Examine further that while certain political leaders in the US have shown Ma deference, that also has not moved the base of DPP support nor improved Ma’s ratings.
In the future, with the Ma mystique shattered and the growing realization that Ma has been ineffective in rooting out corruption in the KMT, the playing field for 2016 will be much more level. China cannot avoid that.
Look further at the fact that even with an opening up to China with hopes of economic improvement, there has been a solidly increasing sense of Taiwanese identity. Ma’s constant references to seeing himself in the tradition of the Yellow Emperor and his repeated emphasis on Zhonghua Minzu (中華民族, the Chinese ethnic group) have been ineffectual in stemming this. Economics is one thing; seeing oneself as Taiwanese is another.
The economic links to China are also weakening as salaries increase and regulations become stricter. Some businesses are beginning to vote with their feet and move out of China. Add this to the fact that Taiwanese identity is the DPP’s strong suit and you have another aspect that China will have to deal with.
Even the matter of Taiwan being off the US’ radar is illusory and temporary. North Korea of course has currently moved to the front burner in Asia, but pundits should consider this: If the US and Japan have shown a united front against China over such small territory as the Diaoyutai Islands (釣魚台) in the past, can they think that these two powers would not be more united over China threatening to take a democratic Taiwan with its 23 million people?
Taiwan has both a far greater strategic position than the Senkakus — as the Diaoyutais are known in Japan — and it would be political suicide for the US to sacrifice a democratic ally for any material advantages that China might provide, or both China and the US would hope to gain in the future.
For some time, the Chinese Communist Party has tried to handle dealings with Taiwan on a party-to-party basis between it and the KMT. That has not worked in the past, and will not work in the future, even without the DPP gaining a victory in 2016.
Whatever way one looks at it, China is going to have to learn to talk to and deal with the DPP and a democratic Taiwan.
Jerome Keating is a commentator in Taipei.