President Chen Shui-Bian's (
The next legislative election is scheduled for December and in March next year Taiwan will choose a new president.
However, a joint election is being discussed.
The US and Chinese reactions to Chen's speech, as well as the reactions in Taiwan, were varied, as one would expect.
China complained about the rhetorical separation and reminded the US to honor a "one China" policy.
The US government did so, but experts' reactions ranged from pleased to alarmed.
In Taiwan, some said the speech was nothing new, while others called it a catastrophe.
At the same time, Washington will no doubt be watching the forthcoming elections in Taiwan.
The US seems to be more interested in keeping an eye on possible changes to Taiwan's Constitution than on the differences between the two main political parties.
Making changes to the Constitution is difficult.
China's interest in taking over Taiwan makes changes to the country's Constitution even more difficult.
From the US standpoint, and given past experience, not to maintain continuous discussions on this issue is not prudent.
What is lacking is a regular bilateral dialogue at an appropriate level.
What can these three interested parties -- the US, China and Taiwan's own people -- expect to hear about the coming elections?
A new system is going to be implemented in the legislature,leading to a halving of the number of legislators.
An important factor will be how each side finances election campaigns.
In the past the Chinese Nationalist Party's (KMT) large assets have played a key role and could play a key role again.
The past eight years have shown that having the majority in the legislature is perhaps an even more important source of power than controlling the executive branch.
The KMT has been able in the legislature to block matters such oversight by the Control Yuan, for example.
At the same time, the president does not have the power to veto a bill.
The two major parties should over the next few months be determining a candidate for next year's presidential election.
The KMT seems poised to choose popular party Chairman Ma Ying-jeou (
It seems to be moving toward settling internal differences within the party, which is not an easy task.
The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) is in a less predictable situation.
There are four likely DPP candidates, but like the KMT, the party is dealing internally with ideological differences.
While Taiwan is preparing itself for legislative and presidential elections, China, on the other hand, will not only be occupied with its economy and the forthcoming Olympics, it will also be busy working on its international relations.
US experts should be considering what might lead to changes in priorities in its relationship with Taiwan.
The platforms of the DPP and the KMT ahead of next year's presidential election are still undecided.
Often, election platforms change even once they have been decided upon and publicized.
In the 2004 election, for example, the KMT changed its stance on several issues to take positions that originally had been considered unacceptable by the public.
From the US perspective, the differences between the DPP and KMT are various and important.
As regards cross-strait relations, the DPP will focus on balancing the economic needs for its businesses in China, while preventing ties with China from overwhelming the economy.
It will also strive to get official recognition of Taiwan at international bodies.
The KMT wants to see a much closer economic relationship with China in hopes of boosting Taiwan's economy.
It is willing to draw much closer to China on many other issues as well.
It sees becoming a part of China at some time in the future as a goal.
Regarding security issues, the DPP leadership has not been able to establish sufficient influence to steer military defense policies in the direction it desires and gain the support of the public on security matters.
The KMT, on the other hand has deliberately weakened Taiwan's defense to gain political power and establish its own relationship with China.
The US must consider the differences between the two sides and the relationship not only with Taiwan but also with China.
In addition, the US must think about the long-term effects of its policies.
One example is US efforts to encourage Taiwan to increase its economic ties with China, while at the same time pressing Taiwan to increase its purchases of military arms and technology from the US.
Based on the statements of the two parties at this time, what can the US expect in the future? What is best for the US?
Nat Bellocchi is a former chairman of the American Institute in Taiwan and is now a special adviser to the Liberty Times Group. The views expressed in this article are his own.
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