China gives Ma a dressing-down
By Paul Lin 林保華
Taipei Times  2014.11.6

In the run-up to the APEC summit in Beijing, the propaganda machine of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has kicked in. The Global Times ran an editorial that read like a thug putting an underling firmly in their place.

The editorial said President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) should remember that he is only in charge of the area of Taiwan, and that his performance in government leaves much to be desired, with his popularity ratings having dragged along the ground for a long time now.

Not long ago, Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) told People First Party (PFP) Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜) that the CCP had made the wrong choice. The message in the editorial seems to be making the same point. Is Ma on the way out with China?

Ma has been repeatedly rebuffed while trying to wrangle a meeting with Xi on the sidelines of the APEC summit. The enthusiasm for the idea was all on one side and the whole affair has been a real slap in the face for him.

The Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) responded to the editorial by calling on the Chinese media to show some restraint in the interests of cross-strait relations, and not to criticize Ma’s support for democracy and the rule of law for the Chinese people in such rude terms, warning that such criticism will have an “extremely negative impact” on cross-strait relations.

That was a fair enough response in terms of what was said, but really, the MAC aimed its barrage at the wrong target. The Global Times is a mouthpiece of the CCP, and the editorial reflected the party’s official position. The council should have asked Xi or the Publicity Department of the CCP to rein in the Global Times.

As far as the reference to “the Chinese people” is concerned, the less said, the better.

However, the most important thing is Ma’s attitude. The Global Times was angered by comments Ma made in support of the democracy movement in Hong Kong during an interview on Oct. 31 with the New York Times.

He had made similar comments during his Double Ten National Day speech earlier in the month, after which China’s Taiwan Affairs Office spokeswoman Fan Liqing (范麗青) warned him not to say something he might later regret.

It was clear from the New York Times interview that Ma had taken to heart the warning of this low-ranking official, because he put certain conditions on his support for the democracy movement in Hong Kong. That is, he would only extend his support if this did not come at the expense of cross-strait relations.

The implication was that he would not support the movement if he would upset Beijing by doing so. Ma also expressed his loyalty to Beijing by criticizing the Sunflower movement for preventing the passage of the cross-strait service trade agreement.

Putting it bluntly, what this shows is that Ma has already given in to pressure from Beijing. The Global Times had no interest in helping Ma save face. It smelled blood and was going in for the kill. This not only demonstrated Beijing’s bullying tendencies, but it was Beijing taking Ma by the throat and throwing him around, trying to get as much out of him as it could. What is was not was Beijing discarding him or looking for a replacement.

Interestingly, the Global Times also said that China does not owe Ma anything, and that he would do well to understand this and to show a bit more respect. If it were the case that neither side owed the other anything, then the relationship would be an equal one, and there would be no need for such talk.

As it is, with China telling Ma that he should show more respect, you wonder what it is the Chinese authorities think Ma owes them.

The editorial goes on to say that Ma broke one of the cardinal rules, just in the interests of winning a minor point. The question is: Just what cardinal rule did Ma violate that has Beijing so riled?

The editorial also took aim at the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), saying that Ma’s actions on this occasion were for his own personal benefit and that of his party. It then went on to issue a warning, saying that Taiwan’s economy is now tied to that of China, and Taiwan simply does not have the capital reserves to resist.

This is all the fault of former vice president and KMT chairman Lien Chan (連戰) and his facilitation of cooperation between the KMT and the CCP, making possible the signing of the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) after Ma took office. Now China has Taiwan by the short and curlies.

Despite this, Ma still issued a directive that the cross-strait service trade agreement should be passed in the legislature, and KMT Legislator Alex Fai (費鴻泰) questioned why the actions of a few should prevent this from happening. If this is not selling the nation down the river, then what is?

Paul Lin is a political commentator.

Translated by Paul Cooper


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