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Ma Ying-jeou ( ; born July 13, 1950) is the current President of the Republic of Chinamarker (ROC), commonly known as Taiwanmarker, and the Chairman of the Kuomintang Party, also known as the Chinese Nationalist Party. He formerly served as Justice Minister from 1993 to 1996, Mayor of Taipei from 1998 to 2006, and Chairman of the Kuomintang (KMT) from 2005 to 2007. Ma was elected Mayor of Taipeimarker in 1998 and re-elected in 2002. He was elected Chairman of the Kuomintang by party members on July 16, 2005. He announced his resignation on February 13, 2007, after being indicted by the Taiwan High Prosecutors Office on charges of misuse of mayoral funds during his tenure as the mayor of Taipei; all charges were later cleared. Ma subsequently won the presidency in the ROC presidential election of 2008. He was sworn into office as president on May 20, 2008, and sworn in as the Chairman of the Kuomintang on October 17, 2009.

Personal background

Ma was born in the then-British Crown Colony of Kowloonmarker, Hong Kongmarker on July 13, 1950, although this claim has been recently disputed (see "Controversy over birthplace" section). He is of Hakka ancestry, originating from Hunan Provincemarker. In a family of five children, Ma Ying-jeou was the only son.

He earned a law degree from National Taiwan Universitymarker in 1972. He completed additional studies in the United Statesmarker, first earning an LL.M. from New York University Law Schoolmarker in 1976 and then an S.J.D. degree from Harvard Law Schoolmarker in 1981.

After receiving his LL.M., Ma briefly worked as an associate on Wall Streetmarker in New York before moving to Massachusettsmarker for his doctoral studies. In 1981, Ma returned to Taiwan to teach law.

Ma is married to Christine Chow, and the couple has two daughters. Lesley (Ma Wei-chung, 馬唯中) was born in 1981 in New Yorkmarker when Ma was attending Harvard; she completed her undergraduate work at Harvard Universitymarker and is currently a graduate student at New York Universitymarker. Ma's younger daughter Kelly (Ma Yuan-chung, 馬元中), was born in Taiwan and is currently pursuing her undergraduate studies at Brown Universitymarker in Rhode Islandmarker.

As a youth, Ma was baptized as a Roman Catholic, but is considered a "lapsed Catholic" today as he is not in regular communion with the Church. Ma also received congratulations from Pope Benedict XVI and the Vaticanmarker after his election.

Ma and wife Christine sponsor children of low-income families in El Salvadormarker through World Vision. On an official trip to Central America in June 2009, Mrs. Ma was able to meet with one of her sponsored children, an 11-year-old boy in San Salvadormarker.

Controversy over birthplace

On December 11, 2008, DPP legislator Chai Trong-rong called a press conference and produced a document that alleges Ma's birthplace to be contrary to what is officially reported. On this document, the birth certificate for one of Ma's daughters, Ma fills out "Shengchinmarker" [sic] as his own birthplace, contradictory to his officially-reported birthplace of "Hong Kongmarker." Chai also noted that First Lady Christine Chow's birthplace was listed as "Nanking, Chinamarker" even though she is listed as also being born in Hong Kong.

Chai continues and charges that since Ma was born after 1949 and in Shenzhenmarker, then Ma legally is a citizen of the People's Republic of Chinamarker. Presidential Spokesperson Yu-chi Wang (王郁琦) responded to Legislator Chai's charges by reaffirming that all information from the President's Office regarding the President's birth is accurate. Wang also informed that Ma, on his December 11 visit to Hong Kong, was able to obtain records of his birth at Kowloon's Kwong-Wah Hospital (廣華醫院), thereby confirming once again his birth in the former British crown colony. Copies of Ma's birth certificate have also been previously shown to the public. Wang also dispelled rumors that Ma had received affirmative action in his applications to Jianguo High School (建國高級中學) and the National Taiwan Universitymarker with an "overseas Chinese" status.

Rise in politics

Ma Ying-jeou started working for President Chiang Ching-kuo of the KMT first as an English interpreter then an assistant. Ma was later promoted to the chair of the Research, Development, and Evaluation Commission under the Executive Yuanmarker at the age of 38, becoming the youngest cabinet member in the ROC government.

