Ma: Taiwan's 'Pragmatic Path'

From the Asia WSJ:


Taiwan’s ‘Pragmatic Path’

February 7, 2006

In recent years, Taiwan has seen its economy stagnate while deep divisions in the political arena threaten to tear apart our country’s social fabric. From our country’s name to its anthem, flag and symbols of national unity, there is little consensus on the issues on the political agenda.

Externally, Taiwan was conspicuously absent from December’s East Asian Summit in Kuala Lumpur. Not being part of either Northeast or Southeast Asia, while refusing to forge closer ties with the Chinese mainland, Taiwan finds itself without friends in the region. That is graphically demonstrated by issues such as the bird-flu threat, which Taiwan is left to fight on its own.

The woefully low popularity rating in Taiwan of President Chen Shui-bian and his ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) is but a reflection of the wider morass our country is facing. The Kuomintang (KMT) and I have watched this deterioration in Taiwan’s situation with sorrow and dismay. Our landslide victory in the local elections of December 2005 was a victory for the Taiwanese people, and a vote of no confidence in the incumbent DPP administration. Although the DPP will still remain in power for the next two and a half years, we cannot and should not shy away from the hopes pinned on us by a majority of voters on Taiwan. Taiwan can do more and Taiwan’s people deserve more.

The key is for Taiwan to refocus itself on greater democracy, openness, and pragmatism. The quintessence of democracy is a government executing the will of the people. In particular, Taiwan’s people yearn for a government free from corruption, a country free from internal strife, and a region free from confrontation.

The KMT must thoroughly rid itself of corruption and illegal electioneering at all levels, and closely monitor the Chen administration for similar misconduct. Government exists to serve the public, not to reap personal gain. We should pursue all corruption and election cases with same, or even greater, alacrity and rigor that I did while serving as justice minister in the KMT administration from 1993-96.

Politically, the KMT should serve as a responsible and responsive opposition party. We should act as a check and balance on the ruling party and the Chen administration, while always keeping our actions within reasonable limits and being mindful of the national interest. As a society, Taiwan has been internally divided for too long. It is time to begin the healing process. To aid this process, the KMT is determined to pursue a course of reconciliation rather than emotional confrontation.

Likewise, the KMT should continue to help lower tensions across the Taiwan Strait. In 1992, when I was senior vice chairman of the cabinet-level Mainland Affairs Council, the KMT administration ironed out a political compromise with Beijing on the knotty issue of one China, known as “one China, different interpretations.” During the 1990s, Taipei conducted 24 rounds of talks with Beijing, including a landmark meeting between Chairman Koo Chen-fu of the Straits Exchange Foundation and President Jiang Zemin in 1998. We participated in these discussions without jeopardizing Taiwan’s security, economy, democratization, or international standing. I see no reason why we can’t repeat them in future.

Taiwan needs a new paradigm – a fresh way to look at itself and others. For too long the country has been torn between its Chinese and Taiwanese identities, between the ideas of unification and independence. The KMT now believes that neither unification nor independence is likely for Taiwan in the foreseeable future and that the status quo should be maintained. The island’s future should be determined by its people, rather than the government. In this fresh paradigm, Taiwan sees itself in a new light. I am confident that as the island further opens itself up, it can only become more prosperous and secure.

It is a hard fact of life that Taiwan lives beside a communist giant. But we need not view our geographical position in a negative light. That communist giant is also the world’s largest factory and source of manpower. Taiwan is also fortunate to be located close to the world’s second largest economy, Japan; and just across the Pacific from the world’s only superpower, the United States. If Taiwan could maintain friendly relations with all three nations, while not making an enemy out of any of them, the island would prosper forever.

Taiwan also has much to contribute to the region. Its political and economic development and its cultural and linguistic receptivity to China, Japan, and the West allow it to play a uniquely positive role among the three big powers. The last thing it needs, and which it can scarcely afford, is to become a bone of contention in the big-power game.

The problem is that, instead of pursuing such a pragmatic path, over the past few years Taiwan has been too “idealistic” for its own good.

