Ma sets example for cross-Straits relations

Source:Global Times Published: 2015-12-18 16:01:25

Editor’s note:
Since Taiwanese leader Ma Ying-jeou came to power in 2008, cross-Straits ties have seen seven years of peace and stability. How does Washington view Ma Ying-jeou’s mainland policy? What can other Taiwan leaders learn from his experience? Global Times (GT) reporter Qu Xiangyu talked to Shelley Rigger (Rigger), Assistant Dean for Educational Policy in the Political Science Department at Davidson College, author of “Why Taiwan Matters,” on these issues. 

GT: What do you think of the Ma Ying-jeou's administration? 
Rigger: The last eight years have been pretty calm, and that's good. The US government and the US people don't have any interest in conflict in the Taiwan Strait. So, the Ma presidency has delivered no conflict, and many positive development in cross straits relation. So I think the US has no complaint with Ma. If we look at polls, we can see that his approval ratings are not very good, some Taiwanese voters have some complaints. But I think that their complaints are more with domestic politics and economic issues and his governing style, than with his cross straits policy.

GT: There are some American experts who are quite suspicious of Ma Ying-jeou's “pro-China” stance.
Rigger: I don't quite agree that. I think every Taiwanese leader has to find the balance between the need to have good relations with the mainland and the need to protect Taiwan's autonomy and democracy. And figuring out the proper balance is very difficult. But I thinkup to now, Ma has maintained that balance. Taiwan has its autonomy and democracy and it has good relations with the mainland. In that sense, we can call him a success. Not everybody in Taiwan agrees with his approach, but I think he has accomplished the basics very well.

GT: In terms of Ma Ying-jeou's way of dealing with the trilateral relationship, between Chinese mainland, Taiwan and the US, do you think that Ma is a model?
Rigger: That's an interesting question. Because we think about who the previous Taiwan presidents are. Chiang Kai-shek, Chiang Ching-kuo, Lee Teng-hui and Chen Shui-bian.  Here's the thing, you know, there were a lot of challenges for the US policy makers during Chen's administration, that's for sure. But it is also true that Chen did not start out where he ended up. 
So I think we can also ask why did a president who intended to maintain the proper balance between having good relations with the mainland and protecting Taiwan, why was he not able to maintain that balance in a way that satisfied Taiwanese voters and also his friends in the UUS and elsewhere. And part of the reason, certainly was his own impatience, but part of the reason was that at that time, the leadership in Beijing still did not fully understand how to deal with a Taiwan leader who would be different from what they were used to. I think, now, 16 years later, leaders from Beijing have a much better idea of how to deal with DPP and  DPP leadership in Taiwan. And also the DPP leaders in Taiwan have a much better understanding of how certain words and acts will be received in Beijing.

GT: It is confusing to me that shortly after  Xi and Ma met in Singapore, the US announced a new round of arms sale to Taiwan. Why then?
Rigger: The issue with arm sales is that there's never a good time, right? The US believes it's necessary in order to ensure that there's no temptation for coercion of Taiwan, but now, the US and China have so many projects that they're working on together, such as on climate change, and North Korean nuclear non-proliferation. We have a very crowded schedule of collaboration, so it's hard to find an open space in the calendar for an arms deal. So actually this, if there's an arms sales notification in the next couple of months, and I think there's likely to be, it will be the longest period between arm s sales notifications, since, you know, for many many many years. And that shows that the US has been really sensitive to the calendar of US-China relations, and tries not to create unnecessary disruption in our cooperation. There's never a good time. You pick the least bad time.

Li Yao has contributed to this article.

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