Former chairman of the American Institute in Taiwan Richard Bush said on Monday he believed the current momentum in Taiwan-China relations would “slow down” during President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) second term.
Speaking on the sidelines of a Washington-based conference called “Taiwan’s Maturing Democracy,” Bush said that many of the easy items had already been dealt with — leaving the more problematic and difficult areas of relations.
“Now we get to the hard issues,” he said.
By their very nature, these were the issues that would take much longer to deal with, he said.
Bush, a member of the official US government delegation set to attend Ma’s inauguration, said this inauguration would be “a little bit different” from the last four, which occurred during periods of tension in cross-strait relations.
He said observers had regarded past inaugurations as events to indicate an “initial signal” to know if there were going to be a new direction in cross-strait relations.
“But this is different,” Bush said. “We have had a period of four years where the two sides have worked to stabilize cross-strait relations, not disturb them.”
“This will be Ma’s second term and we have a pretty good idea what his policies are. He has not been shy about telling us. Like everyone else, I will be listening very carefully to what he says, but we should not expect huge surprises,” Bush said.
Bush said that the “basic direction” of cross-strait relations would continue without major change, but that some of the -Taiwan-China economic issues that now have to be faced were likely to be difficult.
“Political and security issues will be really hard, but I have the impression that China understands this,” Bush said.
He said that China knew there was “political anxiety” in Taiwan about “critical talks and peace -accords and things like that,” adding that “they are prepared to go at a pace that fits the Taiwan situation.”
Meanwhile, Bush said the US-Taiwan relationship was now in “very good shape,” adding that “we have seen several steps by this administration to make significant changes. There has been 12 billion [US] dollars in arms sales and the visa waiver program and so on.”
Substantial progress could now be made on economic issues “very important” to both Taipei and Washington interests, Bush said.
“I hope it can happen. The beef issue is the starting point, and then we can move on to other aspects of our economic relationship, aspects that are overdue,” he said.