Friday 08 Oct 2021 | 12:50 | SYDNEY
Friday 08 Oct 2021 | 12:50 | SYDNEY

Nobel: Ma Ying-jeou overlooked


Raoul Heinrichs

12 October 2009 08:30

Like many people, I tend to think the decision to pre-emptively award President Obama the Nobel Peace prize was a very poor one. Not only is Obama undeserving, having failed thus far to secure any substantial foreign policy achievement, but the decision appears to have been motivated primarily by a desire to strait-jacket his policy choices and, more obviously, to bash the Bush Administration over the head once again for its own excesses.

But if it was the Nobel Committee's intention to influence US policy in a more peaceful direction, I suspect it could have precisely the opposite effect, instead compounding Obama's sensitivity to his 'bleeding heart' image and reinforcing his determination to entrench his national security credentials, including by at least forging on, if not escalating, in Afghanistan.

But if not Obama, then whom? To my mind, perhaps the most worthy candidate would have been Ma Ying-jeou, president of Taiwan. Since his election in March 2008, Ma has provided the impetus for the most rapid and wide-ranging rapprochement in cross-Strait relations in sixty years.

Even as Taiwan's economic growth came to a grinding halt – it grew at 0.1% for most of 2008 – Ma has sustained broad public support for his approach to relations with the mainland, securing Beijing's tentative cooperation by deferring questions of independence and reunification, and facilitating agreements on, among other things, the establishment of direct charter flights, a diplomatic truce, and new bilateral investment guidelines – all the while conducting his diplomacy in a manner generally conducive to further improvement in relations. 

Yes, these were the easy steps; the most vexing issues remain unresolved. Nevertheless, as someone who has palpably reduced tensions and helped to mitigate the risks of major war, however modestly, Ma Ying-jeou would surely have made a more appropriate recipient.

 Photo by Flickr user Prince Roy, used under a Creative Commons license.