As President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) juggles the opportunities and challenges of cross-strait relations during the remainder of his second term there will be “significant political turmoil” in the nation, a US academic said.
“It is rare to find any issue of importance that does not come down to a partisan struggle between the ruling Kuomintang [Chinese Nationalist Party, KMT] and the opposition Democratic Progressive Party [DPP],” he said.
“I find this sadly reminiscent of the political dysfunction that currently prevails in the US,” Henry Stimson Center East Asia program director Alan Romberg said.
“Even in Washington one does not witness the physical obstructionism that plays such a prominent role in Taipei’s political scene today,” Romberg said.
Despite this, the coming period in cross-strait relations is “unlikely to be tumultuous,” Romberg said, because ties across the Strait are on a “reasonably stable and predictable course.”
In an academic paper on cross-strait relations leading up to 2016, Romberg says China is prepared to pay the necessary price in its ongoing campaign to win hearts and minds by continuing “to skew the terms generally in Taiwan’s favor.”
The paper, published earlier this month, came just before Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) said that China would not let Taiwan indefinitely put off talks on political issues between Taipei and Beijing.
As long as everything is handled within a “one China” framework and the provisions of Article 8 of China’s Anti-Secession Law are not triggered, Beijing will not try to “proceed at a forced march pace toward unification,” Romberg said.
However, the possibility of the DPP returning to power in 2016 seems to be affecting Bejing’s attitude toward political talks, he said. “It probably impels [China] toward conducting political dialogues in whatever way is possible at this point. It undoubtedly lies at the heart of [China’s] campaign to court senior DPP officials, even though not yet on a party-to-party basis.”
Before the end of Ma’s term in office it may lead to a “determined effort” to raise the current dialogue to an authoritative level, also in order to lock in the current state of play, Romberg said.
“Whether this will include efforts to negotiate a peace accord or military mutual trust-building measures — the two items that appear to be at the top of Beijing’s political agenda — is unknowable at this point,” he said.
Romberg said that in terms of the dynamics of cross-strait relations, the coming years should witness overall stability and predictability.
“The scope of relations will likely expand beyond economics, including expansion of educational and cultural exchange, though movement to authoritative dialogue will remain a question mark,” he said.