PrintPrint EmailEmail ShareShare CiteCite


A Conversation with Ma Ying-jeou [Rush Transcript; Federal News Service, Inc.]

Speaker: Ma Ying-jeou, Mayor of Taipei City
Presider: Jerome A. Cohen, Adjunct Senior Fellow for Asia Studies, Council on Foreign Relations
March 20, 2006
Council on Foreign Relations New York, NY


Council on Foreign Relations

JEROME A. COHEN:  (In progress)—and then we’re going to bring in all of you.  I asked that it be a conversation rather than the usual format of a speech and then a few questions, because I thought this may give us a chance to bore in more systematically on some of the key questions involved.

We have with Mayor Ma a distinguished delegation from Taiwan, as well as a distinguished group here in New York, and I hope we can make the most of it.

Now, of course American attention has been diverted from important developments in East Asia by our problems in the Middle East.  But in East Asia we have simmering two major crises:  the first concerning North Korea and nuclear weapons, et cetera, we read about, but it’s unlikely that much can happen positively until we have a new administration in Washington, and that’s three years off.  The second, however, is confronting us now, and I think we can’t say with respect to the Taiwan Straits problem that there is a major difference between the Bush administration and previous administrations and perhaps subsequent ones.  But the crisis is brewing in Taiwan.  We know about the missiles increasingly being put in place by the PRC.  We know about the increasing apparent impatience on the PRC’s part.  We know about the continuing provocations that have been made by President Chen Shui-bian from time to time as Taiwan seems to be moving toward or drifting toward a more independent posture.  And we know the problems the U.S. has.  We are very much involved.  It’s no longer true that the U.S. isn’t a mediator de facto or otherwise in this problem.  We’re very much involved and we have responsibilities.

Of course Americans sympathize with the fabulous developments on Taiwan since the advent of democratic government.  It’s no longer true that Taiwan is a dictatorship.  We used to hear from Chiang Kai-shek in the ‘60s and ‘70s about a free China and the rule of law.  It was all nonsense.  But now it’s not nonsense.  Taiwan really has a product to sell.  I’ve just come back from 10 days in Taiwan again, doing research on the legal system.  It’s a really impressive place.

But how does that cut across the problem of American security?  Will my grandchildren have to fight because somebody wants to change the name of Taiwan’s flag or the name of Taiwan’s government?  We have to be realistic, and we have to take account of Peking’s legitimate interests as well as those legitimate interests of the people on Taiwan.

This is an exciting subject.  In a way, we may be lucky.  One of the few good consequences of 9/11 was it probably averted a very serious crisis with the mainland.  My impression in the spring of 2001 was that the Bush administration was cruising for a bruising, that they were hoping they would make great progress in bringing down or altering the communist government on the mainland the way the Reagan administration claimed credit for the downfall of the Soviet Union.  Well, 9/11 changed all that, tragically, of course.  But U.S.-China relations have improved as a result. 

But Taiwan can—is a continuing time bomb, and it seems to be getting worse.

Now Chen Shui-bian has lost a lot of support and popularity.  And part of his occasional maneuvering, bringing a crisis with the mainland from time to time, is for purely domestic political reasons.

But Kuomintang has also suffered a lot.  They lost two major elections.  It’s not the old Kuomintang.  It’s a new party.  We now have a new leader of that party with us today, Ma Ying-jeou.  He’s grown up with this new Kuomintang.  He was part of the old Kuomintang when he went back from Harvard Law School and has—his evolution, I think, has really tracked the evolution of the Kuomintang.  To some extent, he has led that evolution. 

Now what has this new Kuomintang Party that seems destined to win the next election in two years got to say about these problems?  Two years is an eternity, although Mayor Ma is now considered by far the front-runner, while the DPP is struggling to name a candidate.  The problem is, what does he really think?  People on the mainland are excited about him.  They think he may be the person who can resolve this terrible problem across the straits. 

On the other hand, is that an albatross for Mayor Ma with respect to his popularity and his future in the next presidential election?  Is he too close to the mainland, or is he now evolving to the point of seeing Taiwan independence as an option?

We’re very lucky to have him here.  In the past, we’ve had a number of—(laughter)—in the past, we’ve had a number of speakers from Taiwan.  We had an interview as soon as Chen Shui-bian became president.  We had a video conference for an hour and a half, in this very room, I believe, with respect to what he thinks about things.  We’ve invited Vice President Annette Lu to come.  I only wish the State Department would permit her to appear here personally.

So we’re not taking part in this election.  We’re not playing sides.  But it’s marvelous that we have the opportunity to hear from the person who’s the now most exciting politician in Taiwan, not only with the women who vote in Taiwan—(laughter)—but with everyone.

So, Ying-jeou, I’ve given a long-winded introduction, tried to put a little context.  Now I want to put a little history on this thing.

