President Ma met with Chinese President Xi in Singapore on Saturday Nov. 7 with mixed reactions at home and abroad; Ma’s public statement regarding the “1992 Consensus” stunned the nation with his mention of the “one China” principle without addressing the KMT’s prerequisite of “different interpretation”; Ma does not challenge Beijing’s rhetoric that its ballistic missiles are not aimed at Taiwan; the KMT keeps pushing DPP presidential candidate Tsai into accepting the “1992 Consensus”; KMT presidential candidate Chu visits the U.S.; Tsai maintains a comfortable lead in the polls after the Ma-Xi talks. Welcome to this week’s edition of the Insider.
► MA-XI MEETING
MA and ‘ONE CHINA’ PRINCIPLE: President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) held historic talks in Singapore on Saturday, the first meeting of leaders from the two sides since the Nationalists fled to Taiwan in 1949 following its defeat in the Chinese Civil War. The White House, the U.S. State Department and the E.U. issued positive responses to the summit. Ma’s performance, however, prompted mixed reactions at home despite most people expressing support for the meeting.
In his opening remarks, Ma emphasized the “one China” principle of the “1992 consensus,” which he said would serve as the basis for Taiwan to maintain the “status quo” in cross-strait ties. However, Ma failed to add that each side gets to interpret what “China” means. His statement astonished and angered the public, prompting accusations that he had “eroded” Taiwan’s sovereignty. After his return to Taiwan, Ma defended his remarks, saying that “he had said everything he was supposed to say” in front of Xi during the closed-door meeting, including two mentions of the Republic of China (ROC) Constitution, as well as one mention each of the ROC and “one China, different interpretations (一中各表).”
Ma also addressed four other areas in his opening remarks: reducing hostilities and tackling disputes peacefully; expanding cross-strait exchanges to create “win-win” scenarios; establishing a cross-strait hotline for urgent issues; and reinvigorating the “Chinese ethnic group” through cross-strait cooperation.
Xi expressed his hope that “compatriots on both sides of the Taiwan Strait” can jointly uphold the “1992 consensus,” consolidate common political foundations, maintain the “correct” direction in cross-strait development and jointly seek the “great invigoration of the Chinese ethnic group.”
In an article published by the state-run Xinhua News Agency after the meeting, Taiwan Affairs Office Minister Zhang Zhijun (張志軍) slipped in “extra” wording to Beijing’s press conference in Singapore. In it, Zhang asserted that the consensus “clearly defines” the relations between both sides of the Taiwan Strait as “domestic relations” (一個國家內部的關係).
RELEASE OF MEETING TRANSCRIPT BACKFIRES: In an ostensible effort to help Ma fend off accusations that he had caused damage to Taiwan’s sovereignty (despite his claims that he brought up “different interpretations” during his closed-door meeting with Xi), the Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) subsequently released the transcript of the conversation.
According to the transcript, Ma’s told Xi that Taiwan’s interpretation does not include the terms “two Chinas,” “one China, one Taiwan” or “Taiwanese independence.” It also shows Ma saying that both sides of the Taiwan Strait will adhere to the “one China” principle under the “1992 consensus,” with both sides verbally stating their respective interpretations of what the term means.” However, the transcript prompted denunciations after it revealed that he had suggested China to remove the more than 1,600 missiles aimed at Taiwan on the grounds that the missile deployments had “made cross-strait relations subject to criticism by opposition parties.” The legislature’s Internal Affairs Committee on Monday criticized Ma for his remarks on the missiles, which it described as “groveling at the feet of his Chinese counterpart.” DPP Chairperson and presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) said Ma’s handling of the issue was disappointing, considering that “a president should not take partisan politics into consideration when dealing with foreign affairs.” The full text of the transcript is available here.
Opposition lawmakers were also outraged by Ma’s silence when Xi told him that the missiles were not aimed at Taiwan. Ma admitted on board the flight back to Taiwan on Sunday that he was “not very satisfied” with Xi’s response.
OPPOSITION BLOCKS REPORT: Opposition parties on Tuesday rejected a KMT proposal to have Ma report on his meeting to the legislature, on the grounds that legislative oversight would only be meaningful if it had been notified before the Ma-Xi meeting took place. Seeking legislative endorsement after the meeting, they said, “utterly deviated from democratic norms, while making a report on a fait accompli [Ma’s statement in support of the “one China” principle] would be meaningless.
Presidential Office spokesman Charles Chen (陳以信) dismissed the allegation that the report was proposed to seek legislative endorsement. According to the Chinese-language Apple Daily, Ma could consider “giving a report” to the public, though the format has yet to be determined.
