-strait development, deepen mutual trust, bring good news to compatriots on both sides and create a revival of the great Chinese race," said Hu in his telegram. "We should continue efforts to consolidate peace in the Taiwan Strait and rebuild regional stability," Ma replied, adding that they should "put aside disputes". [Source: Tania Branigan, The Guardian, July 27, 2009]

Lin Chong-pin, a strategic studies professor at Tamkang University in Taipei, told Reuters that the telegram suggested the Chinese leader wants to meet Ma eventually. "It's sort of expected ... It is in Hu Jintao's benefit or advantage to meet," Lin said. "It would be a personal feat." But analysts believe both sides may take years to weigh up the risks before proceeding.

In November 2009, Hu Jintao met with top Taiwan politician Lien Chan. "President Hu met with Lien Chan this morning from 9.00am to 9.45am (0100-0145 GMT). We can confirm that," a Chinese government spokeswoman told AFP, adding she had no details on the content of the discussions. Both sides have expressed hopes that the talks, on the sidelines of an Asia-Pacific summit in Singapore, will see progress towards the proposed Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA). [Source: The Age, November 14, 2009]

Taiwanese Protesters Attack Chinese Envoy

In October 2008, pro-independence protesters in southern Taiwan pushed an envoy from China to the ground while shouting that their island does not belong to Beijing. Associated Press reported: “The attack on Vice Chairman Zhang Mingqing of the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait was shown on television news broadcasts and comes amid improving relations between Beijing and Taipei under the administration of new Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou. Pictures from Taiwan TV stations showed about a dozen protesters surrounding Zhang at a Tainan temple commemorating Confucius, then toppling him to the ground while shouting anti-communist and pro-independence slogans. "Taiwan does not belong to China," protesters shouted. [Source: AP, October 21, 2008]

“Zhang was helped to his feet by an escort and rushed to a waiting vehicle. A middle-aged man stomped and banged on the vehicle but did not attempt to prevent it from leaving the scene. "The presidential office expresses regrets over the incident and condemns the violence stirred up by a small number of people," said Wang Yu-chi, a spokesman for Ma. The attack on Zhang comes several weeks before a planned visit by Chen Yun-lin, Zhang's boss and the point man in pushing for unity across the Taiwan Strait. Later the main opposition Democratic Progressive Party held a mass rally in Taipei to protest Ma's China policies. [Ibid]

Kyodo reported: “A Chinese envoy who was roughed up by protesters pulled the plug on his Taiwan visit, complaining of soreness and fighting back tears, as political shockwaves from the incident jolted Taipei and Beijing. Zhang Mingqing, left the island ahead of schedule after a mob attacked him in southern Tainan City. ''My body is very sore and I feel dizzy,'' Zhang told reporters before boarding a plane back to China, at one point choking back tears as he thanked Taiwan's police. ''I should not have given the police so much trouble,'' he said. Taiwan's top negotiator for China, Chiang Pin-kun, said Zhang was recalled by Beijing for a medical check-up. [Source: Kyodo, October 22, 2008]

“For local police, heads began to roll before Zhang had even left, with a demotion for Tainan's police commissioner and fingers pointed at the National Police Agency. Security personnel, TV footage showed, were either absent or overwhelmed as Zhang fell to the ground amid the jostling, his spectacles falling off his face. At one point, a protester climbed onto Zhang's car and stomped on the roof, while an elderly woman swung at the vehicle with a crutch. ''No mature democracy would allow plainclothes police to stand by while a VIP's car is stomped on,'' said Sun, formerly a ruling Nationalist Party (KMT) lawmaker. ''Shame on Taiwan.'' [Ibid]

Taiwan and China Trade Pact

In June 2010, the governments of China and Taiwan signed the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) in the Chinese city of Chongqing. The trade pact gives Taiwanese companies tariff benefits in China that are similar to those received by Southeast Asian countries under a separate trade pact with China. According to Associated Press The agreement is the jewel in the crown of Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou's policy of seeking closer economic ties to ease tension across the Taiwan Strait.” Under the trade pact, Taiwanese companies will receive tariff advantages on 539 products exported to China, while Chinese companies will receive advantages on 267 products in the Taiwan market.