Ma was deputy secretary-general of the KMT from 1984 to 1988, also serving for a period as deputy of the Mainland Affairs Council (MAC), a cabinet-level body in charge of cross-straits relations. President Lee Teng-hui appointed him ROC Justice Minister in 1993. Ma was relieved of his post in 1996. His supporters claim that firing was caused by his efforts at fighting corruption of politicians and the police. Despite his efforts at anti-corruption, he remained a supporter of the Kuomintang rather than supporting the New Party which was formed by KMT supporters who campaigned on an anti-corruption platform. Ma returned to academia and most people at the time believed his political career to have effectively ended.

Mayoralty, 1998 2006

Taipei City Hall, the workplace of Taipei's mayor.
In 1998, the KMT fielded Ma to challenge the then-incumbent Taipeimarker mayor Chen Shui-bian of the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) who was seeking re-election. Despite Chen's public approval rating of over 80%, Chen was defeated. In the 2000 Presidential Election, Ma remained loyal to the KMT and supported its candidate, Lien Chan, over James Soong, who had bolted from the party and was running as an independent. The competition between Lien and Soong split the Pan-Blue vote and allowed his former rival Chen to win the presidential election with less than 50% of the popular vote. The election result, combined with other factors, incited a great deal of anger against Ma when he tried to dissuade discontented Lien and Soong supporters from protesting by appealing to them in his dual capacities as Taipei City mayor and high-ranking KMT member.

Ma was able to repair the political damage and in December 2002, he became the leading figure in the KMT by easily winning reelection as mayor of Taipei with the support of 64% of Taipei voters while DPP challenger Lee Ying-yuan received 36%. His solid victory, especially in light of opposition from both President Chen and former President and KMT Chairman Lee Teng-hui, led many to speculate about his chances as the KMT candidate for the 2004 presidential elections, although nothing came of it.

Ma again dissuaded angry Pan-Blue supporters from protesting following the very close re-election victory of President Chen in 2004 after 3-19 shooting incident. Ma chose not to join in calls to challenge or contest the election. Ma also avoided associating himself with claims that the assassination was staged.

Ma suffered some political damage as a result of the SARS epidemic in early 2003 and was criticized for not mobilizing the Taipei city government quickly enough, and for keeping Chiu Shu-ti, the public health director, who was previously criticized for her lack of concern for the outbreak. Flooding in metropolitan Taipei in 2004 also led to public questioning of his leadership and caused Ma's approval rating to slide.

During his time as Taipei's mayor, Ma had many conflicts with the central government over matters such as health insurance rates and control of the water supply during the drought. Ma also was implicated in a scandal of Taipei Bank stock releases in 2003. However, the case was dismissed after an investigation by the Taipei prosecutor. He was strongly criticized by the DPP for not allowing the ROC national flag to be flown along with a PRC flag during a cross-strait soccer match held in Taipei. Ma responded that he was merely following Olympic protocol, which only officially recognizes the Chinese Taipei Olympic Flag, and forbids ROC national flags from being shown in an Olympic Game Stadium.

His initiatives in administering the city of Taipei include changing the transliterations of street names and the Taipei Rapid Transit System's line and station names into Hanyu Pinyin, as opposed to Tongyong Pinyin. Ma has expressed mild support for Chinese reunification and opposition to Taiwan independence. He opposed the 2004 referendum, which had been widely criticized by the U.S. and PRC. Nevertheless, his opposition to the Anti-Secession Law of the People's Republic of China (while other leaders of his party remained silent on the issue) led him to be banned from visiting Hong Kongmarker to make a public speaking tour in 2005. He also criticized the PRC for the Tian'anmen crackdownmarker.

