WSJ names Ma as pres­i­dent of ROC

The China Post - - LOCAL - BY ALAN FONG

Pres­i­dent Ma Ying-jeou called for play­ers in the South China Sea re­gion to adopt his “prac­ti­cal, vi­able so­lu­tion” for deal­ing with mar­itime sovereign dis­putes in a com­men­tary ar­ti­cle run by the Wall Street Jour­nal (WSJ).

Ma said that his “South China Sea Peace Ini­tia­tive” is in­tended to “shift the fo­cus from set­tling ter­ri­to­rial dis­putes to jointly de­vel­op­ing re­sources.”

Re­gional spats in East and Southeast Asia sim­mer­ing for decades since World War II have es­ca­lated in re­cent years, co­in­cid­ing with main­land China’s growth to be­come the world’s sec­ond-largest econ­omy and with Bei­jing’s in­creas­ing as­sertive­ness in in­ter­na­tional af­fairs. In ad­di­tion to the con­stant and some­times high- ten­sion sovereignty dis­putes over the Diaoyu­tai Is­lands with Ja­pan (Tai­wan also claims sovereignty over the is­lands, which are cur­rently un­der Ja­panese ad­min­is­tra­tion), China also has sovereignty dis­agree­ments with the Philip­pines, Viet­nam, Malaysia and Brunei.

Sovereignty and na­tion­al­ist pride aside, the dis­putes are also as much about the rights to ac­cess to re­sources such as fos­sil fu­els, fish­eries and strate­gic lo­ca­tions in terms of trade routes and mil­i­tary bases.

Ma bal­anced Tai­wan’s in­ter­ests with its long-time ally the U.S., its close neigh­bor Ja­pan and its largest trade part­ner China in his ar­ti­cle, hail­ing U.S. Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s “pivot to Asia” at the very be­gin­ning while tout­ing the im­proved cross-strait ties un­der his de­tente pol­icy as an ex­am­ple of a “sta­ble and prag­matic” peace plan. Ma also pointed out that Ja­pan had signed a fish­eries agree­ment with Tai­wan in 2013 in a pos­i­tive re­sponse to his peace ini­tia­tive.

Ma out­lined his ini­tia­tive as a call for re­straint, re­spect, a shared code of con­duct and a co­op­er­a­tion mech­a­nism as well as co­or­di­na­tion on is­sues such as en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion, re­search and mar­itime crime fight­ing.

Ma Iden­ti­fied as ROC

Pres­i­dent

In a way il­lus­trat­ing his ad­vo­cacy for re­straint and co­op­er­a­tion over na­tion­al­is­tic im­pulses, Ma iden­ti­fied re­gions in which Tai­wan has sovereignty dis­putes in both the names rec­og­nized by his gov­ern­ment and the ones used by other na­tions.

It is note­wor­thy that Ma, who as a col­lege stu­dent had ac­tively cam­paigned in the na­tion­al­is­tic “Pro­tect Diaoyu­tai Is­lands Move­ment” and had said a decade ago that it is worth “go­ing into war” with Ja­pan to pro­tect the sovereignty of the is­lands, would proac­tively in­form his read­ers that the is­lands are called the Senkaku Is­lands by the Ja­panese.

Lo­cal com­men­ta­tors are also notic­ing the fact that while Ma used the word “Tai­wan” to iden­tify his na­tion through­out the ar­ti­cle, he was iden­ti­fied by the WSJ as “the pres­i­dent of Repub­lic of China (Tai­wan)”; us­ing the na­tion’s proper name that could draw ire from Bei­jing. Ed­ward Chen ( ), a pro­fes­sor at the Grad­u­ate In­sti­tute of Amer­i­can Stud­ies at Tamkang Uni­ver­sity, was quoted by the Cen­tral News Agency (CNA) as say­ing that it is re­mark­able that Ma’s by­line as the R.O.C. pres­i­dent part was not al­tered or left out.

It could be the first time the news­pa­per pub­lished a com­men­tary by an R.O.C. pres­i­dent un­der his of­fi­cial ca­pac­ity, Chen sug­gested.

Huang Kwei- bo ( ), a pro­fes­sor at Na­tional Chengchi Uni­ver­sity’s Depart­ment of Diplo­macy, also said that it is “quite dif­fer­ent from be­fore” that Ma could make such a com­ment as R.O.C. pres­i­dent in a global pub­li­ca­tion given the re­stric­tions Tai­wan faces in in­ter­na­tional af­fairs. This shows the gov­ern­ment’s poli­cies for peace and sta­bil­ity un­der Ma have gained some “cred­i­bil­ity,” Huang added.

In ad­di­tion to iden­ti­fy­ing Ma as R.O.C. pres­i­dent, the WSJ also in­cluded a photo of Taip­ing Is­land fea­tur­ing the R.O.C. na­tional flag. The photo’s cap­tion said: “Agree to Dis­agree: The Repub­lic of China has had per­son­nel sta­tioned on Taip­ing Is­land, above, since 1956.”

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