Andrew Jacobs wrote in the New York Times, During Ma’s tenure Taiwanese exports and investment on the mainland have soared; at home, the local economy has been buoyed by more than 3 million mainland tourists who began arriving shortly after his inauguration. Those policies, and the wealth that flowed to exporters, helped solidify his support among business leaders and investors. [Source: Andrew Jacobs, New York Times, January 14, 2012]

Thousands of Taiwanese Protest China Trade Pact

In June 2010, tens of thousands of opposition supporters chanted anti-communist slogans as they marched in Taipei to protest a trade agreement with China that they said would undermine the island's self-rule and harm its economy. Associated Press reported: “Many protesters held signs reading "It's a Shame to Embrace Communist China" and "Protect Taiwan , Protect Our Jobs" as they marched several miles (kilometers) along a main thoroughfare in Taipei to the presidential office building. The opposition Democratic Progressive Party is calling for a referendum on the pact, saying Taiwanese have a right to express their views before it takes effect. Police said about 32,000 people participated in the protest, while organizers said there were more than 100,000. [Source: Associated Press , June 26, 2010 */*]

"The trade pact would turn Taiwan into another Chinese territory like Hong Kong," said Chang Kuo-min, a rubber factory worker from central Changhua county. " Taiwanese have worked so hard to achieve the democracy we have today, and we will not allow China to control us." Farmer Wu Hsien-che dismissed China's acceptance of tariff-free imports of some Taiwanese farm products as "sugarcoated poison." */*

“Polls, however, show that more Taiwanese support the trade pact than oppose it. Most of the protesters Saturday were elderly people from central and south Taiwan , the stronghold of the pro-independence DPP. DPP Chairwomen Tsai Ing-wen said the pact would mainly benefit big businesses and make the poor poorer. "China is incorporating our businesses into its industrial chain step by step and making our economy part of its own economy," Tsai told the protesters. "We take to the street today to safeguard the interests of the next generations." The DPP says Taiwanese may gain short-term benefits from the tariff cuts, but that many local factories may be forced to shut down in a few years under an onslaught of cheap Chinese goods. Premier Wu Dun-yih has said the deal will eventually create 260,000 jobs in Taiwan by attracting more Taiwanese and foreign investment on the island. */*

Impact of Ma Ying-jeou’s Pro-Beijing Policies

Keith B. Richburg wrote in the Washington Post, “Since Ma’s election as Taiwanese president in March 2008, China has opened direct air flights between the mainland and Taiwan, allowed more than 2 million Chinese visitors to travel to Taiwan and signed a trade pact granting both sides tariff-free access to a range of goods. Since Ma took over, China has also stopped its longtime practice of pressuring small countries to break diplomatic relations with Taiwan in favor of Beijing. [Source: Keith B. Richburg, Washington Post, December 9, 2011]

Andrew Jacobs wrote in the New York Times, “Beijing has removed its longtime opposition to the island’s participation in some international bodies. The last three years of calm across the straits, Mr. Ma said, have been good for the island and the region. “Taiwan is no longer regarded as a troublemaker,” Mr. Ma said in an interview, “but as a force for peace.” [Source: Andrew Jacobs, New York Times, January 4, 2012]

Displeasure with Ma Ying-jeou Over Improved China-Taiwan Relations

Jens Kastner wrote in the Asia Times, “A relatively large section of the population dislikes Ma for his overly clean, out-of-touch image and what they claim is his submissive approach to Beijing. After all, it was Ma's administration that prohibited Taiwanese from displaying national flags near meetings with mainland delegations. Voices that accuse Ma's KMT of selling out Taiwan's sovereignty are not only being heard from hardcore supporters of Taiwanese independence. [Source: Jens Kastner, Asia Times, June 17, 2010 *~*]

During the two years after losing the presidency to Ma in 2008, the opposition DPP has won six out of seven legislative by-elections and scored important gains in a series of local polls. It hoped to use unhappiness over Ma's China policies — particularly the trade pact — to achieve bigger gains in bigger elections. [Source: Associated Press , June 26, 2010]

Ma’s mention of a possible peace agreement with mainland China produced more criticism than praise. Jens Kastner wrote in the Asia Times, “Though Ma qualified his statement, saying this would only happen in 10 years and only after a referendum, Ma's unexpected move has the opposition anti-unification Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) up in arms. His domestic opponents allege Beijing wouldn't honor the pact and that it would weaken Taipei's status on the strait, while the United States has hinted that such a deal could end its arms sales to the island. [Source: Jens Kastne, Asia Times, October 27, 2011 >>>]

