On January 14, the architect of the "special state-to-state doctrine," which once brought the Taiwan Straits to the brink of war, will run for the leadership of Taiwan.
Tsai Ing-wen of the anti-unification Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) is competing with incumbent Ma Ying-jeou of the Kuomintang (KMT) and the People's First Party's (PFP) James Soong, who like Ma is pro-eventual unification.
Ma is likely to be the winner, but if the DPP were nonetheless to manage a return to power, a long hangover would follow.
Out of Tsai's many campaign promises, the ones she heralded the most vociferously could not be delivered on.
The new realities in the island will cement the failure of her pet project of inching towards independence as she will not be able to tinker with Ma's policy of cross-Straits reconciliation.
Tsai's major turn-off is that nobody knows what cross-Straits line she will try to adopt if elected. However, her hands would be bound from the first day in office. This is because the Taiwanese will not only choose a president and vice-president but simultaneously also 113 legislators.
As it's almost certain that the KMT will gain a legislative majority, Tsai can't manage without James Soong's PFP. Then, with Soong as the kingmaker, Tsai would have no chance to make good on her campaign pledge to have a hard look at the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) Taiwan and the Chinese mainland signed in 2010. And, ruling at Soong's mercy, Tsai could not even think of letting explosive pro-independence slogans passing her lips.
The last time Tsai fired up an anti-unification crowd of some tens of thousands was in late 2008. But the days of significant protests against Ma's cross-Straits policy are since gone.
If Tsai made moves seen as detrimental to cross-Straits relations, it would be demonstrations against her that will draw the crowds as the impact on Taiwan's economy would be significant, instant and for all Taiwanese to see.
Nervous investors would make the local stock market fall in the blink of an eye, and Taiwanese companies, and even more so foreign players, would turn their backs on the island in droves.
A blow would be dealt to Taiwanese exporters, banks, tourism and agriculture sectors and mainland-based Taiwanese businesspeople and industrialists, among others. The already relatively high unemployment rate would rise, and maintaining the current GDP growth of around 4.5 percent would be a lost hope.
Regardless how provocative Tsai might be when dealing with the mainland in order to satisfy the pro-independence fringe among her supporters, sooner than later, the public would come to understand that she made empty promises during her campaign.
One prominent example is her pledge to increase the share of public housing to 10 percent. This would cost about $140 billion at a time when the economic outlook is described by experts as "very grim." But she says she doesn't plan to raise taxes to pay for the bill, and she even promises to cut the government budget.
Plans to make do without nuclear power by 2025 are half-baked at best. The island has very little energy resources, and compared with Germany, which Tsai has repeatedly referred to as a role model, Taiwan's electricity supply has much more significant shortcomings, such as that the island's isolated grid ruling out foreign purchases during shortages.
Furthermore, at $0.09 per kilowatt hour, a tiny fraction of what Germans pay, prices are much too low to make investors considering pouring their money into the very expensive facilities needed to generate renewable energy.
Tsai's major appeal is that she looks rational. But much of what she said and did throughout her political career, which spans from having been pro-independence leader Lee Teng-hui's right hand in the mid-1990s to becoming the DPP's rising star, doesn't add up or is even outright scary.
But, whatever her genuine intentions on cross-Straits relations and however odd her other ideas, as Taiwan's next leader, she would lack the power to make changes. James Soong, 23 million Taiwanese, and harsh economic realities will all constrain her.
The author is a Taipei-based journalist and analyst. email@example.com