Anger at Beijing insult does former President Ma Ying-jeou no good : The China Post

In its editorial on Nov 23, the paper says the former President shouldn't have bothered creating a noise about the omission of his title from the handbook of a recent conference.

Former Taiwanese president Ma Ying-jeou shakes hands with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Shangri-La Hotel on Nov 7, 2015.
Former Taiwanese president Ma Ying-jeou shakes hands with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Shangri-La Hotel on Nov 7, 2015.PHOTO: ST FILE

Former President Ma Ying-jeou is angry: He was not addressed as "R.O.C. president" at the World Chinese Economic Summit in Malacca, Malaysia, on Thursday (Nov 17).

He was so angry that he protested the omission of that title from the Malaysia summit's handbook right then and there.

The following day, while transiting in Taipei on his way from Malaysia to the US to make a speech at the University of Notre Dame, he told press that Beijing had belittled him at the Malacca meeting and that the action was unnecessary and harmful to the peaceful development of relations across the Taiwan Strait.

Mr Ma added during his transit stop that the Chinese move could cause more antipathy against China among the people of Taiwan.

When he was invited to attend the summit, Mr Ma knew full well that its organiser was the Centre for China and Globalisation, a Chinese think-tank for Beijing's "One Belt One Road" trade promotion.

He was all set to deliver a speech entitled, "The Prospects for Closer Relations Between Taiwan and the Asean Economies".

He argued that business and trade would bring Taiwan and member states of the Asean closer together in the future.

Political and diplomatic factors make it difficult for Taiwan to sign free trade agreements with other countries, he added, and called on them to support Taiwan's efforts to participate in regional trade blocs such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership and the Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific.

As he had met Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Singapore Apec informal summit in his capacity as President of the Republic of China one year ago, Mr Ma believed that his name would at least appear alongside "former president of the Republic of China in Taiwan" in the handbook of the Malacca summit.

When he was referred to merely as "His Excellency Ma Ying-jeou", he lodged a formal protest and printed his preferred title on a conference table name tag to reflect his eight-year presidency.

The organisers apologised.

Mr Ma, however, was still angry, hence the airport press conference.

Well, the 66-year-old former president need not have gone to the trouble.

President Tsai Ing-wen had approved his Malacca and Notre Dame visits because she knew whatever he might say would not change the course of her administration.

Essentially, Mr Ma is powerless, like former President Lee Teng-hui or Mr James Soong, chairman of the People First Party, whom Mr Tsai made her proxy at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation informal summit.

Mr Lee, now almost 94, acknowledges that he is a relic of history, and so only occasionally emerges to speak about Japan.

But the other two have refused to fade away, with Mr Ma going to the World Chinese Economic Summit and Notre Dame and Mr Soong to Lima, Peru.

As a matter of fact, in the eyes of Beijing, whatever Mr Ma said in Malacca and at Notre Dame isn't of importance at all.

All Mr Ma got out of his speech at Malacca was what he regarded as an insult from President Xi, who still resents the fact that he reneged on a 2008 campaign promise to sign a peace accord between Taiwan and mainland China.

The China Post is a member of The Straits Times media partner Asia News Network, an alliance of 21 news media.