Saturday, March 22, 2008

Taiwan Pro-Independence Party Loses Election, Referendum

BBC: Opposition’s Ma wins Taiwan poll

Ma Ying-jeou of the Kuomintag party won Taiwan presidential elections, 16% higher than his nearest rival, Frank Hsieh of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party. A referendum on whether Taiwan, officially the Republic of China, should join the United Nations under the name of Taiwan was conducted along with the presidential vote. The referendum failed because enough voters did participate, although a clear majority of those who voted were in favor. The opposition boycotted the referendum, and the United States did not support the referendum.

The Kuomintag party (KMT, translated as Chinese Nationalist Party), is part of the Pan-Blue coalition of Taiwanese political parties that supports eventual reunification with the People’s Republic of China (PRC). KMT has been forced to tone down their rhetoric, and has been advocating the status quo: the People’s Republic of China being the official internationally recognized China, while Taiwan still maintains de facto relations.

What will China-Taiwan-U.S. relations be like?
The KMT and Ma have called for closer political and economic relations with the PRC, hoping to take advantage of China’s economic (super)boom. It is unlikely, however, the two nations will unify or Taiwan will declare independence.

The failure of the referendum and the KMT’s election will provide a much needed respite for the U.S. If the referendum had passed, and Taiwan had attempted entered the United Nations under the name Taiwan, there would be serious China-U.S. relations repercussions. Namely, Washington has promised to protect Taiwan from any Chinese military actions.

How the U.S. should proceed

The United States needs to proceed with caution and cannot afford to provoke either country. Washington should not advocate neither the reunification nor official separation. Any sudden move could upset the whole region. The economy is in a bad enough shape already, and an upset China could prove to devastate us only more. The status quo is fine.