Both Sides Now (Live, 1970)
On the antlers of a dilemma
The ambitions of Ma Ying-jeou, Taiwan’s president, collide with popular suspicion of ChinaMar 29th 2014 | From the print edition
THE fresh-faced good looks have been lined and drawn by the cares of office. His immaculate English is forsaken for the dignity of immaculate Mandarin. Patient replies to questions come wearily, as if said many times before. Yet, six years into his presidency, Ma Ying-jeou’s hair remains as lush and jet-black as any Chinese Politburo member’s. And, speaking in the presidential palace in Taipei, he remains as unwilling as any leader in Beijing to admit to any fundamental flaws in strategy.
Perhaps Mr Ma draws inspiration from his portrait of Sun Yat-sen, founder of his ruling party, the Kuomintang (KMT), and, in 1912, of the Republic of China to which Taiwan’s government still owes its name. Sun is revered as a nationalist hero not just by the KMT but, across the Taiwan Strait, by the Chinese Communist Party too. Mr Ma may also hope to be feted on both sides of the strait—in his case as a leader responsible for a historic rapprochement. For now, however, reconciliation between Taiwan and China remains distant. And Mr Ma, once the KMT’s most popular politician, is taunted by opponents as the “9% president”, a reference to his approval ratings in opinion polls last autumn.
Improving relations with China has been the central theme of his administration, after the tensions of eight years of rule by the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), which leans towards declaring formal independence from the mainland. Mr Ma can boast of 21 agreements signed with China. He reels off the numbers of two fast-integrating economies: a tenfold increase in six years in mainland tourists to Taiwan, to 2.85m in 2013; cross-strait flights from none at all to 118 every day; two-way trade, including with Hong Kong, up to $160 billion a year.
China’s strategy to reabsorb Taiwan is plain. As the island’s economy becomes more intertwined with that of the vast mainland, China thinks, resistance to unification will wane. Then Taiwan becomes an “autonomous” part of China—like Hong Kong, though allowed its own army. Taiwan will return to the motherland without resort to the missiles and increasingly powerful armed forces ranged against it. But as Mr Ma sees it, cross-strait “rapprochement” is a first line of defence against Chinese aggression, since “a unilateral move by the mainland to change the status quo by non-peaceful means would come at a dear price”. Politics in Taiwan is framed as a debate about independence or unification but is really about preserving the status quo.
The next step in rapprochement with China would be a meeting between political leaders. In February in Nanjing, once the capital of a KMT government of all China, ministers from China and Taiwan held their first formal meeting since 1949. Mr Ma hoped to meet China’s president, Xi Jinping, in Beijing this November, at the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation (APEC) summit. To accommodate Hong Kong and Taiwan, APEC’s members are not “countries” but “economies”. So Mr Xi and Mr Ma could meet as “economic leaders”, sidestepping the tricky protocol that usually dogs relations, with China viewing Taiwan as a mere province. The Chinese demurred. But Mr Ma thinks a meeting somewhere is “not outside the realm of possibility”.
This backdrop explains why a protest movement against a services-trade agreement with the mainland is more than a little local difficulty for Mr Ma. Students occupying parliament have resorted to undemocratic means, and many of the arguments they and the DPP make about the trade agreement are specious. But they have tapped a vein of popular mistrust of Mr Ma and of economic integration with the mainland. A split persists between native Taiwanese, on the island for generations, and mainlanders, like Mr Ma, whose families came over as the KMT lost the civil war in the 1940s. Protesters portray Mr Ma as either a mainland stooge or as clueless and out of touch. In the occupied parliament, student caricatures give him antlers, a reference to a slip he once made when he appeared to suggest that the deer-antlers used in Chinese medicine were in fact hair from the animal’s ears.
Mr Ma says public opinion supports a “Ma-Xi” summit. Joseph Wu of the DPP, however, claims such a meeting would actually damage the KMT in the next presidential election, due in 2016; rather, he says, Mr Ma is trying to leave a personal legacy. The DPP’s lead in the polls alarms not just the Chinese government but also America, which could do without another flare-up in a dangerous region. The stronger China grows, the more Taiwan’s security depends on commitments from America. It switched diplomatic recognition to Beijing in 1979, but Congress then passed a law obliging it to help Taiwan defend itself.