Many people here in this room are very young.  They don’t remember the postwar history that has led Beijing to have a claim against Taiwan.  Often, the newspapers portray the situation as though the PRC simply wants to invade somebody else’s territory.  But doesn’t the PRC have a claim to Taiwan?  Isn’t it the same claim that the Republic of China had to Taiwan?  Is there a legitimate reason to support the PRC’s threat to use military power in order to reintegrate Taiwan and the mainland?

You’re an international lawyer.  He’s also taught international law for many years.  So he’s well-positioned to tell us something about this.

What’s your view?

MAYOR MA YING-JEOU:  Okay, before I—(soft laughter)—answer the question, I would like to make two statements.

First of all, among my voters in the last three elections—two mayoral elections and one party chairman election—the vote I get I got from women just about the same as the vote I got from men.  (Laughter.) 

Secondly, I am very indebted to Professor Cohen because he was our professor in the law school, and for a period of time he was my thesis—ScD thesis supervisor, so—and I benefited a lot from his pioneer book on people, China, international law.

So whatever I said in this room is attributable to his—(laughter)—and so—

COHEN:  So he’s shifting the blame to me!  (Laughter.)

MA:  Well, in answer to his question about the PRC’s claim to Taiwan, well, we have to go back to 1949, when the PRC was established.  Mao Zedong announced the establishment of the Essential People’s Government of the People’s Republic of China in Tiananmen Square on October the 1st, 1949.  And I think they consider then the legitimate successor of the nationalist government, and although they adopt a different name for the country, but they still consider they are the legitimate successor.

So they are—they actually resort to the theory of a government of succession.  Although in most of the cases, the revolutionary government actually overthrew the legitimate government, and the legitimate government, even they set up offices abroad, but because of very fragile base, they were no longer considered as meaningful.  But in the case of Taiwan, it’s quite different.  We were overthrown on the Chinese mainland, but we reestablished ourselves on Taiwan.  So when mainland China applies the governmental succession theory, it worked in some cases, but it didn’t in some others.  But whether it succeeds or not, the PRC still consider themselves as the legitimate successor to the Republic of China.  And that is why even in some other areas, such as writing the history about the Republic of China, as you know, there has been an age-old Chinese tradition that the later dynasty wrote the history of the former dynasty.  They are doing exactly that.

So in the last—well, maybe in the ‘50s, ‘60s, ‘70s or even ‘80s, when people talk about the Republic of China on Taiwan, the official or standard response from the PRC was that it didn’t exist—it doesn’t exist anymore; it’s a defunct regime.

COHEN:  But what is the legal status of Taiwan today?  You see, what I remember, in January 1950, President Truman, and then-Secretary of State Acheson were faced with a fateful decision.  Was the United States going to put the 7th Fleet in the Taiwan Strait in order to make sure that the successful Communist forces didn’t move onto Taiwan and take it over.  After an intensive debate, they decided that the U.S. would not intervene in the Taiwan Strait because to do so would be to intervene in the Chinese civil war; to do so would make us look like we were shattering the integration, the territorial integrity of China, and as Mr. Acheson said, no nation in Asia would support that and the U.S. wasn’t going to do it.

But June 25th, 1950 came, and without a moment’s national debate, President Truman and Secretary Acheson reversed themselves, they put the fleet in the Taiwan Strait because they saw the invasion of South Korea by North Korea as an attack by international communism against all parts of the Asian area.  And since then, we have been the ones who have been protecting Taiwan, and we’re still stuck with that problem—what is it now?—56 years later.

So, in order to justify that, we took another look.  In January 1950, Mr. Acheson, a great lawyer, said no one cast any lawyers’ doubts on Taiwan’s status as part of China; that was in accordance with the World War II commitments.  But January 25th, 1950, we took another look and said the legal status of Taiwan is undetermined.   But then Kissinger and Nixon changed that in February ‘72 with the Shanghai Communique. 

So how do you evaluate?  Does Taiwan now stand undetermined in its status?  Does Beijing have a legitimate claim?  Or should we regard this as aggression on Beijing’s part, as though Beijing wanted to move against Thailand or Japan or other countries?

MA:  Well, let me just give you a little bit of history.  Taiwan was ceded to Japan after the—the people called the second Sino-Japanese war that broke out in 1894.  On April 17, 1895, Taiwan was ceded to Japan under the Treaty of Shimonoseki.  And Taiwan was not restored to—back to the Republic of China until 1945, and that was the result of the war, of course. 

But two years before that, in November 1943, the Cairo Conference was held in Egypt.  There an agreement was reached among Chiang Kai-Shek, the representative of Roosevelt, and Starling, that—quoting the original language of the Cairo Declaration, that territories stolen by Japan from China, namely, the Manchuria, Taiwan and Pescadores, shall be returned to the Republic of China.  They used “Republic of China” instead of just “China.”  That was the Cairo Declaration of 1943.

