“Taiwan: All Politics, All the Time” by Alan D. Romberg is in the China Leadership Monitor, No. 19, Fall 2006. The China Leadership Monitor is sponsored by the Hoover Institution on War, Revolusion, and Peace at Stanford University.
Recent developments in Taiwan’s domestic politics have commanded center stage in the U.S.-Taiwan-PRC relationship. In the face of corruption charges and public demonstrations calling for his resignation, President Chen Shui-bian has vowed to stay in office through the end of his term in 2008 and to fight for his key agenda items: seeking UN membership as “Taiwan”, enacting constitutional reform, and restoring the KMT’s previously “ill-gotten assets” to government coffers. Meanwhile, opposition leader Ma Ying-jeou, continues to juggle his dual, and often conflicting, priorities as the KMT’s putative presidential candidate in 2008 whose strong approval rating is based on his reputation as a man of integrity and adherence to rule of law versus his need to “prove himself” as a strong opposition political leader in the rough and tumble world of Taiwan politics.. Beijing, for its part, has shown confidence in the future of cross-Strait relations and has studiously avoided taking sides in the island’s current political maelstrom. While expressing concern that Chen’s plans for constitutional reform challenges established PRC “red lines”on Taiwan independence–and seeking to enlist U.S. support in forestalling a crisis in the Strait, Beijing has continued to encourage economic ties between the island and the Mainland. The United States has also staked out neutral ground in Taiwan’s complex domestic political situation, but Chen’s recent calls for altering national boundaries in the constitution, on the one hand, and the LY’s failure to approve defense spending legislation, on the other, are wearing on Washington’s patience.
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