Former American Institute in Taiwan director Douglas Paal said that cross-strait relations are entering “an era of limited aspirations and restrained expectations.”
In a commentary published by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace this week, Paal said Taiwan-China relations appear more stable than they have been in more than 60 years.
However, that does not mean that further big steps to improve relations between Taipei and Beijing should be expected, he said.
Paal, vice president for studies at the Washington-based think tank, said that in cross-strait relations the outlook is only for incremental improvement.
Among the improvements Taiwan expects to achieve include expanded preferential trade arrangements with China, an investment protection agreement, expanded educational opportunities in both directions and advanced cooperation against crime.
“Despite their limited scope, these will be politically sensitive and tricky to implement without triggering negative reactions,” Paal wrote.
President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) is “braving a hornets’ nest of reactions” to his efforts to reform the taxation system, the judiciary and education, he said.
“President Ma appears to calculate that by taking painful measures forcefully up front ... he will have time to recover as the reforms demonstrate their benefits,” Paal wrote.
“If the benefits fail to become apparent, however, he may [be] laying the foundation for a successful run against his government by the opposition DPP [Democratic Progressive Party],” he added.
“President Ma will need to apply a firmer measure of hands-on control than in his first term if he expects to reap the benefits of the reforms he has initiated,” Paal wrote.