The Cairo Declaration was referred to in the Potsdam Proclamation in 1945, two years later, after the German have already surrender.  But Potsdam Proclamation was intended for the Japanese, and there it says the conditions of Cairo Declaration will be implemented.  And in September 1945, when Japan formally declared surrender to the Allied Forces, it accept the conditions of the Potsdam Proclamation.  So it is quite clear that the island of Taiwan and surrounding islands was returned or restored to China after 1945.

On the Chinese side, the Chiang Kai-shek government, the nationalist government, declared war against Japan in 1941, a day after the Pearl Harbor broke out.  And there, the government says all treaties and agreements reached between the Japanese government and the Chinese government will no longer be valid, including the Treaty of Shimonoseki of 1895.  But when we scraped that treaty, it requires another treaty in order to identify the status of Taiwan.  So in 1945, Taiwan was restored to China according to the command of the Allied forces, and October 25th was the date when the formal ceremony took place.  And early the next year, 1946, an order was issued by the Chinese government that all citizens of Taiwan should get back their Chinese nationality retroactively as of October 25th, 1949. 

So, that process seems to be complete.  But normally when there was a territorial change as a result of war, it requires a peace treaty in order to really settle all the different issues.  But the peace conference had never been called because of the change that took place on the Chinese mainland.  So, in ‘51, the San Francisco peace treaty was called.  The question at the time was which side should be invited to attend, the Nationalists or the Communists.  And the decision was made—none. 

COHEN:  Neither.

MA:  Neither.  So—but the treaty was concluded on the territories of the former Japanese empire, that Japan renounce all the titles or claims or ownership of these territories, but it was not mentioned in whose favor this territory will be given.  So mainland China or Taiwan didn’t participate in the conference.  But the Republic of China on Taiwan called another bilateral conference with Japan in 1952 and signed a Sino-Japanese peace treaty on, I think, April 28th, 1952.  In that treaty, again, the Japanese renounced its right, its claim, its title to whatever territory it had, but again, without saying in whose favor these were given.  But it’s quite clear that the treaty was signed with the Republic of China government by the then-foreign minister Yeh Kung-Chao, and it said very clearly not only that Japanese renounce all the titles, but also it refers to the announcement by the Chinese government the day after the Pearl Harbor that all treaties between the Japanese and China will become null and void.

And so it’s quite clear at the time that the treaty was signed between Japan and Taiwan and the restoration of Taiwan should be considered to be the territory of the Republic of China, according to a principle in international law.

COHEN:  Well, you’ve demonstrated a very impressive mastery of the legal technicalities.  But what difference does it make today?  What’s your view today?  This is 56 years after 1950, when the Kuomintang set itself up in power on Taiwan, having moved there originally in ‘45, but the central government that moved in ‘49, ‘50—what difference does it make now?  Has time eroded any claim Beijing might have?  What’s your view on the legitimacy of this concern?  Because if they have no claim to Taiwan legitimately in international law, how can we even be concerned about their interest in the problem?  It wouldn’t be a legitimate interest.  What’s your view of that?  You—they think you’re the sort of the hope of the future in somehow integrating Taiwan and the mainland in some way through your imaginative talents in international law and politics.  But what’s your current view of all this technical background?

MA:  As you mentioned, in January 1950, the U.S. didn’t have any doubt about the rule by the nationalists on Taiwan.  You say—(inaudible)—nobody raised the lawyers’ questions about the nationalist rule of Taiwan.

But less than six months later, when the Korean War broke out, President Truman ordered the 7th Fleet on June 27th to protect Taiwan against communist invasion, and he also mentioned that Taiwan’s legal status remained to be determined by the Security Council or the Allied Forces later.  And that was the beginning of the theory that Taiwan’s legal status remained undetermined.  But that theory has a life only 22 years.

In 1972, in the Shanghai Communique, obviously, Americans already abandoned that position.  And the Britons followed suit on March 13th, 1972, following the American example by acknowledging, not recognizing, the Chinese claim to Taiwan.

So the theory that Taiwan’s legal status remained undetermined, in my view, is a theory created by the U.S. and Great Britain in order to give them a(n) excuse to intervene in the affairs of the region in order to prevent communist invasion of Taiwan.

But that theory, after the purpose has been served, is abandoned.  That is why, from the very beginning, the government of Republic of China and the PRC considered Taiwan is a part of China, and the legal document that I mentioned, the Cairo Declaration of 1943, the Potsdam Proclamation of 1945, and the Instrument of Surrender of 1945 all pointed to the same fact:  that Taiwan has already been restored to China.

COHEN:  So does it mean that it’s not legitimate for the current government in Taiwan to claim Taiwan is independent?

MA:  Well—

COHEN:  Is there a legal basis for doing that?

