In an interview with Voice of America late last year, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) laid out his cross-strait policy, outlining two main components: direct links and a peace treaty. He also admitted that the time is not yet ripe for unification, and that it wouldn't be for at least another generation.
Such comments suggest that he is not aware of the near certainty that, by the time he has delivered what he promised, Beijing will be the only one that can have any say on the timetable for unification. By glossing over this important detail, Ma is deluding himself at best -- and deceiving the majority of the Taiwanese people, at worst.
Bringing about direct links could be as simple as agreeing to shelve Taiwan's sovereignty and treat cross-strait issues as purely domestic issues, while ignoring long-term national security implications.
While equally far-reaching, a cross-strait peace treaty could have serious consequences for Taiwan's domestic stability. That's because Beijing's two non-negotiable conditions for any peace treaty between China and Taiwan would likely be Taiwan's unilateral disarmament and a legal ban on the independence movement.
Beijing might calculate that the realization of the first condition would pave the way for it to enforce the second.
Hence, the KMT-Chinese Communist Party (CCP) alliance would first focus on exploiting the fact that "disarming for peace" would be an easy sell to an uninformed Taiwanese public.
There is no ingenuity involved in what Ma is proposing. The most remarkable difference between his approach and that of President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) in resolving the cross-strait impasse is Ma's willingness to mortgage Taiwan's sovereignty to Beijing in exchange for the KMT's potentially indefinite hold on power in Taiwan.
Regardless, should Ma's administration attempt to outlaw Taiwan's aspirations for formal independence, a popular uprising could occur. If such an uprising materialized, it could mark the start of more turmoil in Taiwan. It could even precipitate an unprecedented calamity which would make the human and economic toll of the 228 Incident seem like a minor agitation in comparison.
Neither the probability nor likely scale of such an event should be minimized, considering the events that would have preceded it and Taiwan's growing strategic value.
Essentially, Ma would have erred in his failure or unwillingness to recognize that cross-strait matters are international matters. His embrace of Taiwan's disarmament would have essentially broken the US' deliberately designed chain of containment against China's military expansion, and therefore would have harmed the US' long-term security interests.
Moreover, his professed ultimate goal -- unifying Taiwan with China -- is counter to Japan's vital national interests of keeping its southwestern Pacific shipping lanes out of the hands of a hostile China.
Ma and the rest of the pan-blue leaders would have therefore permanently damaged Taiwan's long-term image as a strategic partner in the eyes of the US-Japan alliance's military planners.
Once arriving at the conclusion that Taiwan could not be kept as an ally, the alliance's strategic thinkers would contemplate the feasibility of preventing it from becoming a frontline for China, lest Taiwan be transformed into a springboard or even home base for the Chinese navy to project its power into the Pacific Ocean and beyond.