China is “intensely worried” about the possibility of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) returning to power, a Washington conference was told on Tuesday.
Beijing does not have “a real good idea” how to handle such a development, said Shelley Rigger, a Taiwan specialist and chair of the political science department at Davidson College in North Carolina.
Rigger said that if the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) suffered important losses in Taiwan’s nine-in-one elections on Saturday next week, there could be “chaos” unleashed within the party ranks.
Addressing the Brookings Institute conference on the upcoming elections, Rigger said that major KMT losses could lead to pressure on President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) to “step aside and let other people make the decisions.”
The “real excitement” would start the day after the elections as the impact from the results is felt, Rigger said.
The 2016 presidential and legislative elections would be “keenly observed” by China, she added.
Brookings Institution visiting fellow Huang Min-hua (黃旻華) said voters might still have doubts about DPP Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) because she had not expressed clear views on cross-strait relations or definitive opinions on how to solve trade issues.
University of Canterbury political science professor Alexander Tan (陳永福) said there was little excitement at this stage over the elections although the Sunflower movement had resulted in a political awakening among young voters.
“It’s tempting to look on this election as a referendum on Ma’s performance, but it’s really not about national policy issues; this really is a local election,” Rigger said.
She said that Taiwan would not vote for the DPP as a way of showing resentment against Ma.
“He is not on the ballot and very few people who are close to Ma are on the ballot,” Rigger said.
The Sunflower movement had been a referendum on Ma’s presidency, she said, adding that the movement had resulted in an “astonishing display” of political restraint from the Ma regime.
It was hard to imagine any other country in which the legislative chamber could be taken over by demonstrators for a month and where the resolution would involve minimal repercussions for the demonstrators, but very significant repercussions for the leadership, she said.
Rigger said the Sunflower movement had sent a message of dissatisfaction with “politics as usual” and that changes had to be made.
However, the leaders of the movement were deeply skeptical of both political parties, she said.
Brookings Center for East Asia Policy Studies director Richard Bush, acting as conference moderator, said that China had begun to “lay some boundaries or lines” pointing to what it regarded as acceptable in politics and policies from ruling parties in Taiwan.
He also expressed sorrow at the death earlier this week of former American Institute in Taiwan chairman Nat Bellocchi.
Bush said Bellocchi was a “source of wise counsel” and that he would be greatly missed.
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