MA:  Their legal basis, I think, is the following.  First of all, they claim that the PRC has never ruled Taiwan.  Actually, the Taiwanese connection with the mainland is limited to only four years, from 1945 to 1949, because in the previous 50 years, Taiwan was under Japanese rule.  And after ‘49 Taiwan was administered by the nationalist government, but it’s not the PRC.  And they said—they also resort to the theory of self-determination, which, as you know, was part of the human rights of all citizens.  And there are two United Nations conventions on human rights, one on civil and political affairs, one on social, economic and cultural affairs.  Article I in each of the conventions refers directly to the right of self-determination. 

But on the other hand, the United Nations has a very special practice regarding the application of that principle.  As far as I know, except for the case of Bangladesh—used to be called Eastern Pakistan—I didn’t know of any other case when that principle could be used—is actually being used to separate a part of a country from the other part.

COHEN:  So what does it mean now?  What are the options confronting the people on Taiwan?  One of the issues you’ve been pressed on lately is whether you think independence is one of the viable options.  Unification—is that one option?  Continuation of the status quo?  Choice for independence?  Are all the options open, in your view?  If you become president of Taiwan, does it mean you exclude the independence option, or you’re keeping everything open for the future?

MA:  Very good question.  Actually—

COHEN:  It’s the name of the game.  (Laughter.)

MA:  Yeah.  Very few students will tell their professor that you asked a very good question.  (Laughter.)

COHEN:  Well, they usually do that to gain time.  (Laughter.)  That’s an old professorial trick.  (Laughter.)

MA:  Well, you have to understand that—the constitution.  We have to go back to our constitution.  The ROC constitution was adopted in 1946 on the Chinese mainland with the participation of members of the National Assembly elected from Taiwan, 18 of them.  So that constitution was actually made with the participation of Taiwanese delegates.  And it was formally put into practice in 1947.  And that constitution is a one-China constitution, in the sense that—and it is the only constitution that has been adopted with the participation of every part of the great China. 

And so when the government of the ROC moved its seat to Taiwan, it encountered very difficult problem with that constitution.  It was designed for a country of 500 million people, but went to Taiwan, only 6 million, and no election can be held.  That is why Taiwan’s Parliament, either the Legislative Yuan or the National Assembly, did not hold any election since they moved to Taiwan until the early ‘70s.  And the reason given was that was the mainland was occupied by the Communists, no election can be held.

But of course, the situation in Taiwan—the universal education, the affluence created by economic development—made it impossible to continue that, so in the ‘70s and ‘80s, there was a great movement for democratization.  So all the delegates are now elected from Taiwan, but with what we call proportional delegates, what we call the bufinchu (ph).  And one of the—right here—he’s from Chicago—(laughter)—but he’s in our national parliament representing the overseas Chinese in Chicago—in the United States as a whole.  And we have a suchi (ph).  Where are you?  He’s also a—so it’s non-district representative of the Legislative Yuan, representing the whole of the country.  But theoretically, according to our country, our territories do cover the mainland of China.  So the two entities, PRC and  ROC, have overlapping claims of the whole of China.

I mean, we’re not only talking about executive department.  Our Supreme Court, I remember I told you once, did have a decision on a fraud case that took place on the Chinese mainland.  But when the perpetrator came to Taiwan, our prosecutor still go after him and prosecute him because the Supreme Court says we still have the right—the power to prosecute cases.

COHEN:  But isn’t this five-power separation of powers that Sun Yat-sen created so long ago, isn’t it totally out (moted ?)?  And doesn’t that itself justify Chen Shui-bian’s call for constitutional change?  What’s your view on constitutional change now?

MA:  Well, let’s first look at the facts from 1991 to 2005.  In 15 years, our constitution has been amended seven times in order to make almost a tailor-made constitution for Taiwan.  In other words, we cut the size of the so-called three parliamentary organs.  Actually, eventually there was only one left.  The Control Yuan is no longer a part of the parliament, and the National Assembly was scrapped last year.

So after seven times of constitutional revision, the constitution can only fit Taiwan.  It cannot fit the mainland anymore.  And—but on the other hand, in the article on the territory—Article 4—it says that the territory of the Republic of China covered its a traditional sort of boundary, and unless it was approved by the National Assembly, that should not be changed.

So the—a change of our territory could also have important political meaning regarding Taiwan’s independence.  If there is a constitutional amendment that changed the article on our territory and limit the territory to only Taiwan, Pescadores and Kinmen Matsu, that could be considered as a dejure independence because we abandoned the territory on the Chinese mainland.

COHEN:  But President Chen says he doesn’t want to make any changes that would have an adverse affect on mainland relations.  He only wants to make internal changes, not get involved with the definition of territory, not change the name of the government, not have a new flag, et cetera.  But he sees important needs to modernize the government on Taiwan through a new constitution.

Is that dangerous?  Are you against that?