All political lives end…
Mr Ma says relations with America are better than they have ever been at least since 1979 and perhaps before. Others are doubtful. In all the talk of America’s “pivot” to Asia, its promises to Taiwan are rarely mentioned. Many in Taiwan paid attention when John Mearsheimer, an American academic, suggested in the National Interest, a policy journal, that there is “a reasonable chance American policymakers will eventually conclude that it makes good strategic sense to abandon Taiwan and to allow China to coerce it into accepting unification.” For some, abandonment is a fact of life and unification a matter of time. “No one is on our side strategically, diplomatically, politically; we have to count on China’s goodwill,” an academic in Taipei argues.
Mr Ma has tried to steer what seems a sensible middle course between such defeatism and the adventurism of those in the DPP who would like to confront and challenge China. But he sounds weary with the effort, and Taiwan’s people seem weary of him. Their pragmatism and the DPP’s internecine strife may yet see them elect another KMT president in 2016. But if Mr Ma hoped to leave office with cross-strait relations stabilised, and with his own role as an historic peacemaker recognised on both sides and around the world, he seems likely to be disappointed.
Gary 敬筆/3月4日 於台北
歲至年末，阿美姐姐一番盛情，請我們甲班同學，參加尾牙盛宴，不僅菜餚豐富，而且節目精彩! 李永廉從杭州趕來，見了老同學甚為歡欣! 不免多喝兩杯，也不斷勸進同學們再乾一杯...! 我因腰痛尚未復原，一直安靜坐在台下，可是最後唱起(玫瑰，玫瑰，我愛你)動感十足，阿美邀我一起上台同歡....! 我也沒有客氣的必要，於是一展所長，聞歌起舞! 奇怪，小學時男女同學互不講話，如今50年後，卻毫不拘束，暢所欲言...! 李永廉誇下海口，要把張棣、 楊豪 、葉傳銘(牛蛙)、童興馼、 王漢成等等老童學通通找回來! 那豈不是太好了嗎? 期待那日再相逢!!!
謝謝阿美! 1/8晚站在台上的致詞, 真是讓我佩服不已, 感謝一缸子人,不用看稿, 細心的講述獅子會員名單, 代表的單位; 曾幾何時那麼靦腆的阿美, 如此大方、權威的站在數百人面前, 毫不闕場, 真是女中豪傑.
再次感謝阿美的大方, 慷慨每年招待我們, 讓我們能很感性的聚會.Thanks and regards.
--- Carol Yang(楊櫻姿)
陳之藩 在春風裡的寂寞的畫廊中有一段 :「他也喜歡此地，但他走的原因是因為這裏寂寞。」校長低下了頭。「寂寞！」我心里想：「好像這個世界上還有地方不寂寞呢！」永遠不朽的，只有風聲、水聲，與無涯的寂寞而已!
誠如渙言姐所言期待那日再相逢, 李永廉把老同學通通找回來,再來次歡欣精彩不寂寞的聚會. Regards..!
-- Tony Wang(王鵬東)
鵬東兄曾提到--寂寞! 其實一個人的 寂寞，有時候很難隱藏得太久，時間太久了，人就會變得沉默.那時候，有些往日的情懷 , 就找不回來了.
生命中，有很多東西，能忘掉的叫-過去 ; 忘不掉的叫-記憶! 或許當一段不知疲倦的旅途結束，只有站在終點的人，才會感覺到累!
話說1/8老童學請吃尾牙的一票相片,因為前陣子電腦當機, 不見消失啦! Gary苦惱些時日, 嘿嘿---突然記得 師長江兄那晚用傳統單眼相機努力拍照, 拜託他寄給在下掃瞄, 結果師長江兄說"我從基隆給你送過來", 所以先與老童學喝杯咖啡,再…！— Gary 在丹堤(和平信安)