“Politicians Jockey for Position in Taiwan’s 2007-2008 Elections, While Japan Jockeys for Position Across the Strait” by Alan D. Romberg is in the China Leadership Monitor, No. 20, Winter 2007. The China Leadership Monitor is sponsored by the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution, and Peace at Stanford University.
Taiwan politics continued their tumultuous course during the final months of 2006 and early 2007. Former Taipei mayor Ma Ying-jeou’s indictment on embezzlement charges in mid-February, coupled with Ma’s subsequent announcement that he would run for president even though he was stepping down as KMT chairman, overshadowed much else in its immediate aftermath. President Chen Shui-bian’s political and personal problems now share a crowded spotlight not only with Ma’s fate but with important mayoral elections on 9 December, the results of which will importantly shape the fierce political competition culminating in the legislative and presidential elections a year hence. In the meantime, Chen remains committed to bringing about constitutional reform before he leaves office in May 2008, and among the options he has toyed with are some that could spell further trouble in Taipei’s relations with both Washington and Beijing.
Over the same period, the development of Tokyo’s policies toward the Mainland and Taiwan are becoming factors in both cross-Strait relations and Taiwan’s highly competitive politics. While no administration in Tokyo will abandon the “one China” policy yet, there is increasing public and political support in Japan for Taiwan’s democratization process. From Taipei’s viewpoint, this trend meshes well with a rising desire in Japan to maintain the cross-Strait status quo as a hedge against the ongoing, and substantial, modernization of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). For its part, while Sino-Japanese relations have improved in recent months, Beijing lacks full trust in the “commitment” by Prime Minister Abe to resolve the Yasukuni Shrine issue and worries about the limits of Tokyo’s ambitions in respect to Japan’s security role in general, and toward Taiwan in particular
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