MA:  The president did say that, but his party’s chairman, Mr. Yoshi Qin (ph), say something else.  They said they do not exclude the possibility of changing the name of the country and the national flag; although they didn’t stress that, but they did say they didn’t exclude that.  That’s one thing.

Secondly, one is very important is, if the president only wants to change the system of government from the current, what we say, semi-presidential system to a parliamentary system or to a presidential system, that certainly could be done, but the problem is whether it is desirable at this moment to make such a dramatic change of government system.  When he ran for president in the year 2000, he put in his campaign platform very clearly that the current constitutional system in Taiwan is—(inaudible)—which is literally—not literally translated from the semi-presidential system.  And we didn’t even have a chance to practice the semi-presidential system because when President Chen was elected in March, the year 2000, he got only 39 percent of the votes because of the split of the KMT.  And at a time in our national parliament, the KMT and other parties close to KMT control more than half of the seats.  According to our constitution, in this case, when he appoints the premier, according to the constitutional revision done in 1997, he should really select somebody that is acceptable to the majority party—(inaudible).  But he didn’t do that.  He said, wait a minute; I was just elected as president, so I represent the new mandate of the people, and—(inaudible)—represent the old mandate.  The old mandate cannot override the new mandate.  So he reviews the (common law ?).  And this is the exact reason that the fundamental principles of democracy that followed the majority rule is not in practice in Taiwan, and this is the reason of the relatively chaotic situation in our national parliament at this point.

COHEN:  Well, I’d like to continue this with you, but on another occasion, because we have a lot of people here who would like to be heard.  And I’d be very glad to recognize you in the—yes, please?  In the back, yes.

QUESTIONER:  Karen Mills from Solera Capital.  I wanted to turn to the economic situation between Taiwan and the mainland and ask you how you see that evolving with the increasing interconnections, particularly in industries like electronics.  Do you think that could drive and maybe even supersede the political situation in terms of influencing the future?

MA:  Well, the economic relations between Taiwan and mainland China has been very close, and I think it will continue to be even closer as a result of the vertical division of labor.  As you know, we, Taiwan, actually manufacture more than 80 percent of the world’s notebook computers, 86 percent of the world’s motherboard computers, and 42 percent of TFTLCD, and then a large number of LCD TV, and about 20 percent of the world’s mobile phones. 

But these are not actually made in Taiwan.  They are made by Taiwanese on the Chinese mainland.  So there is a very elaborate system of division of labor between the two, and this is why we have such a huge trade—bilateral trade volume with the mainland—$71 billion in 2005.  And we enjoy almost 50 billion (dollars) of trade surplus with the mainland.  This is due primarily to the fact that there are more than 100,000 Taiwanese companies investing on the Chinese mainland.  But a large part of them are electronic companies, and the trade is, by and large, an investment-driven trade.  So we believe that the situation could even be closer.

Before I returned to the United States the day before yesterday, the financial—some of the financial services people told me that we need to take some action to let Taiwanese banks, or insurance companies, to go to the mainland to crack the market before it is too late.  You know, 2006 was the year for the mainland to open up their financial service industry and the WTO rules, and if we don’t go fast enough, the market could be, you know—(inaudible)—by other countries’ banks.  And this is something that is very urgent to Taiwanese industry, but at the moment, we cannot really expect the government to take action in that regard.

COHEN:  Yes, Dan Rosen.

QUESTIONER:  Dan Rosen, China Strategic Advisory.  To follow up on the previous question, so you spoke to the bilateral economic situation for Taiwan with the mainland.  What about the regional or multilateral economic situation?  Most of the movement and trade integration in Asia is happening through bilateral free trade agreements and, as in ASEAN Plus Three, a collective regional free trade agreement, perhaps, which incorporates everyone except Taiwan, which is effectively locked out of any bilateral negotiations by informal pressure from Beijing.  Do you have in mind any creative way, maybe on a nonsovereign basis or somehow otherwise, for Taiwan to get around that impediment to its inclusion in Asian trade integration?

MA:  Well, this is a very important question, and this is actually the main worry of us about Taiwan being marginalized by regional economic integration.  Three years ago, when I invited the World Economic Forum to Singapore to talk about economic integration in what they called East Asian Economic Summit, the topic of my talk was “Why Not 10 Plus Four?”  This refers directly to the 10 Plus One, 10 Plus Three idea, which was reached just a week before I arrived in Singapore, in Bendong (sp), about the prospect of such a development. 

And I figure that by 2010, the 10 ASEAN countries will have an FTA with mainland China, most likely to be followed by Japan and Korea.  If Ten Plus Three becomes a reality, the economists in Taiwan figure that Taiwan’s economic development could go down one percentage point as a result.  Okay.  If companies in Taiwan do not want to be blocked by high tariffs, compared to our competitors in Southeast Asia, I think the simplest decision for them to do is to move their companies to the mainland, and that will generate another wave of migrant companies to mainland China and have a hollowing-out effect on our economy.  So that’s a very grave concern in Taiwan.

