By JTW By Selcuk Colakoglu Taiwan, a state whose official name is the Republic of China and which is recognized only by 23 countries in the world, held its presidential elections on 14 January This election was an important turning point on the issue of whether Taiwan will carry on as an independent state or whether it will integrate with China along similar lines to Hong Kong.
This election was, however, different in some key respects: The significance of the second of these novel features should not be overstated. Relations with the Mainland were more salient than the surface focus on issues of economic performance, inequality, pensions, housing affordability, and public health and safety may suggest.
Cross-Strait Issues and the Elections: But it also reflected other changes. Under party chair and presidential candidate Tsai, the DPP had positioned itself effectively nearer the political center on cross-Strait policy, thereby neutralizing an issue on which the KMT had long enjoyed an advantage with voters.
More significant politically, many Taiwanese saw the benefits from cross-Strait economic integration as going overwhelmingly to a small elite. Ma-era policies toward the Mainland became entwined with public perceptions of unacceptably high levels of inequality.
The most striking example was the reaction to the proposed cross-Strait agreement on trade in services—one of nearly two dozen follow-on agreements to the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement reached in the early days of the Ma administration.
The severely truncated debate and lack of substantive deliberation prompted sharp denunciations of a lack of transparency and democracy, and successful calls for the introduction of new legislation to provide for more detailed and substantive legislative scrutiny of cross-Strait agreements.
The legislation, although still unenacted, is a top DPP priority for While cross-Strait issues thus played a large if sometimes underappreciated and somewhat indirect role in the elections, they also will remain a crucial concern for the DPP-led government.
And success will be more achievable—or possible at all—if cross-Strait relations go reasonably well. Relations, and Beijing 1: First, at home, the Tsai government should have some latitude to formulate and adjust cross-Strait policies.
And the opposition KMT is, for now, too much in disarray to frame a clear and politically effective alternative position on cross-Strait policy or other issues. With its once-rising star Eric Chu Chu Li-luan having been dragged reluctantly into the presidential race and having led his party to a stunning defeat, the KMT faces internal struggles and, in the immediate aftermath of the elections, seemed to have little political strategy beyond waiting for Tsai and the DPP to make mistakes or to fail to solve the problems that had made voters so dissatisfied with Ma and the KMT that they turned the incumbent party out of power.
Inthe U. Her pre election trip went far better, with her more clearly articulated and more centrist positions on cross-Strait relations winning much greater acceptance, her quiet meetings with higher-ranking U.
That is, China left no doubt that it favored the KMT, but it did not rule out dealing with a DPP-led government that was willing to eschew positions on cross-Strait issues that Beijing deemed unacceptable.
Relations and Beijing 2: Underlying Weaknesses and Challenges Yet, on each of these fronts, Tsai and her government may be in a weaker position than these evident strengths suggest. First, insulation from political pressure at home may prove fragile.
Although the incoming DPP government has tried hard to manage expectations, slow progress on economic issues could quickly become a problem. In these circumstances, Tsai would face pressure to respond. Critical voices would likely grow loud, charging that her approach to cross-Strait relations was not working.
Small but significant U. The generally positive reception for Tsai in Washington in mid should not be over-read. Although more subdued, complaints persisted in some quarters that Tsai had not yet made her cross-Strait policies clear. Inhowever, Washington had to engage Tsai as a presumptive victor in the then-upcoming election.
In such circumstances, U. Simply, Washington has reason to—and does—treat presumptive winners differently from likely losers. China-watching circles that a largely cooperative relationship between Beijing and Washington could not be counted upon.
But, here too, the apparent good news for Tsai and Taiwan should not be exaggerated.
If that happens, the U. This is a risk for Taiwan even if Washington does not see Taipei as having caused deterioration in cross-Strait and, in turn, U.
The problem for Taiwan is greater still if influential opinion in the U. Prospects for Taiwan are all the more uncertain because a still-unknown new U. Such learning does not neatly translate simply into an accommodating approach to post-election cross-Strait relations in But there is still a gap, and Tsai appears unlikely to be willing, or able politically, to accept the terms Beijing has, so far, insisted upon as the political basis for stability—or perhaps the avoidance of retrogression—in cross-Strait relations.
Words and Deeds The question looms of whether some new or revised formulation can be found in the arcane politics of creating language to handle cross-Strait relations. Will it be possible to craft a terminology that, on the one hand, Beijing can accept as adequate to provide the requisite framework and to preserve the political basis or foundation that Beijing characterizes as indispensable to the peaceful development of cross-Strait relations during the last eight years and that, on the other hand, Tsai and her DPP supporters can tolerate.
Tsai will not take office until May 20, and her inaugural address likely will be a key occasion as it certainly was for Chen in and and for Ma in to offer a definitive statement of her formula for engaging the Mainland.
The four months between election and taking office surely will be marked by intense efforts and discussions among all three sides of the cross-Strait relationship—Taiwan, the Mainland and the United States—to shape an effective and acceptable locution.Although Taiwan is a small island the remains in the shadows of the Republic of China, Taiwan contains its own business corruption protection acts just as the U.S.
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