During the 1990s, Taiwan was justifiably proud of the political democratization it had built upon its economic miracle. But after the transfer of power from the KMT to the DPP in 2000, the Chen administration got carried away and pushed, in rapid succession, for a referendum, a new constitution, and even a change in Taiwan’s name. Few other countries have amended their constitutions as many times as quickly as Taiwan – seven times in the last 15 years. Yet, even after all these changes, President Chen was still vowing, in his recent New Year’s Day message, to push ahead with another, even more comprehensive round of amendments.

Being a new democracy does not entitle Taiwan to rock the boat in the regional waters. We should instead seek to advance the security and stability of the area. In a similar spirit of pragmatism, Taiwan, while it seeks to defuse tension across the Taiwan Strait, should also demonstrate its determination to protect itself by maintaining adequate defensive capabilities.

The controversial arms-procurement bill to fund weapons purchases from the United States is still pending in our parliament, the Legislative Yuan. I believe all sides need to refrain from politically or emotionally-charged accusations about this issue. Instead we should deal with it by weighing up four factors – cross-strait relations, Taiwan’s defense needs, its financial capability, and public opinion. This is a grand debate about Taiwan’s national security and a valuable exercise in democracy. A consensus forged in good faith will be all the more cherished in future.

Opportunity and challenge always exist side by side. In the last five years, Taiwan has focused more on challenges at the expense of opportunities. With more democracy, openness, and pragmatism, Taiwan can rectify this, and the voyage ahead will be smoother and swifter as a result.

Mr. Ma is chairman of the Kuomintang in Taiwan.[/quote]

:bravo: :bravo: :bravo: Well written Mr.Ma…

It’s just a pity that he is the one and only politician alive in Taiwan today who realises the truth of these statements

[quote=“Ma Ying Jui”]

  • Taiwan can do more and Taiwan’s people deserve more.
  • Government exists to serve the public, not to reap personal gain.
  • The key is for Taiwan to refocus itself on greater democracy, openness, and pragmatism.[/quote]
    There can be little doubt that the light at the end of Taiwan’s DPP shaped tunnel is Ma Ying Jiu… 2008 can’t come fast enough…

Ma, the opportunist, at his best.

This coming from the same party that yelled “Democracy is Dead!” and initiates in violent riots after losing the 2004 election. At this time, Ma looked the other way. Was this in the best interests of the country, Ma? Was this in the interests of unifying the country?

There is nothing new here. The same old vague rhetoric that glows with the twinkle in Ma’s eye.

Where’s the walk behind that talk, Ma?

I would trust a used car salesman more than I would trust Ma to look out for Taiwan’s best interests.

But. hey! He’s the dreamiest!

In Ma’s defense, he was not really head of the KMT at the time. There is only so much one can do when senior members of the party decide to take a certain path.

That being said it is interesting to note that CSB has been framed as a “troublemaker and saboteur” … taiwan.ap/

So what Ma is offering in the near future seems so much better than what is currently being offered to the people of Taiwan.

But like Li Ao once commented Ma is a teflon pan, nothing good or bad sticks to him. And perhaps that is also what Taiwan needs, some who has mastered the art of doing nothing palatable to all parties involved.

Think of it like the TV sitcom Sienfield, a great show about nothing, but you sure felt good at the end of the show.

What Ma said in this following article is not unreasonable. He said the KMT will not be committed to any timetable for unification with China. In other words, conditions for unification are not ripe yet until Mainland becomes a democratic society, respects human rights, and reduces the income gap between the wealthy and the poor.

Even when the above conditions are met, he says the final decision for unification should still be left for the people of Taiwan and Mainland to decide, not by the governments.

When that time comes and a majority of people in Taiwan cast their votes for unification, are today’s TI supporters going to cry foul and whine in the streets? … 2003292659

[quote=“reztrop”]What Ma said in this following article is not unreasonable. He said the KMT will not be committed to any timetable for unification with China. In other words, conditions for unification are not ripe yet until Mainland becomes a democratic society, respects human rights, and reduces the income gap between the wealthy and the poor.

Even when the above conditions are met, he says the final decision for unification should still be left for the people of Taiwan and Mainland to decide, not by the governments.