But at the moment, mainland China offers CEPA to Taiwan, as you know—Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement—which the mainland China did with Hong Kong and Macau.  But it was rejected by the DPP government for—the reason that—(word inaudible)—the Hong Kong model, or Macau model, and we don’t want to follow their model.  But of course, as you know, all of you understand, the CEPA was used between New Zealand and Australia as well.  It’s not only something used between countries like China and areas like Hong Kong and Macau.

On the other hand, we—the government wants to have an FTA, if possible, with the mainland.  Certainly the mainland will reject that.  But what can we do about that?  At the moment, Taiwan only signed one FTA, with Panama.  Our trade with Panama, in terms of value, is only about 100 million U.S. dollars, and our total trade last year exceeds about 370 billion U.S. dollars.  So that amount with Panama is only less than 1 percent.  Doesn’t really make very much sense.  And our effort to sign an FTA with Singapore so far has made very little progress.

I discussed this matter with—(name inaudible)—when I was in Singapore.  He said, well, Singapore welcomed the opportunity to sign an FTA with Taiwan, but he said that your country seems to make a lot of emphasis on the name.  You want to use Taiwan.  But Mr.—(name inaudible)—said, “We can’t accept that because, after all, we have diplomatic relations with the PRC.”  And he advised us not to, you know, become too insistent on this issue.  So our government seems to come up with another name, called Taiwan Economic Entity, all right?  TEE.  But I don’t know whether that could be accepted by the Singaporean side. 

In my view, since both Taiwan and Singapore are members of the World Trade Organization, they could just use the name we use in the WTO, although it’s a little bit awkward.  We call Taiwan—(inaudible)—Separate Custom Territory.  (Laughter.)

COHEN:  I’m sure we could reduce that to an acronym.  All right?  Did we have a follow-up on that?  Alice, is this a follow-up?


COHEN:  Yeah?  We have to have short questions and short answers, because otherwise we’re not going to satisfy the masses.

QUESTIONER:  All right Alice Young with Kay Scholer law firm and also Committee of 100.  The various acronyms that—there are lots of different ways to do this, and obviously it’s a delicacy of important terms that define the philosophical backgrounds, in a sense.  Whatever it’s called, you’ve given us a wonderful history of the ambiguities and the difficulties.  I think certainly the U.S. cannot decide things, although it has influenced a lot.  Ultimately, the decision across the Taiwan Straits has got to be between Taiwan and PRC. 

My question to you is there was, in fact, a commission that was specifically mandated to have formal discussions or negotiations, which was headed by Mr. Koo and Mr. Wang.  This was many years ago.  Recently, President Chen—or not so recently—has indicated that he would like to have that abolished, that formalized commission and of course, Mr. Wang and Mr. Koo both have died, unfortunately, and no one has really picked up on this. 

What is your feeling or position on how to have that kind of dialogue or discussion?  Is there a formal approach to that, or do you think all these informal discussions are the better way to do it?

MA:  Well, I think you also put your finger right on the question, that the passing of Koo and Wang was really a great loss to cross-strait relations.  But—so they’re not really on sort of—we could have somebody else to replace them.  But at the moment the question is not persons, but rather policies. 

The roadblock is the PRC’s insistence that our side has to accept the One China principle, and President Chen’s position has been that we could discuss that, but that should not be a premise or precondition for our opening those discussions.  So that’s so negotiating will stop right on that.

But on the other hand, negotiation of other less political subjects did take place—for instance, the charter flights during the Chinese New Year—and which went on on the basis of participation by the industry, the airline industry, of the two sides, and then with government officials attending as advisers.  So that could also solve the problem, to some extent. 

And I think this model actually has been called for by mainland side on the issue of letting mainland tourists to come to Taiwan.  And on the liberalization of the charter flights, they want to have charter flights not just for Chinese New Year, but for other Chinese festivals and, hopefully, for every weekend.  So that is something that is being discussed.

And so in spite of all the difficulties, some low-level tactical negotiations have been going on, and the KMT play a very important role in doing that.  We’ve sent our people to negotiate the framework.  And when we finished part of it and then we called upon the government saying if you want to continue, you could take it over and become your credit—but in some of the cases, the government seems to be not very interested in completing the whole process.

COHEN:  I want to get Winston Lord in here.

QUESTIONER:  Welcome to the U.S., Mayor Ma.  Winston Lord, International Rescue Committee.  On the subject of communication with the mainland, so you see invoking the 1992 consensus as a way to get around the One China principle problem, and would you be prepared, if you were elected president, to explore that?  And if you got into dialogue with the mainland, would you seek to formalize the current status quo, neither unification nor independence, which the great majority of Taiwan’s population seems to favor?  Would you be in favor of exploring with Beijing some way to put that in place, say, for 20, 30, 40 years?  They’ve announced force, you’ve announced independence.  And what else would you ask in return for such a formula?