TSAI CRITICIZES MEETING: DPP presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen blasted Ma on Sunday for failing to mention Taiwan’s democracy, freedom, and the right of the 23 million Taiwanese to freely determine their nation’s future during his meeting with Xi. Tsai accused him of “limiting Taiwan’s future to achieve his own political status.” Only Taiwanese can determine the nation’s future and future cross-strait relations through the Jan. 16 elections, she emphasized. On Saturday, Tsai said the Taiwanese public would not accept a political framework that lacks democratic procedures and does not secure public opinion.
The Global Times, a Chinese newspaper with close ties to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), described Tsai on Monday as “wrathful” in her attempt to “belittle the meeting,” calling her “narrow-minded and selfish.” The editorial added that by doing so Tsai had “exposed her support for Taiwan independence.” Meanwhile in an editorial published one day after the Ma-Xi meeting, the CCP mouthpiece People’s Daily warned against “Taiwanese independence” and urged Taiwan to respect the “1992 consensus.”
MAC, CHU DEFEND MEETING: Mainland Affairs Council Minister Andrew Hsia (夏立言) and KMT chairman and presidential candidate Eric Chu (朱立倫) both defended Ma on Monday amid public discontent over the meeting. Hsia said that Ma was the first Taiwanese politician to “courageously” mention the ROC Constitution in front of Xi. For his part, Chu blasted Tsai’s criticism of the meeting as “bearing limited scope and vision.” Chu said the summit should not fall victim to “polarization” and lauded it as “having ensured cross-strait peace and development.” The U.S. Congress placed great importance on the Ma-Xi meeting and saw it as a significant milestone in peaceful cross-strait ties, Chu said after a meeting with U.S. Representative Matt Salmon in Taipei.
Separately, Minister of Justice Luo Ying-shay (羅瑩雪) downplayed the accusations by the Green Party-Social Democratic Party Alliance that Ma had committed “offenses against the external security of the state” or treason by meeting Xi. Confronted in the legislature, Luo said she “does not really understand” what violation(s) Ma was accused of.
POLARIZED REACTIONS TO TALKS: According to a survey published by the Cross-Strait Policy Association on Monday, 48.5 percent of respondents said they were dissatisfied with Ma’s achievements in the Ma-Xi meeting, compared with 39.6 percent who felt otherwise. Moreover, 46.8 percent said Ma had failed to protect the ROC’s sovereignty and interests, while 32.9 percent believed he had done a good job doing so.
Separately, a poll released by the KMT caucus on Sunday showed that a majority were in favor of the meeting, with about 46.1 percent of respondents supporting it; 48.1 percent regarded the talks as beneficial to cross-strait relations.
Another survey, this one by the Taiwan Competitiveness Forum, showed that 45.6% of respondents regarded the meeting as positive to peaceful development of cross-strait ties. However, 54.6% said it would not attract more votes for the KMT in the 2016 elections.
FOREIGN RESPONSES: Rather than influence the upcoming elections in Taiwan, the purpose of the Ma-Xi meeting was an attempt by Beijing to lay down the gauntlet for Tsai Ing-wen, who has campaigned on maintaining the “status quo” by demonstrating that the cross-strait relationship can only be maintained on the basis of the “1992 consensus,” J. Stapleton Roy, a former U.S. ambassador to China, told a conference at the Wilson Center on Monday.
In a statement on Sunday, U.S. Senator Marco Rubio, a Republican presidential hopeful and co-chairman of the Congressional Executive Commission on China, accused the Barack Obama administration of ignoring Taiwan’s interests, “including its urgent need for defensive arms.” Rubio called for U.S. commitment to Taiwan’s security in the face of “Chinese coercion.”
Meanwhile in Time magazine, Zoher Abdoolcarim labeled Ma as a “yesterday man” and “a cipher,” adding that the KMT considered him “a loser.” Beyond the show of symbolism, the summit was underwhelming for its lack of breakthrough as a result of the mere focus on the “1992 Consensus,” it added. At Brookings, former AIT director Richard Bush put a more positive spin on the meeting, while depicting Tsai as a “dark cloud” hovering over the proceedings. See also reactions here, here and here.
JAPAN-TAIWAN RELATIONS UNCHANGED: The Japanese government has long hoped that the two sides of the Taiwan Strait can peacefully resolve any problems through direct dialogue, while the relations between Taiwan and Japan remain unchanged after the Ma-Xi meeting on Saturday, Japanese government spokesman and Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said on Monday. The Japanese government will continue to monitor the issue of the disputed Diaoyutai Islands (釣魚台) in the East China Sea, he added.
