President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) has a “cool charisma,” but the policy demands on her new administration are “daunting,” former American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) chairman Richard Bush on Wednesday told a conference in Washington.
His words were echoed by Shelley Rigger, a professor of East Asian politics at Davidson College, who said Taiwan has “a lot to be worried about.”
She told the conference — organized by the Brookings Institution and the Foreign Policy Research Institute — that it was reasonable to be skeptical.
“It is not going to be easy to be Tsai Ing-wen for the next four years,” Rigger said. “The virtue of Tsai is that she recognizes the magnitude of the problems that Taiwan is facing, and the world in general is facing, and I think she is more open to creative solutions.”
She said the world should be cheering for Tsai, because if she finds solutions to Taiwan’s problems it would benefit everyone.
Rigger said that Tsai was facing the problems of globalization, technology and the way capitalism had emerged in this century and is challenging states everywhere.
Former US Department of State official Alan Romberg told the conference — which focused on the prospects for the Tsai administration — that in charting a future course, both Taiwan and China should demonstrate the greatest flexibility and creativity possible.
“Not only do they owe that to themselves, but they also owe it to the larger international community, which has a lot at stake in keeping peace and stability in the [Taiwan] Strait,” he said.
Vincent Wang (王維正), a professor of political science at the University of Richmond, said that overall, the US-Taiwan relationship would be “largely positive” under Tsai, but that it would take some time to adjust, would need more skills to manage and would involve “higher maintenance” than during the previous eight years.
Wang said that Tsai would transit through the US later this month on her way to and from Panama and Paraguay, and the trip would provide opportunities for the US and Taiwanese security teams to “clarify intentions” and make requests of each other.
He said that coping with Taiwan’s defensive needs would be high on the agenda.
Wang said that arms sales to Taiwan had never been truly free from political or diplomatic considerations, and both sides should try to depoliticize the arms procurement issue.
He said the US should help Taiwan to build diesel-electric submarines and “be a little more encouraging” in helping Taiwan enter the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
Wang said there is a need for caution, as Beijing might decide it is a good time to test both Tsai and the outgoing administration of US President Barack Obama.
Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) is aware that Beijing’s treatment of Hong Kong has weakened any possible sentiment for a “one country, two systems” arrangement for Taiwan, and has instructed Chinese Communist Party (CCP) politburo member Wang Huning (王滬寧) to develop new ways of defining cross-strait relations, Japanese news magazine Nikkei Asia reported on Thursday. A former professor of international politics at Fu Dan University, Wang is expected to develop a dialogue that could serve as the foundation for cross-strait unification, and Xi plans to use the framework to support a fourth term as president, Nikkei Asia quoted an anonymous source
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