Ma's cross-political following has led some to note him as a rare example of relative civility in the notoriously rough and tumble world of Taiwanese politics. Ma has generally avoided being accused of using the vitriolic and sometimes offensive rhetoric common in Taiwanese political debate. His academic background and bearing have helped cultivate the image of Ma as an honest, dispassionate technocrat. Despite this reputation, and his wooden speaking style and shy demeanor, Ma is also considered a charismatic figure and is popular among women and youth. On the other hand, Ma's critics claim that Ma, overeager to appear unbiased and/or neutral, is overly indecisive and lacks bold vision. Ma is often accused of avoiding being out in front on some of the more vigorous or controversial criticisms of President Chen or opposing parties, or involving himself in intra-party disputes. Among these critics, Ma has been referred to as a "non-stick pan" or "Teflon-man." Recently there has also been some criticism of his stumping for election candidates suspected of and later indicted for corruption charges. Many in the Pan-Green Coalition expressed opinions that Ma misled voters by lending his clean charismatic image to unscrupulous candidates in his own party.

In recent years, Ma has increasingly employed Taiwanese in public speaking, perhaps to avoid backlash for his parents' mainland China origins, and he has called himself a "child of Bangka ", identifying himself with the historic district of Taipei where he grew up. Others claim that Ma's mainland Chinese ancestry will further alienate members of the KMT who are "light-blue" vs. the pro-unification "deep-blue."

Mayoral controversies

While often nicknamed as "Teflon pot" for his extreme preservation of personal image, Ma was nonetheless caught in some political controversies. A series of mishaps during his tenure as the Mayor of Taipei, including the administration problems that enlarged the extent of the Typhoon Nari (納莉風災), the Shutdown of Hoping Hospital (和平封院事件), the Phosgene Incident (捷運光氣事件), the Scalping Incident (捷運扯頭皮事件) and the Human Ball Scandal (邱小妹人球事件), impaired Ma’s reputation. However, Ma maneuvered through these incidents relatively unscathed.

One of Ma's most satisfactory mayoral construction was the Maokong Gondola. However, the frequent breakdown of the gondola caused the residents' distaste of the new transportation system. One poll showed only 14% of the Taipei City residents were satisfied with it, and it even led to protests. The Taiwan Environmental Information Center (台灣環境資訊協會) states that the choice to use the gondola used in the temperate zone in the tropical zone shows the failure of the Taipei City government led by Ma.

Corruption allegations

On November 14, 2006, Ma was questioned by prosecutors over his alleged misuse of a special expenses account as Taipei mayor. This occurred after Chen Shui-Bian was being investigated for corruption, and many KMT supporters believed that this prosecution was politically motivated.

At the same time, rumors surfaced that former party chairman Lien Chen would run in the presidential election of 2008. The incident may have affected the clean image of Ma and his political future. On the next day, Ma admitted one of his aides forged receipts to claim Ma's expenses as Taipei mayor, and apologized for the latest political scandal. However, Ma argued that he, like most other government officials, regarded the special expense account as supplemental salary for personal expenses undertaken in the course of official duties and that his use of this account was legal.

On February 13, 2007, Ma was indicted by the Taiwan High Prosecutors Office on charges of allegedly embezzling approximately NT$11 million (US$339,000), regarding the issue of "special expenses" while he was mayor of Taipei. The prosecutor's office said that Ma had allegedly used government funds for personal use, such as paying for one of his daughter's living expenses while studying abroad and paying for his household utilities. Before that, Ma had admitted personal usage and claims that the special funds were simply a part of his salary but had used all funds for public use or public benefit (charity donations).

Shortly after the indictment, he submitted his resignation as chairman of the Kuomintang in accordance with party rules which prohibit an indicted person from serving as KMT chairman The resignation was initially rejected but then accepted by the party's Central Standing Committee before amending a clause that barred members from running for office if charged with a crime. Shortly after the resignation, however, Ma announced his presidential candidacy.

On August 14, 2007, the Taipei District Count found Ma not guilty of corruption. Ma's defense is that he viewed "Special Expenses" as essentially "Special Allowance," originally designed to compensate for mayor's "social spending" without actually raising salary. On December 28, 2007, the Taiwan High Court found Ma again not guilty of graft charges.

