The Corner

A New Formosa Crisis?

Things look bad in Taiwan. Former president (2000-2008) Chen Shui-bian has been arrested on corruption charges by the government of his successor (since May this year), Ma Ying-jeou. Chen was pro-autonomy; Ma is much keener on “cross-strait relations.” Chen’s arrest comes after some ugly scenes last week during a visit to the island by a ChiCom flunky, in aid of further “improving cross-strait relations.” There were public protests, dealt with very brutally by the police.

On the corruption charges: I wouldn’t be surprised, though the administration has acted very high-handedly in making evidence known, and in its treatment of Chen. He was for example manacled, quite unnecessarily. (See this editorial from today’s Taipei Times.) But then, “un-corrupt Taiwan politician” is pretty much an oxymoron, and I doubt Ma’s affairs would bear very close scrutiny. His party is the KMT, after all — the party, that is, of the late Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek, know in his time to American newspapermen as “General Cash My Check.” What’s going on here is the criminalization of politics; and if the ChiComs don’t have a hand in it somewhere, then their Intelligence and Covert Ops people are not doing what their employers pay them to do.

With the Olympic games out of the way, and an unknown quantity in the White House, the ChiComs might have it in mind to make a move against Taiwan. That Ma would be a willing cat’s paw in their scheme, I doubt; but he might be an un-willing one. It doesn’t help a bit that Taiwan is in dire economic, er, straits.

John Derbyshire — Mr. Derbyshire is a former contributing editor of National Review.

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