What to do when the go­ing gets tough?

The China Post - - COMMENTARY -

A popular proverb whose ori­gin is at­trib­uted to Joseph Kennedy, fa­ther of Pres­i­dent John F. Kennedy, is “When the go­ing gets tough, the tough get go­ing.” It usu­ally means “When the sit­u­a­tion be­comes dif­fi­cult, the strong will work harder to meet the chal­lenge.” But an­other in­ter­pre­ta­tion could be, “When the sit­u­a­tion be­comes al­most im­pos­si­ble, those who are truly strong are wise enough to pull out, rather than be­ing to­tally dec­i­mated.”

We are not sure Pres­i­dent Ma Ying-jeou will be one of the tough in the com­mon in­ter­pre­ta­tion of the id­iom or in the other, when Tsai Ing­wen, chair­woman of the Demo­cratic Pro­gres­sive Party, is all set to boy­cott Tai­wan join­ing the Bei­jing-ini­ti­ated Asian In­fra­struc­ture In­vest­ment Bank.

Pres­i­dent Ma an­nounced his de­ci­sion to get Tai­wan to join the AIIB as a found­ing mem­ber in an ex­clu­sive in­ter­view with The China Times on March 26, a mere five days be­fore the ap­pli­ca­tions for found­ing membership were to be closed.

He ar­gued that Tai­wan has to be a mem­ber so it may play the role of peace­maker and provider of hu­man­i­tar­ian aid in the new in­vest­ment bank which is con­sid­ered to ri­val the Amer­i­can-led World Bank, In­ter­na­tional Mon­e­tary Fund, World Bank, and Asian Devel­op­ment Bank.

He said Tai­wan’s par­tic­i­pa­tion will help it join the Trans-Pa­cific Part­ner­ship (TPP) and the Re­gional Com­pre­hen­sive Eco­nomic Part­ner­ship (RCEP).

Of course, Tai­wan has to join. Even Tsai knows it full well. That’s why she didn’t say her Demo­cratic Pro­gres­sive Party is deadly op­posed to it, but is try­ing to boy­cott it to show Un­cle Sam she is sid­ing with him, for he frowns on Tai­wan want­ing to jump on the AIIB bandwagon like John Bull.

Tsai said Tai­wan’s par­tic­i­pa­tion in the AIIB is a ma­jor un­der­tak­ing that must be pro­fes­sion­ally as­sessed and then en­dorsed by the pu­bic and par­lia­ment.

There are dis­putes over the name un­der which Tai­wan would join, modal­ity in join­ing and the risks af­ter join­ing. Th­ese dis­putes have to be set­tled by con­sen­sus be­fore Tai­wan de­cides to join, she ex­plained, adding “ne­go­ti­a­tions for join­ing have to be trans­par­ent and un­der leg­isla­tive over­sight.”

Were what Tsai has pro­posed ac- cepted, Tai­wan can hardly join the AIIB. She wants this “great un­der­tak­ing” to go the way of the Cross-Strait Trade in Ser­vices Agree­ment, which was signed in Shang­hai on June 27, 2013, and has since been stalled in the Leg­isla­tive Yuan. The agree­ment has to be re­viewed only af­ter a Statute Gov­ern­ing Over­sight on CrossStrait Agree­ments is signed into law, but the par­lia­ment has yet to start­ing read­ing its draft. No­body knows if and when the agree­ment can go into force.

On the ques­tion of Tai­wan’s des­ig­na­tion in join­ing the AIIB, how­ever, Pres­i­dent Ma set a guard against the DPP attack by say­ing only that “the name is­sue will have to be re­solved first if we’re to join,” but added “We should join as a coun­try.” The op­po­si­tion party’s line is, “There will be no en­ter­ing the AIIB, if Tai­wan’s na­tional dig­nity is not main­tained.”

So, the Ma gov­ern­ment has ruled out “Taipei, China,” the des­ig­na­tion Tai­wan, a found­ing mem­ber of the Asian Devel­op­ment Bank, was forced to ac­cept. Tai­wan prefers “Chi­nese Taipei,” un­der which name Tai­wan was made to stay in the In­ter­na­tional Olympic Com­mit­tee in 1960 and joined the Asia-Pa­cific Eco­nomic Co­op­er­a­tion (APEC) in 1991.

What se­man­tic dif­fer­ence is there be­tween “Taipei, China” and “Chi­nese Taipei”? Politi­cians in­sist that the for­mer sig­ni­fies the gov­ern­ment in Taipei is un­der the gov­ern­ment of the Peo­ple’s Repub­lic of China, while the lat­ter means the Taipei gov­ern­ment is a Chi­nese one. Politi­cians may sin­cerely be­lieve there is such a sub­tle dif­fer­ence, but the man in the street re­gards it as an inane or silly word play that serves no prac­ti­cal pur­poses.

‘So long as it catches mice’

Can you hon­estly say that “Taipei, China” is a deroga­tory term de­grad­ing Tai­wan’s na­tional dig­nity whereas “Chi­nese Taipei” does not “dwarf Tai­wan?” Why don’t op­po­si­tion politi­cians try to em­u­late Deng Xiaop­ing, who was prag­matic enough to quip, “It doesn’t mat­ter whether a cat is black or white, so long as it catches mice”? They shouldn’t mind Tai­wan be­ing called “Taipei, China” or “Chi­nese Taipei” so long as Tai­wan is ad­mit­ted to the AIIB as a found­ing mem­ber.

The trou­ble with Pres­i­dent Ma is that he isn’t prag­matic enough. Born in Hong Kong as the son of a main­land Chi­nese Kuom­intang ap­pa­ratchik, Ma al­ways backs down when op­posed by DPP poli- ti­cians who never fail to charge him with sell­ing out Tai­wan to China. He has a DPP phobia.

The “go­ing” or the sit­u­a­tion is get­ting tough for Pres­i­dent Ma now. He wants Tai­wan to join the AIIB be­fore he steps down in May next year. Time is run­ning short, and the chances are that Tsai cer­tainly will see to it that Tai­wan can’t join to make sure she will win the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion in 2016.

Now, is Ma go­ing to act like one of the “tough” or peo­ple who are strong and get go­ing or be­come fully en­gaged and work harder to meet the chal­lenge? Or is he go­ing to act like a re­ally strong man, wise enough to retreat rather than be­ing oblit­er­ated?

Ma is wise, though not wise enough to be as prag­matic as Deng Xiaop­ing. On the other hand, he isn’t tough. He looks like a pushover. But the bul­lied, when pushed to the wall, may re­volt.

There is a say­ing that a baited cat may grow as fierce as a lion. Would Pres­i­dent Ma try to bear out that wise say­ing by fac­ing down all op­pos­ing politi­cians for the good of Tai­wan? It will be a Parthian shot of sorts be­fore the end of his term.

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