Friday, March 15, 2013

Sorry Beijing, You probably won’t get much more from Ma Ying-jeou

President Ma chairs a KMT meeting earler this month
Democracy and of the electoral cycle will preclude any dramatic policy shift on the KMT’s China policy 

The breadth and scope of the liberalization that has occurred in the Taiwan Strait since the election of Ma Ying-jeou of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) in 2008 has been nothing short of extraordinary, at least if this progress is contrasted with what came before. For Ma critics, the KMT has gone too far, too fast, and in the process it may have undermined the sovereignty of Taiwan. However, with presidential elections less than three years away, Ma will probably be unable to deliver much more than what has already been offered to Beijing, which means that political dialogue on Taiwan’s status will remain off the table. 

Paradoxically, the reason why the cross-Strait honeymoon may be over stems from the very policies that permitted Ma to make short shrift of former premier Frank Hsieh, his Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) opponent in 2008, and to be re-elected in 2012 against a formidable challenger, the DPP’s Tsai Ing-wen. 

More than any other party, Ma’s KMT understood back in 2008 that in order to regain, and retain, power, it needed to clearly articulate what it meant by maintaining the “status quo” in the Taiwan Strait, while simultaneously providing reassurances to both Beijing and Washington. What it did better than other contenders, and why it won, was to understand the maneuvering space within which it could operate and how to balance the expectations, often at odds with one another, of China, the U.S., and Taiwan’s 23 million people. 

My article, published today on the China Policy Institute Blog at the University of Nottingham, continues here.

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