On the antlers of a dilemma  


On the antlers of a dilemma     經濟學人諷刺馬政府...上一個兩難的鹿角

The ambitions of Ma Ying-jeou, Taiwan’s president, collide with popular suspicion of China

Mar 29th 2014 | 馬英九,台灣總統的野心碰撞與中國流行的猜疑

2014年3月29日 from


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.



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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.

改善與中國的關係一直是他的政府的中心主題,八年由民主進步黨(民進黨),其中,傾向於宣布正式獨立從大陸統治的緊張局勢後。馬先生可以誇耀與中國簽訂21協議。他轆關閉兩個快速經濟一體化的數字:一個增加了10倍於內地遊客六年台灣,到2.85米在2013年,從沒有在所有118天天兩岸航班,雙向貿易,包括與香港,高達每年$ 160十億。


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.

中國的戰略重新吸收台灣是平原。由於島上的經濟變得更加錯綜複雜與廣闊的大陸,中國認為,耐統一將減弱。那麼台灣成為中國 - 香港這樣的自主的一部分,雖然讓自己的軍隊。台灣回到祖國而不可求的導彈和日益強大的武裝力量不等反對。但正如馬雲看來,兩岸和解是抵禦中國的侵略的第一道防線,因為單方面舉動內地的非和平手段改變現狀會付出了高昂的代價。在台灣的政治是誣陷,大約為獨立或統一的爭論,但實際上是關於維持現狀。


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.




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