On April 24, 2008, The Supreme Court cleared Ma of corruption charges, delivering a final ruling in this matter before his inauguration on May 20, 2008. The island's highest court said Ma had neither collected illegal income nor tried to break the law. Ma's secretary, however, was found guilty and faced a year in prison for his own failures in administrative duties.

KMT chairmanship, 2005 2007

Ma's prestige increased after the loss by Lien Chan in 2004 ROC Presidential Election as he is widely seen as the natural successor of Lien Chan. His handling of the post-election demonstrations of the Pan-Blue Coalition, in which he at one point sent riot police to control the demonstrations of his pan-blue party supporters, was generally seen as impartial. In 2005, Ma and Wang Jin-pyng were candidates in the first competitive election for KMT chairmanship. On 5 April 2005, in an exclusive interview with CTV talk show host Sisy Chen, Ma said he wished to lead the opposition Kuomintang with Wang, if he were elected its chairman, as their support bases are complementary. On July 16, 2005, Ma defeated Wang by a 72% to 28% margin, a margin larger than anticipated by either camp or news sources, despite Wang's receiving a last-minute endorsement by People First Party chairman James Soong, who had retained significant following within the KMT. Some, particularly the supporters of Wang Jin-pyng, accuse Ma of unfairly implying that Wang is involved in "black gold" and criticized Ma's aides for being rude to Wang during the campaign. After the election, Ma had stated repeatedly that he wishes Wang to remain as first-ranked deputy chairman. Wang, however, has so far rebuffed the gesture, instead stating that he wishes to serve as "permanent volunteer." Wang has, indeed, accepted a party post that is incompatible with vice chairmanship, effectively ending the possibility that he would be vice chairman, although after meeting with Wang, Ma had stated that he would "leave the position open" for Wang. Ma has also repeatedly stated that he had no plans to resign from the Taipei mayorship, even after he formally took over the chairmanship from incumbent Lien Chan during the 17th Party Congress of the KMT in August 2005.

Led by Ma Ying-jeou, the Kuomintang made a resounding win in the three-in-one election held on December 3, 2005. The KMT gained 6 more seats in the mayoral/magistratical race, from 8 seats in the last election, to a total of 14 seats. Before the election, Ma swore that he would quit the chairmanship if his party could not win over half of the seats, which was a first for a KMT chairman. It was a decisive win for Ma Ying-jeou as well, since he took over the party chairmanship only 110 days before. In the election, the KMT won back the counties of Taipei and Yilan, and the city of Chiayi, which had been the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP)'s strongholds for over twenty years. It was the first time in many years that the KMT regained popularity as far south as Cho-Shui River (Zhuo-Shui River). Quoting again his famous quote, Ma said, "we should only be excited about it for one evening."

2008 presidential campaign

Ma at the 2006 10th Taipei International Marathon.
On the same day he resigned as chairman of the KMT, Ma also announced his intention to run in the 2008 presidential elections. He was the official nominee of the Kuomintang for the 2008 presidential elections.

Ma led a visit to India and Singapore in June 2007 to increase bilateral exchanges as well as to gain legitimacy and experience for his 2008 presidential bid.

Ma's vice-presidential running mate was former premier Vincent Siew. Siew was also Lien Chan's running mate in the 2000 elections.

During a campaigning event in an aboriginal community, Ma made a controversial remark. Responding a question from an aboriginal woman, Ma said, "If you come into the city, you are a Taipei citizen... Aborigines should adjust their mentality -- if you come into the city you have to play by its rules." This statement was thought to be extremely inappropriate.

U.S. green card issue

Democratic Progressive Party candidate Frank Hsieh questioned Ma for his possession of a US Permanent Resident Card. Ma denied having one and publicly expressed that no members of his family had one. However, the fact that Ma and his wife had applied for green cards and that his sisters and his older daughter Lesley Weichung Ma are United States citizens caused controversy as the DPP continued to question Ma's loyalty to the country. In response to the DPP attack on the US citizenship of his sisters, Ma commented that having a US passport or green card did not mean that someone was not loyal to Taiwan.

