Clock Ticking on Taiwan Strait Resolution
The coming three years may be the best chance for mainland Chinese and Taiwanese leaders to settle their differences, says former Taiwanese Foreign Minister Hung-mao Tien.
Will any of them be able to command the same kind of authority and support that Hu Jintao has enjoyed?
Improved relations across the Strait of Taiwan since the election last year of Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou, who has openly taken a conciliatory tack towards mainland China, are raising hopes that the 60-year-old tensions will one day come to an end, former Taiwanese Foreign Minister Hung-mao Tien told a UCLA audience on Sept. 29, 2009.
"This year alone thousands and thousands of Taiwanese who have never visited China have been invited to China for various purposes for the first time," said Tien, a U.S.-trained political scientist and current president of the Institute for National Policy Research in Taipei.
But with Ma's first term over in 2012 and Chinese President Hu Jintao widely expected to step down later that year, there may be a narrow window of opportunity to build "a framework for more lasting peace," said Tien.
For the time being, control by Ma's Kuomintang (KMT) party of the executive and legislative branches of government affords the president a "golden opportunity" to enact his policies, said Tien. If successful with his proposed Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement for Taiwan and mainland China, Ma might begin to address the stickier diplomatic and military issues between the two sides.
As for the Chinese leadership, Hu's successor in 2012 is likely to encounter resistance to any softer line on Taiwan.
"Will any of them be able to command the same kind of authority and support that Hu Jintao has enjoyed?" asked Tien.
Tien provided an overview of the history of cross-Strait relations in his lecture, which was sponsored by the UCLA Center for Chinese Studies. He said that "mutual hostility" lasting from 1949 until about 1987 gave way to person-to-person engagement over the following two decades, but there was still no political breakthrough. The period since 2007 has seen a considerable "reverse migration" of Taiwanese businessmen going to live in China, among other hopeful signs. Especially since the global financial crisis struck, these businessmen have begun to view mainland China as the chief future export market for nominally Taiwanese goods.
A podcast of the lecture is available from the Center.
Published: Wednesday, October 07, 2009