EDITORIAL: Ma failing
on local and foreign issues
The Gambia’s decision to sever ties with Taiwan was a big blow for President Ma
Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) problem-plagued administration, posing a great challenge to
his “flexible diplomacy” policy.
Ma has remained silent since Gambian President Yahya Jammeh announced the news.
His administration, on the other hand, quickly said that China was not behind
the move and stressed the importance of mutual trust between the two sides of
the Taiwan Strait.
The response, which aimed to eliminate concerns about China’s role in Jammeh’s
decision and to consolidate cross-strait relations amid the diplomatic crisis,
is more proof of the administration’s dependence on China and its failure to
recognize that it is the trust of Taiwanese that it should seek to regain.
Improving the cross-strait relationship and seeking close cooperation with China
have been Ma’s top priorities since his election in 2008. Over the past five
years, his administration has lost the public’s trust because of its poor
handling of domestic issues like the electricity price hike, plans to forge
ahead with the construction of the controversial Fourth Nuclear Power Plant in
Gongliao District (貢寮), New Taipei City (新北市), and a string of food safety
scandals that continue to cause concern.
While the Ministry of Health and Welfare struggled to hold cooking oil
manufacturers responsible for allegedly adulterating edible oils while running
tests of problematic additives in all edible oils, Ma was busy cementing his
status as the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) chairman at Sunday’s party
congress last week and pressing the KMT caucus to speed up legislative review of
the cross-strait service trade agreement so that it can be implemented as soon
Facing the diplomatic setback with the Gambia, which became the first ally to
terminate diplomatic ties with Taiwan under the Ma administration, the Ministry
of Foreign Affairs said in a statement to the Gambia that the Republic of China
(ROC) government was shocked and regretted the sudden severing of bilateral
ties, and that it is yet to fully understand the reasons behind Jammeh’s
The statement seems to be a typical response for the Ma administration whenever
a crisis emerges. Ma has demonstrated his incompetence in handling domestic
issues and now the Gambia crisis has further damaged his flexible diplomacy
approach, which he described as a policy to ensure that the nation does not lose
any more diplomatic allies because it signifies a “truce” with China in the
As a national leader with an embarrassing 9 percent approval rating, Ma is in
dire straits, as the Gambia crisis shows that his administration is not only
unable to fix domestic problems, but foreign issues as well.
At a time when the nation faces challenges at home and abroad, Ma and his
administration need to stop relying on China for cure-alls and start looking
within for solutions.
Although the Gambia has not (yet) established ties with China, and Beijing also
insisted that it had not known about the nation’s decision, the government
should not overlook China’s vast investment in Africa and the possibility that
the Gambia might receive financial aid from China in the future.
In comparison with China’s growing economic and political strength, Taiwan has
been stuck with a faltering economy, and social and political divides. If the Ma
administration does not focus its efforts to revive the economy and address
domestic problems to restore public trust and boost the nation’s strength,
flexible diplomacy will only lead to a dead end for Taiwan.