A week before the presidential election, incumbent President Chen Shui-bian vowed to quit if Ma could provide legal documents of the invalidation of his green card. The DPP presidential candidate also said that he was willing to withdraw from the race if Ma could prove, using official documents, that his green card was invalidated twenty years ago. Ma responded the next day to the president that he should work on improving Taiwan's economy instead of caring about the election so much; earlier, Ma also provided copies of US non-immigrant visas issued to him during the 1980s and 1990s, claiming the card was invalid as such visas are not issued to green card holders.

Environmental criticism

Ma has been criticized by many environmental groups. His mayoral construction of the Maokong Gondola was criticized by the Taiwan Environmental Information Center. The construction of the Taipei Arenamarker also drew negative reactions from these groups. The Society of Wilderness (SOW; 荒野保護協會) pointed out that of the three hundred and eighty-four trees that were moved for the construction, more than a hundred already died. The city government said that the ages of the trees are unknown, therefore they are not protected by law. The SOW then responded that according to pictures taken by the United States Air Force in 1947 and 1948, these trees were present already during the Japanese rule era.

During his presidential campaign, Ma participated in one of the debates that discussed many topics, including environmental protection. The Taiwan Academy of Ecology evaluated the policies of both candidates Hsieh and Ma, and the secretary of its workstation in Taipeimarker said that both candidates failed their expectations, but Hsieh has more hope than Ma because Ma's environmental concepts lack considerations of reality. In February 2008, several environmental groups created a list of commitments for the two candidates to sign. DPP candidate Frank Hsieh agreed to all the items on the list and signed it in March. Ma did not, and emailed the group instead. The Taiwan Environmental Protection Union (TEPU) criticized Ma for ignoring important issues and not having the guts to sign the commitments.

After Ma was elected president on March 22, 2008, the Green Party Taiwan expressed its fear that president-elect Ma would focus too much on improving the economy and that he would ignore many critical environmental issues. The head of the Environmental Quality Protection Foundation also emphasized the importance of environmental protection as one of the factors of economic development.

Presidency, 2008 onward

Ma officially won on March 22, 2008 with 58% of the vote, ending 8 years of DPP rule. Ma won with 7,659,014 votes against Hsieh's 5,444,949 votes. Ma's overwhelming victory in the presidential election gave him political mandate to make changes in Taiwan.

Party Candidate Votes Percentage
President Vice president
Kuomintang Ma Ying-Jeou Vincent Siew 7,659,014 58.45%
Democratic Progressive Party Frank Hsieh Su Tseng-Chang 5,444,949 41.55%
Total 13,103,963 100.00%


Ma took office on May 20, 2008. The inaugural ceremony took place in the Taipei Arenamarker in Taipeimarker. A state dinner took place in Kaohsiungmarker the same day.

Ma was named among the 2008 Time 100 in its "Leaders & Revolutionaries" section. He is described by Time as "one of those rare politicians who have an opportunity to shape the destiny not only of their own nation but also of an entire region."

On August 12, 2008, Ma embarked on his first foreign trip as President. Ma's visit centered upon improving relations with Taiwan's Latin American allies. He attended the inaugurations of both Leonel Fernandez of the Dominican Republicmarker and Fernando Lugo of Paraguaymarker. Ma also made a stop at Panamamarker and met with President Martin Torrijos. There was emphasis that there will be no new aid packages during the visits; if any new economic aid were to be announced, they would be announced from Taiwan and not from abroad. The trip included U.S. stop-overs in Los Angelesmarker, Austinmarker, and San Franciscomarker. Ma's trip across the Pacific was via commercial flight and only chartered a smaller jet from the United States; he was accompanied by an 81-member delegation.

Cross-strait relations

Ma, in his inaugural address, laid out his promise in dealing with cross-strait relations that there would be "no reunification, no independence and no war" (不統, 不獨, 不武) during his tenure as President.

A Time Magazine article published in the August 11, 2008 edition of the magazine said that in less than three months' time, "relations between Taiwan and China have arguably seen the most rapid advancement in the six-decade standoff between the two governments. Ma launched direct weekend charter flights between China and Taiwan for the first time, opened Taiwan to mainland Chinese tourists, eased restrictions on Taiwan investment in mainland China and approved measures that will allow mainland Chinese investors to buy Taiwan stocks."