MA:  Well, this is exactly what we have in mind, because when our former chairman, Lien Chan, went to the mainland, he did reach a consensus with Hu Jintao on the 1992 consensus.  Now we will resume the negotiation, the dialogue, on the basis of the 1992 consensus.  For the 1992 consensus, we think that it is one China, different interpretation.  So from the mainland side, they usually say just one China.  But when we said with a different interpretation, they didn’t challenge that.  Okay, this is—so we have different interpretations of the 1992 consensus, but still, it’s a consensus.  Otherwise, we could not have had the Koo-Wang talks in Singapore in April 1993.  That’s one thing.

Another thing is, now, the two sides, the KMT and the CCP, they reached a consensus on this one.  In other words, if we come back to power, we think we could use the same formula.  As long as they do not change our interpretation of one China, I think it’s acceptable to us.  In other words, we have our own right to interpret what one China means.

QUESTIONER:  But will the people of Taiwan now accept that?  Fourteen years after 1992, there’s been such a swift evolution of the Taiwanese distinctive personality.  Will enough people on Taiwan agree to a government that says we agree it’s one China, meaning no Taiwan independence in the future?

MA:  Well, the One China means Republic of China.  This is the status quo, and the majority of Taiwanese people support the maintenance of the status quo.  We elect our own president, we elect our own parliament, and we run our own business.

QUESTIONER:  You’ve got independence.

MA:  Yes, well—you could say that in a way, de facto.  That is why I told you no country in the world declares independence twice.  (Laughter.)  Well, if you did it twice, then what about the first time?  (Laughter.)  You know, somebody’s running your government now.  That is why maintenance of the status quo actually is acceptable to many people who originally favored de jure independence.

COHEN:  Professor Don Zegoria gets a word here.

QUESTIONER:  Mayor Ma, thank you for coming.  I’d like your view on the U.S. role in all of this.  In the past few years, there seems to be some growing attention in Washington, largely because there are frequent tensions created by some of the president’s statements, reaction on the mainland, and so on.  But more broadly speaking, do you think the United States has it basically right, that we’re not going to mediate, that this problem has to be worked out between the two sides, that we stand for no unilateral change in the status quo by either side?  Or do you think there are more activist things we could be doing?  Would you like to see us more involved, even somewhat discreetly?  I noticed in one of your recent interviews you said that the Americans were somewhat naive about—

MA:  No, I didn’t say naive.  I said gullible.  (Laughter.)

QUESTIONER:  Gullible.  Okay, gullible.  But give us some advice on your view on the American role in all of this.

MA:  Well, I think we believe the U.S. position is right, not to interfere with the peace process across the Taiwan Straits but only by encouraging the two sides to have dialogue.  For even us, the opposition party has said openly, publicly that we hope the mainland side will have a dialogue with the DPP government, but of course, that was done, really—then. 

And I think—I don’t know—well, judging from the latest developments, the issue of National Unification Council, I’m sure the U.S. has paid a lot of attention, has a lot of under-the-table negotiation with the mainland side, with the Taiwan side, and I couldn’t say the involvement is too little.  You know, obviously the final version from President Chen was a negotiated answer, so I think it has been done. And I’m sure, in order to prevent things from getting out of control, the U.S. side probably has already decided to get involved in order to prevent that kind of thing from happening. 

COHEN:  Steve Orlins, the president, National Committee on U.S.-China Relations.

QUESTIONER:  Mayor Ma, thank you very much for being here.  Can you talk about the KMT’s position, which has been viewed as blocking the U.S. arms sales package to Taiwan?

MA:  Well, it’s a very sensitive issue, but—

COHEN:  A good question.  (Laughter.)

MA:  But believe me, I’m prepared.  (Laughter.) 

You know, the U.S. approved the arms sale to Taiwan, the three types—Patriot 3—(inaudible)—and the anti-submarine aircraft P3C in April 2001.  But the DPP administration did not take any action until June of 2004, more than three years later.  And by the time they sent the proposal to—(inaudible)—on June the 2nd, it was only barely nine days before the recess, so no serious discussion occurred.  After the Legislative Yuan members came back in September—that was an election year—they were all concerned about their own election campaigns.  So again, there was no serious discussion until 2005. 

But during that period, a number of opinion polls had been held, and the majority of them, except those who were actually commissioned by the government, were opposed to arms treaties because of the high price tag—it’s $18 billion U.S.  So the defense department—Defense Ministry decided to gradually reduce that, so by now, the figure of $18 billion U.S. has been cut to about 10 billion (dollars). 

And another objection was related to the form of the budget.  It took the form of a special budget, which is opposed by many.  Now, the Defense Ministry decided to change that formula as well.

