Hardtalk interview with Ma (part III)

Part III (15'30" ~ end)
2008, relations with China, and Taiwan future

Updated on 2006.02.26 19:40pm.
Thanks to ajen from socialforce forum and his friend Mr. Bob Mouncer for proofreading the transcript.

Host: It's very interesting what you've just said because, as you are probably, you tell me, gonna be fighting the next 2008 presidential election for the Kuomintang, yes?

Ma: Well the Kuomintang certainly will nominate somebody to run...

Host: Will you run?

Ma: I don't know whether that will be me...

Host: But will you run?

Ma: Well, if.. the party nominated me, well, that's something else. But at the moment, it a question not uh, it's not on my agenda yet.

Host: But assuming it comes on to your agenda, are you telling me, that you would go to Beijing and you would pursue the agenda that you've just outlining to me, that is, as you say, ending the arms race, cooling down the temperature, looking for consensus, working very closely with Beijing?

Ma: Well, actually, in, over the Taiwan Strait, are we ready, or, do we have the resources to engage ourselves in arms race with Beijing? If not, then certainly we should pursue some alternative routes that could be effectively, uh, and not so costly to Taiwan.

Host: Let me put it this way. we know that China is suppressing freedom of speech... [Ma: yes.] ... by closing down newspapers. They don't allow, for example, BBC online to be seen inside China. We know that, according to Amnesty International at least, dozens of people are still in prison as a result of the events in Tiananmen Square over 15, 16 years ago. We know also that in August 2005, one journalist working in China was arrested, now faces charges of spying for Taiwan. Amnesty International expressed deep concern about that. Are you telling me that China and the Chinese authorities are people that you can do business with?

Ma: Well I think Great Britain also do business with China. Could you do business with China when they do all these human rights violations?

Host: But with respect, we don't have 780 missiles pointed at our island.

Ma: Well, no matter whether they are hostile to you or not, they are having some human rights violations that you disagree. But Great Britain still trade with them, and recognize them, but they don't recognize Taiwan. Why is that?

Host: But you need to trust Beijing in a way that we do not. Because they pose, as you said, a grave military threat to you. So my question is, are you prepared to take the word of President Hu and other Chinese leaders in direct negotiations, which is what you seem to heading towards.

Ma: Well, if we don't negotiate with them, what can we do? We just build up our arms and prepare for war with mainland China? We certainly want to find ways to negotiate a modus vivendi that could give Taiwan peace, and then to give our people opportunity to seek friendship and the cooperation with the Chinese mainland.

Are you aware that we are now trading with mainland at the amount of 71 billion dollars a month? Are you aware that 4 million residents of Taiwan went to mainland China last year? Are you aware that we have more than 70 thousand Taiwanese businessmen currently investing on mainland China, creating about, around, uh, 10 million jobs there?

Host: You think Taiwan has no choice?

Ma: No, you know, no no no, not because we don't, we think that Taiwan has no choice, but this is something of a reality that we have to understand. We have to protect our interests. We cannot just say, well, just because they have human rights violations, they have 700 missiles pointed at us, so we will not do anything with them, or continue the arms race, and we will break all relations with them, it's not possible. No, and it's very important for us to seek some way to reduce the tension. Look, when chairman Lien made a speech at Beijing University, which was televised without censorship across the country, and the effect was immediate. I think it has effectively disarmed mainland China in their hostile attitude towards Taiwan to some extent.

Host: They didn't take the 700 missiles away...

Ma: No, but I think missiles… are used… but they can also be removed as a result of talks on the peace agreement and military mutual trust mechanism.

Host: Well, let's talk a little bit more about mutual trust. Why do you think China still blocks any attempt from Taiwan to get recognized in international bodies, for example, the World Health Organization. You face a threat from bird flu, from SARs. China still won't allow you even observer status... [Ma: Yes.]... in UN's World Health Organization.

Ma: That we resent very much and we will continue to fight. You know, the number 4th common vision, which is, which was part of the consensus reached last year, was exploring the issue of international space. That is the knottiest one among all the issues. Because internationally, in their view, there could only be one China, that is the PRC, not us. So we have been squeezed out of all the important international governmental organizations.

Host: Well, that, that, that’s what President Chen view. But your view is somewhat different, You don't believe...

Ma: No no no no no, we are...

Host: You don't actually believe in an independent sovereign Taiwan in the future, do you? You actually believe in One China in unification.

Ma: No no no no no. You don't understand what these terms mean because you are not very much affa.. familiar with Chinese affairs and Taiwanese affairs. We support, we support Republic of China on Taiwan, which at the moment is independent from foreign interference. We elect our own president. We elect our own parliament. We are not ruled by foreign country.

Host: No, I understand that. But you have in the past been confusing. You've said your ultimate goal is reunification with mainland China but you also said it's an issue that should be settled by Taiwan's 23 million people. And then you said it's an issue that should be settled by people on both sides of the strait. [Ma: No no no no no.] So which is it?

Ma: Ok. What I have been saying is that, Taiwan's future should be decided by Taiwanese people. This is a consensus of all the people in Taiwan, and they are...

Host: what about people from the other side of the Taiwan Strait?

Ma: Just listen to me. There are 3 options before us, independence, status quo, and unification. And at the moment, the vast majority of the people support status quo. And only about 15 to 20 percent people support either independence or unification. So at the moment I think we should maintain the status quo. And we oppose any unilateral change of the status quo. But in the future, when conditions are right, if Taiwanese people have some other thought, they could still make that decision according to their free will. This is 100 percent democratic.

Host: Ma Ying Jeou, Thank you very much for being on HARDtalk. Thank you.

-- end of interview --

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