Ahead of a visit by Chen Yunlin on November 3, 2008, chairman of the Beijing-based the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits (ARAT), the opposition Pan-Green Coalition criticized the visit as "taking steps toward eventual reunification" and damaging Taiwan's sovereignty. Opposition to the visit by the chairman of the ARAT also sparked massive peaceful rallies and protests organised by the opposition DPP party on October 25, 2008. Preliminary estimates place the number of protesters at around 500,000. Protesters accused Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou "of making too many concessions and moving too fast in relaxing restrictions on trade and investment with China." Government´s polls have suggested that Chen Yunlin's visit and the government's policy of normalising cross-strait relations have support of 50% to 60% of the Taiwanese population. However, many have questioned the validility of such polls.

Chen's visit was the highest level visit from mainland China to Taiwan that had taken place since the Chinese Civil War in 1949. Chen was expected to meet with his Taipei-based counterpart, Chiang Pin-kung beginning on November 4 2008. The two sides signed four agreements on November 5, detailing the loosening of restrictions with regards to air, marine, and postal links as well as better regulations on food safety.

During Chen's visit in Taipei, he was met with a series of strong protests directed at himself and Ma Ying-jeou, some of which were violent with Molotov cocktails being thrown by the protesters at riot police. However, a series of violent events were commited by the police, including breaking the national flags held by the peaceful protesters, hiting the journalists and protesters in the face, breaking into private hotel rooms and taking away private properties, and shutting down local stores with force and threats. A series of arrests were made after the protests with a secret letter being sent from the police to a members of the media. Local police reported that 149 of its officers were injured during the opposition protests. Consistent with the 1992 Consensus, Chen did not call Ma "President", instead calling him "Mr. Ma". In what may be considered a "related fashion", in 2008 when KMT ex-politician Lien Chan met Hu Jintao in Peru, Lien did not call the PRC President Hu Jintao "President" but instead used his title "General Secretary," which refers instead to Hu's post as the head of the Chinese Communist Party.

After the chaos during and after Chen´s visit, college students and professors launched a peaceful sitout, demanding a more reasonable assembly law and a stop to police violence. This is the well-known Wild Strawberry student movement (Chinese: 野草莓運動). A few days into the sitout, the prime minister Liu Chao-shiuan accidentally spoke of his opinion during an interview on air that he did not think the movement would last more than 3 days. This angered the students, professors, and the general public. In the end, the sitout lasted 1 month. Then, it moved into an organization direction. However, the polls in two of Taiwan's biggest newspapers after the visit still reported that about 70% of the Taiwanese public considered Chen's visit to have a positive effect on Taiwan's development, while 22% of the respondents thought the effect would be negative with the remaining 8% not expressing an opinion. The opposition Pan-Green caucus have continuously claimed this result being a form of media manipulation by the KMT. However, other major polls in Taiwanese newspapers and news websites have shown similar results regardless of political alignment.

Economic woes

One of Ma's promises as presidential candidate was called the "633 Plan," which promised economic growth rate of 6%, unemployment rate of less than 3%, and per capita income of more than US$30,000. However relatively high unemployment rate (~4.06% in July) and high consumer price index attributed to a high misery index three months after Ma's inauguration not seen in 28 years.

In early September, Ma, in an interview with a Mexican newspaper, admitted that he will not be able to achieve his "633 Plan" promises before the end of his first term.

About 2,000 companies had gone bankrupt in the six months following Ma's inauguration, according to a governmental commercial office in Taipei. The Taiwan Stock Exchange also fell to two-year lows in September 2008.

On September 11, 2008, Ma's cabinet unveiled a $5.6-billion USD ($180-billion TWD) economic stimulus package. Among the items of the package were infrastructure projects, economic incentives to small businesses, and other tax cuts. Stock transaction taxes were also halved for the next six months. Taiwan's economy was projected to grow 4.3% in 2008, down from 5.7 in 2007, according to Fitch Ratings..

