The most surprising thing about the recent debate between President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and Democratic Progressive Party Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) on signing an economic cooperation framework agreement (ECFA) with China was that it almost entirely failed to touch on three key issues.
The first was whether or not an ECFA should be put to a referendum. Ma should have been asked if Taiwan is a democracy and whether the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) views itself as a democratic political party. If the answer to those questions were yes, then it would seem reasonable to ask why, given that the ECFA has caused so much division, it should not be put to a referendum so the people of Taiwan can express their opinion on the matter. Does Taiwan really want to return to the time of former dictator Chiang Ka-shek (蔣介石) and his son Chiang Ching-kuo (蔣經國) when the KMT ran a one-party state?
KMT Secretary-General King Pu-tsung (金溥聰) has said an ECFA referendum might be considered once the agreement has been submitted to the legislature. How is this democratic? The KMT can use its large majority to pass anything it wants. It is mere trickery to say that the issue will be handed to the legislature first and then put to a referendum.
The central issue of an ECFA is whether it can be put to a referendum. In this context, the referendum may be even more important than the ECFA because it will determine whether the public or the KMT makes the decisions in Taiwan.
It would also be a litmus test showing whether Taiwan is developing as a democracy or moving backwards to a time when it was a one-party state. There should not be an ECFA without a referendum. Without a true expression of public opinion, the Taiwanese simply cannot accept an agreement made between the KMT and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
The second issue not addressed was whether China should remove the missiles it has pointed at Taiwan before an ECFA is signed. We should ask Ma what other country has Chinese missiles pointed at it like Taiwan. The KMT says Beijing is aiding Taiwan’s economic development by signing an agreement that will be mutually beneficial, but how are we expected to trust Beijing if they do not remove their missiles? How can any agreement signed under the threat of military action be equal and mutually beneficial?
When Ma was running for president, he said that he would demand that China remove its missiles before signing any major agreement. Now that such a situation has arisen, why doesn’t he demand that China remove its missiles? If Ma is unable to keep his promises, how can the Taiwanese public be expected to trust an agreement between the KMT and the CCP? The CCP already rules China with lies. Does Ma also plan to do the same in Taiwan? Perhaps the KMT and the CCP have agreed on “one lie with each side having its own interpretation.”
The third unaddressed issue was Taiwan’s sovereignty. We should ask Ma whether an ECFA will be the same sort of agreement as the one Hong Kong signed with Beijing. If it isn’t, then what implications does this have on the status of Taiwan’s sovereignty?
The CCP does not recognize the Republic of China (ROC), nor does it recognize Taiwan as a nation, so in what capacity will Taiwan sign an ECFA? As a province or a special administrative region of China? Or will it be signed without clearly defining Taiwan’s sovereignty? If this is the case, how is such an agreement fair and equal?
In the eyes of the CCP, an ECFA will be an agreement between the central Chinese government and Taiwan “province” or “special administrative region.” But what does the KMT think? The KMT is either dodging the sovereignty issue or belittling Taiwan’s status as a nation. What sort of an attitude is that? Perhaps Ma views an ECFA as an agreement between the ROC of his imagination and the China that exists under the ROC Constitution. Who knows?
The CCP is of course very keen to sign an ECFA because once Taiwan signs, it will become a second Hong Kong and the foundations will have been laid for the implementation of the CCP’s “one country, two systems” model.
In conclusion, holding a referendum, China removing its missiles and Taiwan’s sovereignty are the three key issues to an ECFA. All the economic figures brought up during the Ma-Tsai debate are mere side issues because the ECFA is essentially a political agreement disguised as an economic deal and the first step toward the political annexation of Taiwan.
If the KMT wants to surrender to the CCP, fine, let them go, but they must not be allowed to offer Taiwan up as a gift. That is something the people of Taiwan will never accept.
Cao Changqing is a writer based in the US.
TRANSLATED BY DREW CAMERON
Published by Taipei Times, Monday, May 10, 2010