Ma Ying-jeou’s fall from grace may lead Beijing to focus more of its efforts on grooming allies at the grassroots level
The vagaries of democracy being what they are, it was almost inevitable that President Ma Ying-jeou’s honeymoon with Beijing would come to an end at some point. While it may be tempting to pinpoint the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) disastrous showing in the November 29 nine-in-one elections as the day when the Taiwanese president fell out of favor with Beijing, in reality that process began several months ago. 11-29 only sealed Ma’s fate — and possibly that of the party he no longer chairs.
That it would come to this shouldn’t surprise us. In 2008, when Ma assumed the presidency, a majority of Taiwanese supported — or did not actively oppose — his efforts to normalize relations with China, the world’s second-largest economy. Most Taiwanese understood that the export-dependent nation of 23 million people couldn’t afford to ignore the elephant next door.
Less acknowledged was the fact that thawing relations across the Taiwan Strait, mostly in the economic sphere, was made possible by the consolidation of Taiwanese identity, an identity that, once Ma went to far, made sure he could not cross certain lines.
My article, published today in The Diplomat, continues here.