“Cross-Strait Relations: First the Easy Steps, Then the Difficult Ones” by Alan D. Romberg appears in China Leadership Monitor, No. 26, Fall 2008. China Leadership Monitor is sponsored by the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution, and Peace at Stanford University.
Following what was essentially an agreed script to deal first with the “easy” (economic) steps and only later with the more difficult (political and security) ones, when the two “authorized” organs-Taiwan’s Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) and the PRC’s Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait (ARATS)-met in Beijing in June after a hiatus of 10 years, they quickly agreed to begin weekend cross-Strait passenger charter flights in early July and Mainland tourist travel to Taiwan two weeks later. Though during the first several weeks under the new arrangements the number of PRC tourists was disappointingly small, optimistic projections indicated growth after the Beijing Olympics concluded.
Despite some glitches, the atmospherics surrounding Taiwan’s participation in those Olympics tended to bolster a sense of cross-Strait momentum, with the PRC showing flexibility on use of a name for the Taiwan team while Taipei accepted compromises on other matters. Various senior Taiwan visitors at the games were accorded VIP treatment and, in meetings with Hu Jintao, both sides reaffirmed mutual commitments to sustaining upward momentum into the future. At the same time, the opposition DPP engaged in a relentless series of attacks on Ma Ying-jeou’s cross-Strait policies, charging that he was not only placing Taiwan’s economic fortunes in Beijing’s hands but that he was preemptively ceding Taiwan’s sovereignty by his handling of the Olympics issues and his proposal to seek “meaningful participation” in UN specialized agencies rather than applying for UN membership. In light of what appears to be a metastasizing scandal over Chen Shui-bian’s mishandling of various funds, there was some question whether this barrage would wane, at least for awhile, as the party sought to recover its equilibrium. However, the decision to participate in 30 August anti-Ma demonstrations suggests that the DPP will try not to allow the Chen scandal to put it off stride.
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