Although an economic stimulus plan was introduced, Taiwan stocks still closed lower on September 11, 2008. The Financial Times describes Taiwan's economic downturn as results from "downward pressure driven by global factors." Analysts also point out that, "During its first 100 days in office, the government has made a series of bold steps to deregulate economic ties between Taiwan and China. But as these policies coincided with the global downturn and foreign investors had already bought Taiwan stocks heavily before the election, betting on the reforms, the island’s market has seen a sell-off worse than the regional average." Taiwan's government reported that the economy slumped 8.36 percent during the last three months of 2008.

Direct links

On December 15, 2008, Taiwan and the Chinese mainland resumed direct sea, air, and mail links. It ended an almost six-decade-long ban between the two sides on such trips. Previous flights between the two countries required a connections at Hong Kongmarker, and doubled the travel times. As many as 108 flights per week are scheduled, as well as 60 cargo flights per month across the strait, evenly divided between Taiwanese and Mainland airlines.

Shipping companies, because of shorter voyages and time-savings, can also save up to US$120 million (TWD $4 billion) each year. Previously, shipping companies from both sides of the strait were required to reroute their ships into third-country waters. The two sides also agreed that neither the ROC nor the PRC flag will be displayed when a ship enters port.

In July 2009, Ma refused to open airspace of the Taiwan Strait to accommodate higher passenger traffic, citing the Taiwan Strait airspace's importance to Taiwan's security.

Bid for KMT leadership

On June 25, 2009, Ma Ying-jeou registered as the sole candidate for the election of the KMT chairmanship. The election took place on July 26, 2009. Ma will be the new KMT chairman from September 12, 2009. This will allow Ma to be able to meet with People's Republic of Chinamarker (PRC) President Hu Jintao (who is also the General Secretary of the Communist Party of China) and other PRC delegates, as he would be able to represent the KMT as leader of a Chinese political party, rather than as head-of-state of a political entity unrecognized by the PRC. Ma has, however, ruled out meeting his PRC counterpart Hu Jintao in a 14 July 2009 interview with Taiwan's Commercial Times newspaper. In the interview, Ma states, "A meeting in the capacity of a party chairman will not solve the problem because other people would still insist that I meet him as the president."

On July 26, 2009, Ma Ying-jeou won 93.87% of the vote for KMT leadership, becoming the new chairman of the Kuomintang.

Typhoon Morakot

Typhoon Morakot, the worst typhoon to strike Taiwan in 50 years, hit Taiwan on August 8, 2009. In the aftermath of the typhoon, President Ma suffered criticism for his handling of the disaster from both sides of Taiwan's political spectrum. Many news outlets likened Typhoon Morakot to being Ma's "Hurricane Katrina." Editorials and political commentators have accused Ma of, among other charges, of poor leadership and poor crisis management. Taiwan's political commentators were most critical of Ma's refusal to declare a state of emergency together with failure to fully mobilize the military, instead, Ma Ying-jeou blamed the local governments and the villagers for not "being evacuated earlier." Ma's approval ratings sank from 52% (in May) to 29%, in a United Daily News poll. In an August 2009 CNN online poll, 82% of respondents wanted Ma to resign. An editorial piece lambasts Ma saying:"[Ma] has been distant and arrogant, and he has only made [victims] more angry instead of comforting them...He has not shown decisiveness required in a leader when facing a sudden disaster."

Through criticism, however, Ma has apologized publicly for his government's failure to respond swifter with rescue and recovery efforts. Ma has cancelled 2009's Double Ten Day national celebrations, and his state visit to the Solomon Islands for the Third Taiwan-South Pacific summit. A probe has also been launched to investigate why government response was slow and inadequate, and vice foreign minister Andrew Hsia has tendered his resignation to Ma's premier, Liu Chao-shiuan. On 10 September, Liu and the rest of cabinet resigned en masse under pressure.