MA’S SLIP OF TONGUE CAUGHT: A visibly drunk President Ma made a number of gaffes at a banquet in Singapore following his meeting with Xi, including saying that the Ma “clan” had lived in Jiangxi of China for 1,100 years despite his role as Taiwan’s president, TV footage showed on Wednesday.
► PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN
CHU EMBARKS ON US TRIP: KMT presidential candidate Eric Chu embarked on a seven-day visit to the US on Tuesday. According to KMT caucus whip Lai Shyh-bao (賴士葆) Chu is expected to deliver messages to Washington about the Ma-Xi talks on Ma’s behalf — if asked. The message includes that Ma clearly told Xi that the “1992 consensus” involving the “one China” principle is “subject to different interpretations” and that the summit was meant to “build a bridge” for future presidents to ensure cross-strait peace, prosperity and stability.
TSAI ON ‘STATUS QUO’: DPP presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen said on Friday that the biggest difference between her call for “maintaining the status quo” and Ma’s is “democracy.” Tsai said that Taiwan’s liberal democracy and cross-strait peace were the most significant elements in the “status quo” she has promised to maintain if elected.
TSAI ON US-TAIWAN TIES: Tsai said on Tuesday that she intends to further Taiwan-U.S. relations if elected, adding that she looks forward to future opportunities for exchanges with U.S. Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Rodham Clinton. Taiwan’s endeavors to foster stable relationships with international partners should be separated from party-political interests, she said during a closed-door meeting with former Arkansas governor Mike Beebe.
CHINESE SPAM-ATTACKED TSAI’S FACEBOOK PAGE: Approximately 80,000 posts attacking Tsai Ing-wen and claiming that Taiwan is part of China flooded her official Facebook page Tuesday evening, an incident widely believed as involving individuals mobilized by the Chinese government to troll targets en masse with negative comments to influence public opinions. In response, Tsai welcomed Chinese netizens to discover a democratic, free and diverse Taiwan where exchanges, discussions and debates lead to a better society despite differences in opinion and a variety of voices. Tsai said she hopes Chinese netizens could have the opportunity to browse Facebook accounts, including hers.
Discussing the incident, Minister of the Interior Chen Wei-zen (陳威仁) initially said that police would launch an investigation into the matter, but quickly retracted his statement the following day as the incident “did not involve any hacker attacks.”
‘HASTY’ PROBE INTO ALLEGED TRADEOFF CRITICIZED: Taipei prosecutors announced last Friday that KMT Chairman Eric Chu would not be indicted on accusations that he and KMT Secretary-General Lee Shu-chuan (李四川) paid NT$30 million (US$916,590) to former KMT presidential candidate Hung Hsiu-chu (洪秀柱) in exchange for her withdrawal from the presidential race. The announcement prompted accusations that the Special Investigation Division had rushed to close the case and thus failed to properly follow leads and hear testimonies.
TSAI MAINTAINS LEAD: DPP presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen maintains a comfortable lead against her opponents in the 2016 election.
Recent poll results:
|Taiwan Indicators Survey Research
|Cross-Strait Policy Association
► ELSEWHERE IN POLITICS
S CHINA SEA DISPUTE NOT ON APEC AGENDA: Former vice president Vincent Siew (蕭萬長), who will attend the APEC economic leaders’ meeting in Manila from Tuesday to Thursday next week on behalf of President Ma, said on Wednesday that he would only discuss issues related to APEC with President Xi Jinping. Siew added that territorial disputes in the South China Sea were unlikely to be mentioned during the summit, although he would reiterate Taiwan’s position should any member put the issue forward.
► MILITARY AND SECURITY
CHINESE ESPIONAGE AT MILITARY BASES: Chinese espionage operations around Taiwan’s sensitive defense installations have risen in recent weeks, with the latest incident involving spying attempts last Friday under the guise of tourists taking close-up pictures of technical staff and officers at the Jiupeng Military Base (九鵬基地), a base in the south that houses the nation’s most advanced guided missiles and a vital installation for missile test-fire launches, the Chinese-language Liberty Times reported on Monday.
The Taiwan Insider is a weekly feature prepared by the Thinking Taiwan Foundation’s Chris Wang, Serena Chuang and staff members. Comments? Leads? You can reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Click here to subscribe to the Insider and receive it in your e-mail.
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