Another thing is related to the referendum that took place in March 2004, which actually vetoed the purchase of anti-missile missiles—that is, the Patriot 3.  And so there are only two types of weapons that are being considered.  And the price tag, as I said, was cut almost by half after (45 ?) times of blocking by the KMT and its allies.

Our party policy is quite clear.  We support a reasonable purchase of arms, but we oppose unreasonable ones—for instance, those too expensive or too unclear.  On the other hand, we believe Taiwan should maintain adequate defense capabilities and demonstrate a determination to defend itself.  In other words, we don’t want to drag the U.S. involuntarily into a conflict which could lead to a major war between mainland China and the United States.  We want to protect our own territory, our own interests, but we want to purchase arms that could adequately serve our defense needs, that would not have adverse effects on cross-strait relations, that would be taken care of by our financial capability and basically is supported by public opinion.  That is why, in principle, we support reasonable purchase.

As far as the items to be discussed, we leave that issue to our party caucus.  After all, these members of Legislative Yuan were elected; they have to be accountable to their constituency, their voters.  At a moment—in January, I openly said we would come up with a policy statement at end of February or early March.  We did.  But just before we want to make that public, President Chen announced the scrapping of the NUC.  That actually, in theory, is quite a few members of the party caucus.  They say if we decide now to let it go, then people will think that we support President Chen’s intention to scrap the national unification guideline; it will send the wrong message to our constituency.  So they say this is not the right time to do that.

COHEN:  I want to get one last question in. 


QUESTIONER:  Jason Kindopp, Eurasia Group.  I’d just like to ask you, Mayor Ma, if you could put on your 2008 presidential candidate hat for a moment—first of all, in assessing what you view as President Chen’s recent maneuverings regarding the National Unification Council, the constitution revision and so forth, what you think his game plan is.  And then secondly, how do you propose to counter that as a candidate?  Do you have any concerns that China and the DPP might be regaining the policy initiative and sort of putting your party and perhaps yourself into the position of either proposing what might be politically popular changes, or just going along with, “Me, too.”  Thank you.

MA:  Well, I think that the president’s decision on NUC is unnecessary and unwise, because when the NUC was created 15 years ago and the guidelines at the same time, the comment from mainland China and the independence groups were quite interesting.  Mainland China criticized the national unification guidelines as national no-unification guidelines, because we set many preconditions.  Mainland China has to be free, democratic and prosperous, and has to be approved by the Taiwanese people before we can go ahead with unification.

On the other hand, the independence-minded people believed that this is a guideline to be unified.  In other words, they considered that we’re going to be swallowed, be merged by mainland China as a result of that.  So we are actually right in the middle.  Actually, the guidelines and the council were designed (illiberally ?) to maintain the status quo, to continue the—maintain the status quo.  And I think that’s in the best interest of Taiwan. 

And what can we do about the president’s move?  Well, there’s very little we can do, because he—we keep telling him that this is unnecessary, unwise, just like when the mainland was about to adopt the anti-secession law, my comments were also unwise and unnecessary.  Mainland China is not particularly noted for its rule of law.  They don’t need a piece of law in order to invade Taiwan.

Secondly, it’s really unwise to antagonize the independence-minded groups in Taiwan, and what happened in the last year exactly proved what I said about a year ago.  You know, this is the escalation.  It may not constitute the universal change of the status quo, but obviously it has the intention of doing that, and I don’t think that is good, to maintaining the status quo across the Taiwan Straits.  So I would still reemphasize the need to keep the status quo, and the two sides should have a consensus of what constitutes status quo.  The U.S. side insists the Five Nos is status quo, but obviously, President Chen thinks the other way.  So I think that all sides should consider together what constitutes status quo.

I think the Five Nos is a good starting point.  In our view, one country—or, one China with a different interpretation is also a good way to characterize status quo, because that will remove the blocks for—the roadblocks for resuming negotiations.  Without negotiations, I think the current state of relations across Taiwan Straits could move from stagnation to confrontation.

MR.  Well, next month President Hu Jintao comes to America. I hope he will be subjected to the kind of questioning Mayor Ma got today, and I hope he will do as well.  I give him an A-plus.  (Laughter, applause.)

MA:  You didn’t give me A-plus when I was in Harvard.  (Laughter.)

MR.  (Inaudible.)  That was good.  (Laughter.)







More on This Topic


If All Goes Well

Authors: Jerome A. Cohen and Chen Yu-jie
South China Morning Post

If all goes well, direct flights between China and Taiwan might just be the start, write Jerome Cohen and Chen Yu-jie. The next step might...


Challenge to China

Authors: Jerome A. Cohen and Margaret K. Lewis

Challenge to China draws attention to an underappreciated aspect of legal reforms in Taiwan, and asks how Taiwan's experience might be...