And if you believe the PRC are going to allow that to happen, I’ve got a Taiwan Straight bridge I would like to sell you.

The question the Taiwanese people should be asking Ma is how he thinks this goal can be achieved. That is,

  1. Democracy and freedom in China (before Taiwan is annexed)

  2. China allowing the Taiwanese to decide their fate wrt independence.

As usual, Ma is thick on the rhetoric, but when push comes to shove – when has Ma stuck to these ideals of “freedom” & “democracy”? Why should we believe that when China starts pushing the status quo, Ma is going to uphold Taiwan’s interests?

To not ask these questions, the Taiwanese are simply “rolling the dice”.

As a 5th generation Taiwanese, I personally don’t think Ma and his ‘friends’ have any right to suggest Unification with China.

Why should the Chinese in the mainland decide for Taiwan?

As for those Chinese in Taiwan who still call China home, they should just move over there. and leave Taiwan to those who treasure it!

Fancy some Chinese (or Italians) who have been in Australia for over 60 years still call themselves Chinese (or Italians)! That would have drawn fierce criticism!

You make a good point …

However, the question arises: Do the Taiwanese have the right to decide Taiwan’s future??

The United Nations doesn’t think so. It is has refused Taiwan’s application for membership thirteen times. The DPP says that the sovereignty of Taiwan resides in the people … but if that is true, then why can’t the people of Taiwan empower their own representatives to complete the application procedures for joining the United Nations or the World Health Organization?

Or … (to put it a better way, maybe I should ask) How can the Taiwanese people obtain the right to decide on Taiwan’s future??

This is a question worthy of serious consideration. The current DPP and Taiwan Independence strategy is not working. (Taiwan’s international position continues to deteriorate … )

In light of Ma’s focus on pragmatism, Bellith, I think the question is not why China has the right - might makes right, unless the larger group is willing to step in and enforce justice.

The ROC has consistently been sold out by its allies and is ignored by the UN, so it can no longer afford to waste time and effort on the issue of why - we need to accept the reality of the situation and come up with new strategies that ensure the safety and prosperity of this island.

Ma will put forth his new model for handling relations between China and Taiwan at the London School of Economics and Political Science in London today.

He predicts that the two will go through confontation, conciliation, and cooperation to reach peaceful coexistence and joint prosperity. This "2P3C"propsal is aimed at forming a new model for handling cross strait relations and this model will be more than simply returning to the 1992 consensus.

Hartzell, this is what I think. I am far from being an expert on the subject of course. Just an ordinary citizen.

even if the Taiwanese legally do not have the right to decide for themselves as yet, I don’t see what right the Chinese have! (On the other hand, if the blue camp gets elected in 2008, what’s stopping them from achieving that goal?)

Taiwansotherside, I have read some of the stuff on your website. Your view is respected/appreciated. However…

  1. When China outperforms other countries in international events, I do not ‘feel pround as I should because we are all Chinese’,
  2. When the Chinese talk about their hatred for the Japanese (esp re Nanjin massacre), I do not ‘feel the same way as I should because we are all Chinese’,
  3. When I am surrounded by a group of Chinese, who more often than not, like to talk about the rapid developement of their country, again, I do not ‘feel patriotic/pround as I should because we are all Chinese’,
  4. When I am told by a Chinese/Taiwanese that we should be very pround of the fact that Taiwan has achieved so much in 50 or 60 years, I do not agree because Taiwan is what it is today, good or bad, because of hundreds of years of hard work!

Just a few examples of why you can not forcibly merge the two different entities into one and call it the same thing ‘in the interests of Taiwan’ . I for one can not pretend to be able to relate to China!

This is coming from someone who once became so excited/anxious to see ‘my lost brothers and sisters from the other side of the Taiwan strait’ for the first time when I came to Australia, only to discover the horrible truth of having being brainwashed and conditioned for most of my adult life by the Chinese Nationalist Party!

No, I do not think CNP has done a good job defending Taiwan. It’s not what they did or didn’t do, it’s why they did what they did.

Just my humble opinion.


