A victory by the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) in next year’s presidential election would be “strong evidence” that Beijing’s hopes of eventually enticing the nation to accept unification are “illusory,” a new commentary published by the Cato Institute said.
China’s Taiwan strategy since the election of President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) has been to draw it into an ever-tighter economic embrace, the commentary by Cato senior fellow for defense and foreign policy Ted Galen Carpenter said.
Beijing’s underlying assumption was that the growth of ties would gradually erode support for independence and lead to political unification.
“It was always a flawed strategy,” Carpenter said.
He said that most Taiwanese show no enthusiasm for unification even as economic relations with China have surged.
“Wide majorities prefer the status quo of de facto independence and many would prefer formal independence if they did not fear that Beijing would use force to prevent such an outcome,” Carpenter said.
He called on the administration of US President Barack Obama to have a “clear strategy” for dealing with Chinese President Xi Jinping’s (習近平) reaction to a DPP victory.
“The past seven years did not mark an end to the Taiwan problem; it was merely a beneficial lull that now seems to be coming to an end,” Carpenter said.
“US officials need to assess the situation,” he said.
Carpenter said Chinese officials are not likely to react well to a DPP victory, and with China’s growing military capabilities and global economic clout, “the temptation may even emerge to adopt an overtly coercive policy.”
He said that few Taiwanese want to merge their democratic society with a China ruled by a one-party dictatorship.
“Many Taiwanese would be reluctant to relinquish control of their own affairs and have their island become merely one small province of a vast country, even if the mainland was fully democratic,” Carpenter said.
He said that a DPP electoral victory could make Beijing “deeply unhappy” and increase cross-strait tensions.
Carpenter said that DPP presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) is “considerably more circumspect” than former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) and less inclined to provoke Beijing.
Moreover, the surge of economic links with China over the past seven years has benefited key DPP constituencies and dampened enthusiasm for aggressively pushing for independence, Carpenter said.
Carpenter said that according to the Taiwan Relations Act, Washington is committed to regard any coercive actions that Beijing might take toward Taiwan as a “grave breach of the peace” in East Asia and respond accordingly.
“Although that commitment falls short of an obligation to defend Taiwan with US military force, few observers doubt that Washington would intervene in a Taiwan Strait crisis,” Carpenter said.
A “clash” with China could be catastrophic not only for both countries, but for the entire international system, Carpenter added.
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