Will Taiwan vote sway cross-Straits peace?

Source:Global Times Published: 2016-1-11 0:08:02

Taiwan's general elections will be held on Saturday this week. Polls over the weekend still showed Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) candidate Tsai Ing-wen was in an advantageous position. Tsai's main opponent, Eric Chu of the Kuomintang (KMT), is trailing by about 20 points in most polls. Some analysts in Taiwan hold that Tsai will be elected without any suspense while the KMT should undertake to narrow the gap with Tsai and strive for the most seats it can get in the Legislative Yuan. Whether these analyses are reliable will be soon to tell.

The general elections in Taiwan are an internal affair; however, it could exert a profound influence on the region. It adds uncertainties to Taiwan's mainland policy as well as the situation across the Straits. Taiwanese society will suffer the most if peace across the Straits is overturned. The origin of the uncertainty lies in Taiwan itself.

Despite the 1992 Consensus having been confirmed by both leaderships across the Straits as a key political foundation for the two sides to conduct negotiations and promote peaceful ties, Tsai still refuses to acknowledge it. If Tsai assumes office, whether the Taiwan Straits will see political repercussions will largely depend on her personal will and performance.

Based on lessons learned from the Chen Shui-bian era and judging from Tsai's prudent remarks on cross-Straits affairs so far, she will probably sway between the pressures to implement the DPP's pro-independence policy and to maintain the peaceful status quo across the Straits. But her ambiguous attitude toward the 1992 Consensus will surely impair the mutual trust between the mainland and Taiwan, increasing the chances of crises.   

From Lee Teng-hui to Chen Shui-bian and then to Ma Ying-jeou, after several rounds of contention and wrestling between the two sides that also embroiled external powers like the US, rules guiding  cross-Straits ties have been formed. Another round of contention may be unbearable to Taiwan. 

The mainland has no preference when it comes to the rotation of the ruling parties in Taiwan. But it has to keep a weather eye open since the rotation may jeopardize peace across the Straits. The Taiwan electorate is hoping for a change, but a change for social governance rather than an end to peace.  Compared to the Chen Shui-bian era, the strength of the mainland has been greatly boosted. The reason why Tsai is more moderate than Chen is not because of her gender, but the mainland's powerful strength and the benefits Taiwan has enjoyed from the cross-Straits cooperation over the past eight years.

The mainland must be the leading side in cross-Straits ties and stand up to any "Taiwan pro-independence" temptation. If the DPP comes to power in the next few days, it is unlikely to endorse the 1992 Consensus. It is then necessary for the mainland to make some preparations.

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