China Times: Ma regains confidence through debate
President Ma Ying-jeou demonstrated leadership in Sunday's debate and many political pundits said it brought out the best in him for the first time since 2008.
At the beginning of the debate, Ma pointed out the contradictions in the Democratic Progressive Party's criticism of the proposed trade pact with China, saying that when the DPP was in power it had approved the importation of 900 Chinese agricultural items, while his administration has approved none.
Also, the direct air links between Taiwan and China and Taiwan's wider opening to Chinese tourists began under the DPP administration, but were maintained only on a small scale throughout the DPP's eight years in power, he said.
Worst of all, Taiwan's global competitiveness ranking slid from 14th to 18th under the DPP administration, he added.
At the conclusion of the debate, the president foiled his rival's arguments by noting that the DPP's manifesto states Taiwan should develop comprehensive exchanges with China, including economic and trade cooperation, and seek long-term peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.
Like a true leader, Ma said that he is well aware of Beijing political designs regarding Taiwan, but gave the assurance that he will not ink any pact with China unless it is beneficial to Taiwan.
He said he will personally lead a government task force that will be responsible for seeking free trade agreements with other countries, and he urged Beijing not to block Taiwan's efforts to achieve this goal.
Democratic Progressive Party Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen's performance paled in comparison to Ma's because she could not afford to offend her party base and was saddled with the DPP's poor record of governance.
She asked Ma why not forge free trade pacts with other states, but this is exactly what the DPP failed to do while in office. Then she expressed doubts that an "ASEAN plus three" economic grouping would ever materialize, ignoring the fact that the trade bloc was launched at the beginning of this year.
Her biggest accusation was that cross-strait trade is being dominated by relatives of top officials on both sides of the Taiwan Strait, but she was unable to provide any supporting facts and her charge was easily deflected by Ma. He promised to prosecute to the full extent of law anyone found guilty of Tsai's charge.
In the news conference after the debate, Tsai kept criticizing Ma, while Ma praised Tsai's performance and said he looked forward to other such exchanges with her.
The president gave voice to the people's views that Taiwanese are courageous and confident. We are pleased to see that the president is also confident. (April 26, 2010) (By Maubo Chang) enditem /pc