Political positions

View on independence

In February 2006, while visiting Europe, Ma said that although he and the KMT favor eventual reunification, the KMT respects the opinions of Taiwanese people, and independence is a choice for the people of Taiwan. This caused widespread criticism within the party and from mainland China. In a December 2005 Newsweek International interview when asked about unification, Ma stated that "for our party, the eventual goal is reunification, but we don't have a timetable," explaining that he meant it was a choice for Taiwan but a choice for the Chinese KMT. Perhaps to deflect heavy criticism from the Pan-Green Coalition the KMT later made an advertisement in the Liberty Times recognizing that independence is an option for the Taiwanese people. Wang Jin-pyng praised Ma for the policy shift since Wang himself made a similar statement during the 2004 election, but James Soong said he was "shocked" and Lien Chan said he was never consulted. This event actually won some welcome voices from Southern Taiwan where voters customarily favor the Pan-Green Coalition. One top KMT official said "we might as well let the measles out now so that we will be immune to it when election year comes close, because reunification or independence can be a hot topic by then."

Ma clarified later that the current KMT policy of retaining the status quo has not changed and has reiterated this position several times; further he also has reiterated his party's support of the one-China policy. Ma has defined the status quo as the "Five Nos." During a visit to the United Statesmarker in March 2006, he proposed a "proactive" approach to cross-strait relations which he called the "Five Dos."

On March 17, 2008, Ma threatened to boycott the Beijing Olympics if elected should the 2008 unrest in Tibet spiral out of control. After he was elected president, he refused to let the Dalai Lama visit Taiwan citing the timing as inappropriate, but then approved a later visit for the Dalai Lama in the aftermath of Typhoon Morakot in August 2009.

View on human rights and democracy

In June 2009, while the whole world remembered the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989 in Beijing, a leader of the Chinese democracy movement and the then student leader Wang Dan (Chinese: 王丹) visited Taiwan as in previous years to meet up with Ma about human rights and democracy in China. However, Ma delayed the appointment 3 times and cancelled the appointment with Wang in the end. In a press meeting with DPP Chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen, Wang Dan spoke of how it has become more difficult to see "President Ma" in comparision to "Mayor Ma of Taipei City."

View on cross-strait relations

After his success in the presidential election, Ma Ying-jeou said he had no immediate plans to visit mainland China and would work to fulfill his campaign pledge to improve relations with mainland China, starting direct charter flights, allowing mainland Chinese tourists to visit Taiwan and lifting the ROC's legislative restrictions on the financial sector to invest in mainland China.

Since then, Ma Ying-jeou has repeatedly mentioned the "1992 Consensus" as the existing basis for constructive dialogue and exchange between Mainland China and Taiwan. On 12 April 2008, then Vice-President-elect Vincent Siew formally met with Hu Jintao at the Boao Forum in Hainan, China.

On September 2, 2008, Ma declared that the relations between Taiwan and mainland China were "special," but "not between two states," meaning that they are relations based on two areas of one state. Taiwan considers that state as the Republic of China, while mainland China considers that state as the People's Republic of China. While the governing authorities on mainland China and Taiwan cannot recognise each other as a legitimate government due to legal and constitutional reasons, Ma seeks that they would refrain from denying the other side being the de facto governing authority of one area of the state. On October 18, 2008, Ma said he hoped that a cross-strait peace accord could be reached during his term in office.

Ma has received criticism from the DPP, the opposition party, for praising the PRC on human rights, especially during the 20-year anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Protests. Departing from his usual critical view of the mainland China's handling of the 1989 protests, Ma made a statement praising the PRC for its recent improvements in human rights. That same day, he also asked the PRC government to face its history directly and honestly.

Within a week of his remarks on Tiananmen, Ma voiced support for the acceptance of Simplified Chinese for written text and the continued use of Traditional Chinese for printed text. Ma had to clarify his remarks regarding simplified characters at in a 15-minute speech before the sixth International Conference on Internet Chinese Education on June 19, 2009. Ma reiterated his policy of urging China to learn the traditional system. His previous call was for the ability of Taiwan's population to recognize simplified characters, and not for simplified characters to supplant the traditional system in Taiwan.

In 2009, for the first time in 17 years, the Republic of China will not submit a bid to join the United Nations as a member.

See also



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