Sat, Dec 10, 2011 - Page 3 News List

2012 ELECTIONS: US expert urges Taiwan to show its commitment

GLOBAL AFFAIRS:A US specialist asked what Taiwan is willing to do to help fight maritime piracy, provide foreign aid and abide by WTO rules to resolve disputes

By William Lowther  /  Staff Reporter in Washington

He said that Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) had set an agenda and that Ma had made progress on most of the issues.

However, the consequences of following Hu’s agenda had been that the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) was now “very close” to winning the presidency.

If that happens, it would be much more difficult for the policies that had greatly improved cross-strait relations to continue, he said.

Beijing had to decide whether to be patient and hope its policies would eventually pay off in political terms or whether to crank up tensions and show Taiwanese that “if they carry on in this way, there is a price for them to pay,” he said.

He said Beijing’s “soft policy” toward Taiwan had been closely associated with Hu personally.

And at this time of maneuvering behind the scenes in Beijing — as a change in leadership approaches — “it does not pay to be softhearted,” he said.

He said it was much more likely that Beijing’s leaders would take more nationalistic positions as they tried to influence Taiwan elections.

If Ma wins the election, the Chinese might want to raise the level of cross-strait discussions and agreements into the political sphere.

However, a Ma victory would likely be slim and he would face a legislature that would no longer be a rubber stamp, Yahuda said.

“His room for maneuver is going to be that much more reduced,” he said.

Moving ahead and pushing the relationship with China to a higher level will be very difficult, he said, and Beijing would have to decide whether to trust Ma and give him time to work out a political deal, or whether to exert pressure.

Yahuda warned that while Beijing was well informed about Taiwan’s inner workings, it had not shown a deep understanding “about what democracy is about and how things work in democracy.”

“Of course they would welcome a Ma victory because of what the alternative is,” he said.

Yahuda said that if DPP presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) was elected next month, Beijing would not really know if it can do business with her.

“And the first step in doing business is going to be the most difficult one because she wants to reach a “Taiwan consensus” before she tries to reach across the Strait,” he said.

“Beijing may conclude that despite its best efforts, persuasion will only work if it is backed by a more active use of the threat of force, by indicating more readiness to use coercion,” Yahuda said.

“I don’t think this election will solve anything,” he said.

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