For anti-Communists, Ma Ying-jeou has always been something of an enigma. For years, both as Mayor of Taipei and as presidential candidate for the Kuomintang Party, he has a strong rhetorical history of support for mainland dissidents and democracy. Domestically, his stubborn refusal to join the rest of the KMT's over-the-top attack on President Chen Shui-bian's successful re-election was also noteworthy. As the KMT has shifted from its anti-Communist past to its cozy-with-the-Communists present, Ma has been noticeable for not quite following along.
However, Ma has been very bad in recognizing the economic part of the battle between Taiwan and Beijing. Like the rest of the KMT, he supports further economic ties with the Communists, and has even talked about a "peace treaty" with the cadres. Moreover, his victory in the presidential election this past March was also a victory for the KMT, leading many to wonder just how many of Ma's supporters will try to push his administration - or even him - to an even more "accommodating" (I prefer "appeasing") position.
Thus, Ma's interview with the Associated Press (via Washington Times) was worth reading, and in part, it gave cause for hope.
Ma's comments on unification with the mainland - for obvious reasons - was the big story, and he did the right thing; he threw cold water all over it:
"It is very difficult for us to see any unification talks even in our lifetimes," Mr. Ma said. "Taiwanese people would like to have economic interactions with the mainland, but obviously, they don't believe their political system is suitable for Taiwan."
This makes ma the first KMT official in a long time to even mention Communist China's "political system," let alone criticize it. Once again, Ma is making clear he does not consider the Communist dictatorship "suitable." It is good to hear those words from him.
However, I think the more important piece of news came later in the piece:
In an unexpected move, he nominated Lai Hsing-yuan, a legislator who once favored Taiwanese independence, to head the Mainland Affairs Council, the Cabinet agency that coordinates cross-Strait relations.
For those who follow the personnel-is-policy maxim, Lai's appointment is a very big deal. Lai was plucked from the Taiwan Solidarity Union, the party of former Taiwanese President (and former Kuomintang leader) Lee Teng-hui. It is arguably the most anti-Communist political party in Taiwan. Lai herself served as an aide to Lee during his administration (Dateline Taipei, which also signalled the rest of the KMT apprehension over this pick). The Communists have also noticed, and are not happy (Oxford Business Group) - which is easily the best de facto endorsement a Taiwanese official can have.
We should remember that Ma has yet to spend one day in the Presidential office (his term starts on Tuesday), and a few lines and an appointment do not make a robust anti-Communist policy. They can, however, be the beginning of one, and by taking these steps, Ma has already opened the door to the possibility that anti-Communists will be much happier with him then they expected.
And in other news today . . .
Relatives of earthquake victims in Communist China are getting angrier at the cadres, whom they blame for much of the death and destruction from the massive earthquake earlier this week. As the Guardian (UK) put it (h/t Boycott 2008), "They blamed everyone: soldiers for coming too late, the builders for cutting corners, officials for – they claimed - siphoning off cash."
Korean Church Coalition focuses attention on refugees in Communist China: The KCC "launched a modest ad campaign in Korean-language media" (One Free Korea) emphasizing the plight of Korean refugees forced to live as non-persons in Communist China to avoid being sent back and shot.