You apparently have been in Australia for some time… and yet you call yourself Taiwanese. Just curious, how do you explain the double standard? Or, is there a specific cut-off point that gives you the “right” to identify yourself in one direction or the other…? Is it 10, 20, 40…?

By the way, I try not to place a lot of importance on the issue of identity… but a few of your posts do make me question your identity:

  • not very typical for Chinese of any flavor to misspell Nanjing/Nanking as ‘Nanjin’;

  • I think Chinese or Taiwanese anywhere on this planet should know that shark-fin soup is found in any Chinese community anywhere in the world, specifically amongst the Cantonese.

I don’t think identity has any bearing on the ability to argue issues intelligently. But let’s just say if you’re here to represent the opinions of other Taiwanese, well, I’d be more impressed if you were a more convincing representative.

Thanks, cctang

First off, I only refer to myself as ‘Taiwanese’ in this case to make it easier for the topic discussed here (as opposed to Chinese/Taiwanese or the expats in Taiwan).
I actually see myself as Taiwanese/Australian. Taiwanese because I was born and bred in Taiwan for 19 years of my life;
Australian because I am an Australian citizen, and that I am married to an Aussie. (which explains why I currently live here, and for your info, we do intend to move to Taiwan in the near future!)

My spelling of Nanjing was not the correct way, I quite realize that. My apology for being too lazy to double check it!

As for the shark fin soup, I am aware that it’s usually found in Chinese community. My point was that ‘apparently’ you see more of that served in weddings for Chinese in Taiwan. This is according to friends who have been to ‘hundreds of weddings a year’. Please note, my friends did not draw any conclusions, it was simply an observation.
*Those friends included Taiwanese, and Chinese/Taiwanese.

I don’t claim to be here to represent the opinions of other Taiwanese. Though I disagree with you that identity has no bearing to argue issues intelligently. I simply thought identity was relevant in this topic.

P.S I’d had no habit of grouping or categorizing people in Taiwan as Taiwanese or Chinese until ‘educated’ a…Chinese/Taiwanese.

[quote=“Bellith”]I actually see myself as Taiwanese/Australian. Taiwanese because I was born and bred in Taiwan for 19 years of my life;
Australian because I am an Australian citizen, and that I am married to an Aussie. (which explains why I currently live here, and for your info, we do intend to move to Taiwan in the near future!) [/quote]
So, with this ability to see such subtleties in identity, and with the willingness to define yourself so casually… (after all, what happens after you return to Taiwan? Are you Taiwanese/Australian/Taiwanese? Does your husband become Australian/Taiwanese?)…

Why do you challenge those who identify themselves as Chinese, and also Taiwanese? Why is it your opinion, as an Australian, that only those who self-identify as “Taiwanese” have the right to speak up on the issue of cross-strait relations, while “Chinese-Taiwanese” do not?

That’s the thing, cctang

  1. I do not challenge people unless provoked. :stuck_out_tongue:

  2. I do not believe only Taiwanese have the right to speak up on this issue.

  3. What I do have problem with is people who claim to be Chinese and identify with PRC!!! :fume:

  4. I am Taiwanese/Australian regardless of where I am; Reverse is true for my husband. It’s not complicated, is it?

A lot of my friends actually see themselves as Chinese because of their upbringing, which is understandable though personally the correct term for them should be Chinese/Taiwanese.

The key is acceptance and respect for the host country. Surely you would agree with me on this? (Let’s not get into the argument of whether Taiwan or ROC is a country or not, but you know what I mean)

A lot of my friends actually see themselves as Chinese because of their upbringing, which is understandable though personally the correct term for them should be Chinese/Taiwanese.[/quote]

Does “Chinese” imply allegiance to the PRC/Communist party? I don’t think so. I was born in taiwan and hold a ROC passport but i call myself chinese and don’t see anything wrong with that. Until the Republic of China no longer exists and is replaced by a Republic of Taiwan, i don’t see anything wrong with people in taiwan calling themselves either taiwanese or chinese.

Then you have 1.4 billion people that you have issues with. About 20% of the world population.

So let’s say you have kids in the future, and your child decides to marry someone who identify with Chinese-Australian group. Someone of let’s say HK/Guangdong origins. Follows pop culture of HK/PRC/ROC as well as Autralian pop culture.

