“After the Taiwan Election: Restoring Dialogue while Reserving Options” by Alan D. Romberg appears in China Leadership Monitor, No. 25, Summer 2008. China Leadership Monitor is sponsored by the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution, and Peace at Stanford University.
The landslide victory scored by KMT presidential candidate Ma Ying-jeou and the resounding defeat of the referenda calling for application to the UN have meant that Ma took office with a mandate to implement his ambitious agenda to reinvigorate the economy, restore mutual trust with the United States, and establish a broad range of relationships with the Mainland on the basis of the “1992 Consensus.” Beijing was especially relieved by the defeat of the referenda, and it welcomed the return of the KMT to power. PRC president Hu Jintao’s labeled the strikingly new situation as an “historic opportunity,” and in a dramatic step Hu met personally with vice president-elect Vincent Siew before the 20 May Taipei inauguration. The quasi-official dialogue between Taiwan’s Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) and the Mainland’s Association for Relations across the Taiwan Strait (ARATS) was restored in mid-June, and early progress was achieved on some of the “easier” issues previously negotiated and ready for resolution.
Nevertheless, signs of caution quickly crept into the Mainland’s discussion of future cross-Strait developments, and a concerning degree of hesitation is now being voiced in the Mainland about Ma and the ambitiousness of his overall cross-Strait program. In signs of what one might characterize as “buyer’s remorse” about presidential and referendum outcomes that were universally hailed ahead of time as the “best possible” combined result, a level of ruefulness is being expressed by some people about what going too far with Ma now could mean for the question of ultimate reunification.
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