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Ma's ideas are dangerously naive

By Cao Chang-qing 《Taipei Times》Mar 31, 2006

During his trip to the US, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) demonstrated his willingness to reach a consensus and sign a peace accord with Beijing, normalize cross-strait direct links and establish a cross-strait confidence-building mechanism. It was as if the Chinese government had no missiles pointing at Taiwan and Beijing was a benign and rational regime.

Ma's arguments were very similar to former British prime minister Neville Chamberlain's policy of appeasement. However, the world is no longer willing to buy this kind of political naivete. The US especially, has turned a deaf ear to a Ma brimming with self-deceptive ideologies, and is funneling its global resources into a strategy designed to squarely face the rising military threat posed by China.

The diplomatic actions taken by the US over the past month reveal Washington's attitude toward Beijing.

Four weeks ago, US President George W. Bush visited Southeast Asia for the first time, which focused on signing a pact with the Indian government to end the nuclear trade embargo imposed on that country.

Although the US has pledged to provide India with civilian nuclear technologies only, the outside world cannot be sure whether or not India will transfer these technologies to military applications. In view of this, the US has tacitly acknowledged India's ambition to develop its nuclear program, thereby creating an equilibrium in the Asia-Pacific region and helping to contain Beijing.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's trip to East Asia last week indicates a similar strategic objective. In Jakarta, Rice stressed the establishment of a strategic partnership between the US and Indonesia to prevent China's manipulation of ASEAN. Prior to her departure for Australia to attend the ministerial-level Trilateral Security Dialogue in Sydney between the US, Japan and Australia, Rice had already expressed concern over how the world is going to prevent China from threatening the security of the Asia-Pacific region and becoming a "negative force."

The US, Japan and Australia have close ties, as the leaders of these nations all belong to the conservative movements of their respective countries. Australian Prime Minister John Howard is now serving his third term in office and will have been in power for 10 years at the end of this month. In a recent opinion poll, Howard's approval rating was 64 percent.

Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi is also a strong leader and led his party to a landslide victory in last year's parliamentary elections. Incumbent Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Aso is very aware of China's ambitions.

When Koizumi first came to power, his foreign minister was Makiko Tanaka, a China-leaning politician. Tanaka's successor, Yoriko Kawaguchi was friendly toward the US. But, Aso holds an distinctly unfriendly attitude toward China. In a recent speech, he referred to Taiwan as a nation and criticized China's unwillingness to make its military spending transparent.

Washington has gradually switched its strategic objective to Asia, and the international political scene has also tilted in the US' favor.

Three years ago, France, Germany and Russia were opposed to the US decision to wage war in Iraq. In Germany, the left-wing government has been replaced by a right-wing one holding a similar stance to that of the Bush administration, while France and Russia are now preoccupied with internal problems. And leaders in the UK, Italy, Australia and Japan have remained in power or won re-election despite supporting the US in its invasion of Iraq. In Poland, the conservative faction favoring the US recently won a national election. Canada also underwent a transfer of power when the anti-Iraq war, Liberal government lost to the Conservative Party. Since the UK, Italy, Australia, Japan, Canada and most other countries across Eastern Europe support the US' role in the world, the Bush administration finds it easier to conduct its strategic plans, ask its allies to move their strategic objectives to Asia and help to contain a rise in China's military power.

Because Chamberlain failed to recognize the nature of the Nazi regime, he eventually stepped down as British prime minister and has been remembered ever since as a naive politician. Will Ma be able to assume power as a result of his wishful thinking about the Chinese Communist Party?

Cao Changqing is a freelance journalist.
Translated by Daniel Cheng

2006-05-01

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