Would you object to this union on the sole basis that your child future spouse identifies with the PRC or writes in simplied characters?

Sounds somewhat narrow-minded.

Where to Chinese in Singapore and Philippines fit in on this “acceptable” Chinese scale?

What if they are of WSR descent and are not accepted by the Taiwanese group to be authentic Taiwanese? Of all the presidents of ROC, only CSB has been seen as truly Taiwanese. All the rest are not considered Taiwanese. Mayor Ma is not considered to be Taiwanese. Lien Chen; not Taiwanese enough. LTH; not Taiwanese enough. CKS, CJG; nope, not even close.

CJG even had a Russian spouse, but nobody viewed him as Chinese-Russian. Why is that? Did Russians think he was not good enough to be included in their grouping?

Do you really not see a contradiction in the above two statements?

How does it provoke you, for some random Taipei citizen to declare himself to be Chinese? Do you feel provoked by fanglangzhe? What exactly is your “problem” with them?

Why should we care whether you, as an Australian citizen, “have a problem” with the choices and identities of an actual citizen of the ROC? Why should an Australian citizen be ordering someone who has lived in Taipei their entire lives, and who holds a ROC passport, to “leave” Taiwan?

You are all missing the point here. Maybe it’s the way I put it… :s

fanglangzhe, I can’t (and didn’t) say that people in taiwan who see themselves as Chinese imply allegiance to PRC, not with certainty anyway. What I said was that I do have problem with people who claim to be Chinese AND identify with PRC( China), now that’s two very different things. Did you read my entire post? If you did, how can you still miss my point? You would agree that everyone forms their own opinion based on their life experiences? Well, most people I’ve encountered in Taiwan who call themselves Chinese tend not to identify with Taiwan but with Mainland China, which as I said, is understandable for a variety of reasons. (I happen to have lots of good friends like that).

BTW, is one not entitled to one’s own opinion?

ac_dropout, I thought we were talking about the ‘identity issue’ in Taiwan???

cctang, I see myself as Taiwanese/Australian because I AM a Taiwanese citizen, and because I hold a Taiwanese passport; I also see myself as Australian because I am a citizen here, because I have lived here for 15 years, because I am married to an Australian, AND BECAUSE I RESPECT/ACKNOWLEDGE THIS COUNTRY THAT TOOK ME IN WITH AN OPEN ARMS! I know I wasn’t born here, I know I don’t look like an ANGLO SAXON Australian, am I therefore not an Australian? You tell me!

I have had friends from France, Serbia, New Zealand, USA, Canada, Switzerland, China, Uk, Sri Lanka…etc who have on numerous occasions voiced their anger at migrants who were either born there or have stayed for most of their lives and do not identify with the host countries. Please don’t tell me that ‘respect’ is not an universial language!

My apology if I offended any of you in anyway, it wasn’y intended so, I can assure you.


I mean no direct offense to you, either. You’ve been respectful in your replies, and I will continue to try to do the same.

My point is only that there are plenty of “Taiwanese” citizens: individuals born in Taiwan and holding Taiwanese passports, who would identify (or are ‘willing’ to identify) themselves as Chinese. I don’t know what it means to identify with “mainland China”, but I do know many Taiwanese who:

  • identify with five thousand years of Chinese culture, including paying respect to the the legacy of the Tang, the Song, the Ming, and even the Qing;

  • on more modern terms, identify with Sun Yat-sen’s mission of a revitalized, strong, modern China;

  • on more practical terms, identify with “Chinese” anywhere around the world in terms of at least language, food, and basic family traditions.

I know there are many Taiwanese who don’t feel that way, but there are certainly many that do. These Chinese-Taiwanese have every right to feel proud of their heritage, and to identify with the Chinese nation (not necessarily the PRC) if they so choose. They also have at least the rights to call Taiwanese, at least as much as you.

So, if you want to disagree with these Taiwanese about the future of Taiwan… fine, I don’t deny your right to have your opinion on this matter. But at the very least, respect with all fairness their rights and contributions over Taiwan as well.