2012 ELECTIONS: China willing to work with Taiwan: Yang Yi

UNDER PRESSURE::A former official said this year would be crucial because Chinese President Hu Jintao will want to burnish his legacy before standing down in October


Mon, Jan 16, 2012 - Page 3

China said it would cooperate with Taiwan after President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) claimed victory in his re-election bid on Saturday.

“We are willing to join hands with all walks of life in Taiwan on the basis of continuing to oppose ‘Taiwan independence’ and upholding the ‘1992 consensus,’” Chinese Taiwan Affairs Office spokesman Yang Yi (楊毅) said late on Saturday.

“We hope to further new chances of development in cross-strait peace and jointly make a common effort for the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation,” he added.

Zhu Songling (朱松岭), head of the Institute of Taiwan Studies at Beijng Union University said that a win for Ma was the preferred result in Beijing and could now pave the way for greater cooperation on economic and trade issues and even political talks.

While Ma’s re-election is a relief for China, observers say he could still face a tough second term, forced to balance demands from Beijing against local fears he is selling out.

During his first term, Ma oversaw the most dramatic thaw in cross-strait ties, with a sweeping trade pact signed in 2010, the Ma administration considers its greatest achievement.

The big question is whether China is satisfied with the current measured pace of talks

Or would like to see more boldness in Taipei, moving from economic issues to more sensitive political ones, such a peace treaty.

Complicating any contacts between China and Taiwan is Beijing’s insistence that Taiwan is an indivisible part of China and its determination to bring about reunification, even if it means war.

The next few months could be critical as China undergoes its own handover of power, according to Joseph Wu (吳釗燮), a political analyst at National Chengchi University and a former top China policymaker under the former Democratic Progressive Party administration.

“There will be a wave of pressure before Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) steps down in October as Hu seeks to establish a lasting legacy for his accomplishment in cross-strait policies,” Wu said. “We have not seen any change in Ma’s personality or leadership style over the past four years and he will probably be too soft to resist pressure from China and defend Taiwan’s sovereignty.”

However, policymaking in Beijing has become more sophisticated and Chinese officials are keenly aware of how a democracy like Taiwan’s works.

That means that Ma is likely to enjoy some leeway in how fast to move on rapprochement, said John Ciorciari, a Taiwan expert at the University of Michigan.

“China will press Ma for further engagement, but will try to not to back him into a domestic political corner that would invite a DPP victory in the next presidential election,” he said.

According to this view, Taiwan and China will continue to boost bilateral trade and investment ties, but be extremely cautious about any move that could be interpreted by the Taiwanese public as a step towards unification.