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Home > East Asia > 

It Takes Two to Keep the `Status Quo' Balanced
Paul Lin
4/5/2006

In response to suggestions that Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Ma Ying-jeou had accepted independence as an option for Taiwan, he outlined his position as follows: "Maintain the status quo, a truce between unification and independence forces, adopt a pragmatic approach in relations with China and mobilize all Taiwan's people."

In view of the political reality across the Taiwan Strait, Ma's remark simply proves he is either incredibly naive about cross-strait relations, or he is only intent on pleasing Beijing.

After taking over the KMT chairmanship, Ma stressed that Taiwan should maintain the cross-strait "status quo." But since there are two sides to the Taiwan Strait, any unilateral wishes are utterly insignificant.

As China continues its military build-up and Taiwan drags its feet over the proposed arms procurement budget to buy weapons from the US, the fragile "status quo" is clearly in danger of falling apart.

The KMT, therefore, should ask the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to make a reconciliatory statement in response to Ma, in order that Taiwanese may live without fear of invasion. If Ma succeeded in this, it would be a great achievement for both himself and the KMT.

It would certainly be a good thing if the nation could negotiate a truce between independence and unification forces.

However, I wonder if China is really willing to call a truce on this issue? Taiwan would be making a mistake if it calls an end to the independence-unification debate while Beijing is still hell-bent on pursuing its "united front" strategy.

Ma's insistence on Taiwan taking "a pragmatic approach" in dealing with China effectively means that Taiwan should open up to China. In fact, he claims that there is no way that Taiwan can survive unless it seeks to open itself up to China.

Taiwan now accounts for 50 percent of global investment in China. And 70 percent of Taiwan's foreign investment is in China.

Is allowing China to control our economy the only option for Taiwan?

What can be said about Ma's insight into international affairs if he doesn't realize that China is attempting to marginalize Taiwan by participating in ASEAN?

It should be clear even to an elementary school student that Taiwan will face dire consequences if it calls off the debate between unification and independence forces.

When he talks about "mobilizing the whole nation," Ma is referring to the need to boost the economy. If Taiwan were a normal country and didn't suffer oppression from China, building up the economy would not be a problem.

However, this is not the case. Ma's argument happens to correspond with the image that the CCP has long wanted to promote.

In both China and Hong Kong, the CCP has encouraged people to strive for economic success. However, the CCP is also well aware that it must retain an exclusive handle on the political process if it is to remain in power.

If we follow Ma's advice, Taiwan will not only return to the days of the KMT one-party state, but will also come under the authoritarian rule of the CCP.

Ma should realize that the "status quo" can only be "maintained" with Beijing's compliance.

Ma should make use of his party's special connections with the CCP and suggest that Beijing renounce unification as the best way of maintaining the status quo.

However, it is very unlikely that he has the courage to make such a request.

Paul Lin is a New York-based political commentator.

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