Sunday, September 19, 2010

ECFA: Formosa Sovereignty Betrayed

(This is the first part of a two-part series.)
At first they called it CEPA: Closer Economic Partnership Agreement, but that went over like asparagus ice cream. CEPA was what they called the “agreement” that Hong Kong had signed beneath the barrel of a gun when Hong Kong became a colony of Beijing. CEOF (Closer Economic Operational Framework) was suggested and rejected.
Then CECA (Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement) was put forth to a wary Taiwanese public, and it was rejected for two reasons. For one, it sounded too much like CEPA. For another, in the Taiwanese language, it sounds like “washing feet;” the very sound of it was humiliating.
Since then, they’ve called it ECFA (Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement.) (For Michael Turton's excellent article, click here.)
So, what is ECFA? It’s some kind of agreement between China and Taiwan, but, beyond that, I can’t tell you. It’s a secret.
It’s “some kind of agreement?” What kind of agreement is it? Well, it’s sort of a quasi-treaty? Taiwan’s Council of Grand Justices ruled that ECFA is an administrative agreement, which obligated the legislature to review the agreement article by article and give it two readings—one in committee and one in the full legislature. (Click here.)
But what do judges know, anyway? Ma, figuring that he knew what was best, insisted that it was a quasi-treaty. What’s a quasi-treaty? Is it a treaty or not? It all depends on where the advocates of this—er, um—quasi-treaty are standing when they talk about it. You see, Ma Ying-jeou, who spent years pushing the agreement, is Taiwan’s quasi-president; and his view, apparently, is that Taiwan is a quasi-country.
The agreement wasn’t signed by government entities but by informal agencies set up for the purposes of discussions between two governments, neither of which recognizes the other. By international law, then, it’s not a treaty.
When ECFA was presented to the legislature for passage, Quasi-president Ma told the legislature that they should treat it as though it were a treaty. That is, they should not consider it provision by provision but as a whole, as international law requires for treaties.
When Quasi-president Ma was visiting Japan, however, he told his hosts that ECFA is not a treaty because treaties, by definition, are between two sovereign states. Ma told them that the People’s Republic of China (a.k.a. the butchers of Beijing) doesn’t exist and that he—Super Ma—is the president of Taiwan, all of China, Tibet, East Turkestan, and Hong Kong. I wonder if the Japanese kept a straight face when they heard that one.
By contrast, when a middle-level Chinese bureaucrat came to visit Taiwan, Ma Ying-jeou suddenly became “Mr. Ma,” who groveled before a Chinese master and countenanced police brutality to keep Taiwanese flags and patriots from being seen.
That’s the way it works. When he’s running the show, Ma is Dracula Prince of Darkness. When even the lowest Beijing lackey shows up at his door, he becomes Renfield, groveling at Dracula's feet.
The Ma administration used tax dollars to promote ECFA, not with facts, but with smears. They produced a slick cartoon that said absolutely nothing about the contents of ECFA but, instead, caricatured the people of Taiwan.
The cartoon featured two stereotypes. One was an ethnic Taiwanese from the southern part of Taiwan, and who could be described as low class in every way. He was poorly informed and, being poorly informed, he was opposed to ECFA—though he didn’t know why. The other, an ethnic Hakka from central Taiwan, was educated, spoke several languages, was reasonable, and kept herself informed on the issues. She, of course, was in favor of ECFA.
Quite understandably, a lot of people asked why their ethnicity should be brought into the question. Why should they go into other details about them to reinforce offensive stereotypes?
One perceptive writer pointed out that the two caricatures didn’t represent a dichotomy; they represented a three-way view of ethnicity in Taiwan. One was the ignorant Taiwanese bumpkin from the south; who wouldn’t get with the program. The second was the good little Hakka girl from central Taiwan, who did get with the program. The third—unseen—was the elitist Mainlander in the north (those who were pushing ECFA), who defined for everyone else what the program should be. (To read the article, click here.)
Let’s get back to ECFA. What is it? It has been passed, but we won’t really know what’s in it until after it has gone into effect.
Even before Ma became quasi-president of Taiwan, he argued that Taiwan should become economically integrated with China for about thirty years and then decide whether Taiwan should become politically integrated with them. Wait a minute. After giving Beijing control over Taiwan’s economy, everything else will fall like a ripe fruit.
From the beginning of his quasi-presidency, Mr. Ma (or Super Prez, depending on your perspective) argued that it was urgent for Taiwan to pass ECFA. If Taiwan didn’t submerge itself into the Chinese economy, it would be left behind by other Asian nations. (Why is that? Other Asian nations weren’t surrendering their economic independence, and they were doing fine.)
For many years, Beijing had been pressuring other countries not to sign FTA’s (free trade agreements) with Taiwan. The quasi-administration’s argument was that ECFA would put an end to that problem.
Quite reasonably critics of ECFA asked how that would happen. Wouldn’t ECFA give Beijing even more leverage to prevent Taiwan from signing FTA’s with other countries?
Ma’s gaff-prone premier Wu Den-yih confidently answered that question. Sure, he agreed, ECFA would give Beijing more leverage to prevent Taiwan from signing FTA's, but he didn’t believe Beijing would do so. After all, he said with a straight face, Beijing knows how important it is to Taiwan to sign FTA’s with other countries.
(I couldn’t make this up. Considering that Wu is a veritable cornucopia of stupid remarks on almost every important issue, I suspect that he has diarrhea of the mouth and constipation of the brain.)
Mr. Wu, are you not aware that the butchers of Beijing are not philanthropists who have Taiwan’s best interests at heart—or anyone else’s best interests at heart? Why don’t you just wear a dunce cap and make it official?
(You may recall from a previous article (Click here) Wu, speaking in defense of dumping toxic waste into rice farmers' water tables and into fishing areas and tidal basins, said that dolphins are fish; and that the endangered humpbacked Indo-Pacific dolphins should be smart enough to swim away from polluted water.)
(In part two, I’ll describe the ECFA debates that didn’t reveal anything useful—except that Tsai Ing-wen made the mistake of assuming that television debates are about facts and reasoning, while telegenic Ma knew otherwise. I’ll also cover the “birdcage” referendum that was never allowed to fly. Conclusions are not very pretty.)

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