“Despite the immensely lucrative cross-strait economic ties built over the past couple of decades, no progress has been made whatsoever on formally ending the state of hostilities between the two sides. This is why, though mainland China has become the island's by far biggest trade partner, the People's Liberation Army (PLA) isn't showing any sign of slowing its arms build-up vis-a-vis the island. It also explains the absence of even the most basic mutual military confidence-building measures (CBM) in place, such as a military hotline, early warning measures, pre-notification of key military exercises or the signing of codes of conduct for activities of fighter jets and naval fleets. >>>

"The Taiwanese people did not give President Ma the right and authority to initiate talks that would begin political negotiations across the Taiwan Strait and eventual unification," protested DPP spokesperson Chen Chi-mai."How can you safeguard our sovereignty if the relationship under the pact is not defined as a state-to-state relationship?" said DPP legislator Lee Chun-yee. "China once signed a peace agreement with Tibet, which only led Beijing to stage an invasion afterwards," added former DPP legislator Lin Cho-shui said. >>>

Military Hedges on Improved China-Taiwan Relations

Jens Kastner wrote in the Asia Times, “The first months of 2010 have brought about great changes in Taiwan-China relations. Not since the end of the Chinese civil war in the late 1940s has there been such an abundance of goodwill between the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and Taiwan's ruling Kuomintang (KMT). The Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) was signed in June. Against domestic opposition, Taiwan's President Ma Ying-jeou has invested huge political capital in the ongoing cross-strait reconciliation. [Source: Jens Kastner, Asia Times, June 17, 2010 *~*]

“Still, two recent incidents suggest that Taiwan's KMT government is not as submissive to China as its opponents claim. Firstly, Ma has publicly requested that the United States sell Taiwan advanced F-16C/D fighters. Secondly, media reports claim Taiwan secretly tested medium-range missiles this month that are capable of striking vital targets in China. Not only Shanghai and ballistic missile bases on the east coast, but Beijing, Chongqing and the Three Gorges Dam are now believed to be within range of Taiwan's arsenal of deterrent weapons. *~*

“Despite Ma's maneuvers, there has been none of Beijing's hallmark tirades against Taiwanese arms projects, and China has been remarkably quiet. While Beijing snubbed United States Secretary of Defense Robert Gates on his recent Asia trip over the possible sale of F-16C/D fighters to Taiwan, it has refrained from criticizing Ma's administration over developments that could revive a cross-strait arms race. *~*

“To make up for Ma's weak image and to counter widespread criticism that the Hong Kong-born president simply "doesn't love Taiwan", the newly fueled notion that the KMT government seeks to obtain powerful Taiwan-made deterrent weaponry could come in handy. The missile tests show Ma standing up to China, but also to the US. In Taiwan, there is a widespread public perception that the US has been overcharging in arms deals.” *~*

Ma Ying-jeou’s Policy Towards China in His Second Term

After Ma was re-elected to his second term, Andrew Jacobs wrote in the New York Times, “China’s senior leaders have expended a great deal of political and economic capital trying to woo the island’s skeptical citizenry. The relatively close margin [in elections], however, highlights the deep divisions among an electorate still wary of China’s intentions. Dealing with China may prove far more complicated during Mr. Ma’s second term, analysts say, because after the low-hanging fruits of trade and transportation pacts, Beijing may seek to tackle thorny political issues. “I think it’s clear that much of what has been accomplished has been a set of easy issues,” said Bonnie S. Glaser, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. “The upcoming agenda could include much tougher issues.” [Source: Andrew Jacobs, New York Times, January 14, 2012 /*\]

Reuters reported: “Ma’s China policy is centered on not declaring independence but also not moving toward unification. Despite critics saying that his policy of detente could lead to unification with China, he is seen unlikely to allow that. “There’s a majority position that is in support of maintaining the status quo, the numbers of people that want unification or independence are very, very small,” said Bonnie Glaser, a leading U.S. scholar on Taiwan issues. “He (Ma) wants to do what is in the interests of the majority in Taiwan. I think it’s extremely unlikely that he’ll move away from that position.” [Source: James Pomfret and Jonathan Standing, Reuters, January 14, 2012]

