INTERVIEW: Let Taiwan’s voice be heard: Danish writer

INTERVIEW: Let Taiwan’s voice be heard: Danish writer
Published in Taipei Times on Thursday, Nov 27, 2008.
Danish author Michael Danielsen talks during an interview with the Taipei Times on Tuesday last week.
He is not a big household name here, but he has great passion for Taiwan. He lives half a world away, but he is fascinated with Taiwanese politics and supports Taiwanese independence.
Michael Danielsen, chairman of the Denmark-based Taiwan Corner, said he co-founded the association to provide the international community with “correct” information on Taiwan.
In an interview with the Taipei Times on Tuesday last week, the 40-year-old Danish columnist said Taiwan’s real danger did not lie so much in military intimidation from Beijing, but in how Taiwan portrayed itself in the international community.
Since President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) took office in May, Ma and his administration have been sending out very confusing signals to the world and depicting Taiwan as part of China, Danielsen said.
“People got really confused when Ma was talking about, for instance, the Republic of China [ROC] instead of Taiwan,” he said. “This is confusing for most people, because people think about Taiwan as Taiwan and not the Republic of China.”
The Ma administration’s definition of cross-strait ties as a special relationship between the Taiwan region and the mainland region was also confusing, Danielsen said.
Such an argument may make sense based on the ROC Constitution or from a legal point of view, but it was perplexing to the international community, he said.
Another impression the Ma administration gave was that Taiwanese could not carry national flags during the visit of Chinese envoy Chen Yunlin (陳雲林) earlier this month, Danielsen said.
While Ma considers himself as a pragmatist, Danielsen said the president might be “going too far” to be practical and that he was getting “too pragmatic.”
Danielsen said the former Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) administration made efforts to normalize relations with Beijing that were similar to what the Ma government is doing.
“The question is how many concessions [you are willing to make] and how practical you want to be,” he said. “Where is the boundary?”
“So the major difference between the KMT [Chinese Nationalist Party] and the DPP is not so much about normalizing cross-strait relations, but more about where the boundary is,” he said.
Danielsen said Ma made too many concessions during his meeting with Chen, who did not address Ma by his official title but instead referred to Ma as “you.”
As improving cross-strait relations is high on Ma’s agenda, Danielsen said he was curious how much the president was willing to concede and whether he cared that cross-strait negotiations were not conducted on equal terms.
While Ma said there had been a diplomatic breakthrough because of his “diplomatic truce” with Beijing, Danielsen said it would not go far because Beijing would not stop suppressing Taiwan until it becomes part of its territory.
Beijing is keen to see the KMT stay in power, so it is likely to continue offering small favors to the Ma administration, including WHO accession, Danielsen said.
When asked whether the US or Japan should play a more active role in the Taiwan Strait, Danielsen said bigger players as Japan, the US or the EU could act as a moderator in resolving cross-strait disputes.
He said that while both sides could work out economic issues on their own, when it comes to more politically sensitive issues such as signing a peace agreement or increasing Taiwan’s international space, he did not see it happening soon.
“It will require a big change in China, maybe a change in government system,” he said.
Ma has proposed signing a peace agreement with China on condition that Beijing first removes missiles targeting Taiwan.
Danielsen said he did not think that the removal of missiles mattered that much because they could be easily restored.
What Beijing could do, he said, is to abolish the “Anti-Secession” Law, but “that will only be a dream.”
“No country in the world has such a law that allows one country to attack another,” he said. “It is a ridiculous law. It’s totally ridiculous.”
Commenting on the political confrontation in Taiwan, Danielsen said he hoped the KMT and the DPP could sit down and talk about what they really want for Taiwan in the next 50 or 100 years.
“Taiwan needs politicians who are united,” he said. “If they continue to be divided like they are today, then Taiwan will become weaker. This is more dangerous than any military threat from China.”
Although Taiwan is smaller than China, Danielsen said Taiwan has all the sympathy of the EU people.
“That is why it’s very important for Taiwan to have its voice heard in the media,” he said. “When I talk to people in Denmark, they know Taiwan is different from China and they know Taiwan is a democracy and China is not. You must not forget that.”