Peter Enav of Associated Press wrote: “Economy first, politics later — if ever. That's the mandate Taiwanese voters gave their newly re-elected president on relations with the Chinese mainland, which is bent on achieving unity with the democratic island but will have to wait for it. President Ma Ying-jeou told reporters there is no clear timetable for beginning any political talks with the authoritarian mainland. "With mainland relations, we will work on the economy first and politics later, work on the easier tasks first and the more difficult ones later," Ma said after winning a second four-year term. "There is no rush to open up political dialogue. It's not a looming issue." "My formal capacity is the president of the Republic of China," he said, referring to Taiwan's official name. "It will not be possible for me to meet with mainland leaders in another capacity. People here would not accept it." [Source: Peter Enav, Associated Press, January 15, 2012]

No Chinese leader could acknowledge Ma's status as ROC president, because to do so would be to accept that a separate China exists alongside the People's Republic. That violates the so-called "one-China policy," the central canon of Beijing's approach to Taiwan for the past 62 years. Although the Nationalists formally advocate unification between the sides, they reject the idea of doing so under mainland communist rule and have decisively sidelined the issue in favor of maintaining the status quo. There is considerable appetite in Taiwan for pursuing the kind of economic deals that Ma brought to fruition during his first term. That contrasts sharply with a strong local resistance to engaging China politically, out of fear that any deal could undermine the island's hard-won democratic freedoms. Polls over the last 10 years have shown that no more than 10 percent of Taiwanese favor union with the mainland, with most of the rest supporting an open-ended continuation of Taiwan's de facto independence.

Ma Ying-jeou Promises to Abide by ‘One China’ Policy

In April 2013, Ma Ying-jeou renewed his support for the “One China” policy as the island marked the 20th anniversary of historic talks with former bitter rival China. Ma Ying-jeou of AFP wrote: “Ma pledged to maintain the status quo which he said was to the island’s benefit. Taipei is becoming increasingly reluctant to push for political negotiations with its giant neighbor due to a lack of consensus among its people.“No matter where we are, here or abroad, we’ll by no means push for ‘Two Chinas’, ‘One Taiwan, one China’ or ‘Taiwan independence’,” the president said in a speech to mark the anniversary. [Source: Ma Ying-jeou, Agence France-Presse, April 29, 2013 *-*]

“The landmark 1993 negotiations in Singapore were the first high-level talks between Taiwan and China since the Kuomintang government fled to Taipei in 1949 after losing a civil war on the mainland. Under the “One China’ policy, each side formally asserts its claim to be the legitimate ruler of both Taiwan and the mainland, meaning that Taipei rules out making any formal declaration of independence for the island. Beijing has threatened to invade in response to any such declaration. *-*

“China angrily suspended negotiations in 1999 in protest at controversial remarks by Taiwan’s then-president Lee Teng-hui, when he referred to Taipei-Beijing ties as “special state to state” relations. Dialogue resumed in 2008 after Ma, from the China-friendly Kuomintang party, came to power, ending the eight-year rule by the China-sceptic Democratic Progressive Party. The past five years have seen improved economic cooperation, including the signing of a historic trade agreement and direct flights across the Strait. But the idea of political, as opposed to trade, talks with the mainland is highly sensitive in Taiwan. The DPP and the smaller but more radical opposition party Taiwan Solidarity Union strongly oppose the “One China” principle, which Beijing insists is the basis of negotiations.” *-*

In the meantime the DPP eased up on its anti-China stance. In 2010, Michael Wines wrote in the New York Times, “Despite their anti-China rhetoric, the Democratic Progressives have themselves begun to warm to Beijing. Although the party opposed the trade agreement negotiated by Mr. Ma, it has muted its criticism in the face of the accord’s broad popularity among ordinary citizens. The party’s popular mayor of Kaohsiung, Chen Chu, broke the ice with mainland leaders in mid-2009 by visiting Beijing to promote an athletic competition in her city. More recently, the party’s chairwoman expressed willingness to start a dialogue with Beijing, according to Lin Chong-Pin, a former deputy defense minister who is now a professor at Tamkang University. [Source: Michael Wines, New York Times, November 26, 2010]

Image Sources:

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Tourism Bureau, Republic of China (Taiwan), Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, and various books, websites and other publications.

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© 2008 Jeffrey Hays

Last updated June 2015

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