Things could get even more dicey off the Dragon’s shores, with grave implications for the US:
The ties that bind: Taiwan and China at a crossroads
After years of protests that have undermined his efforts to build closer ties with China, Taiwan’s President Ma Ying-Jeou is calling his opponents naive idealists and warns that angering Beijing can be dangerous for an island keenly aware of the mainland missiles still pointed its way.
“Cross-strait relations have been at their most stable and peaceful in the last 66 years,” Mr. Ma boasted during an interview with The Globe and Mail in the Japanese-colonial-style presidential palace in downtown Taipei. His critics, led by young students who have occupied the legislature and government offices in protest, perhaps “do not really understand some of the issues,” he said, and questioned “whether their actions serve the interests of Taiwan or not.” The students, he said, “have to take a more pragmatic approach.”
But Mr. Ma’s days are numbered – his eight-year term will end with a Jan. 16 election – and so may be his vision, as Taiwan prepares for another approach, one fuelled by a rising distinct identity, and a new desire to pursue a separate path.
If the current mood holds, voters stand ready to punt Mr. Ma’s Kuomintang party not only from the presidency but also, for the first time, from parliament as well – a major shift in a territory the People’s Republic of China claims as its own, at a time when Beijing is already struggling to contain a market crisis and the fallout of slowing growth [see “The Dragon’s Walking Dead, or…“].
A win for Tsai Ing-wen, the presidential candidate currently polling at 40 per cent for the opposition Democratic Progressive Party, would mark “a new era for Taiwan,” said Karen Cheng, a young activist who volunteered with the Sunflower Student Movement that occupied the legislature for 24 days last year in anger against a services trade agreement they said would hurt Taiwan.
Like many members of her generation, she sees little reason to cozy up to Beijing…
…with attitudes in Taiwan growing more skeptical toward China, Ms. Tsai has also said she would “uphold the right of the people to decide their future free of coercion.” The implicit warning to China, whose President Xi Jinping has said there must soon be a “final resolution” between the two sides, prompted the Communist-run Global Times tabloid to warn last week that any showdown with Beijing would put Taipei in a “highly dangerous situation.” China still considers Taiwan a renegade state that it could use force to repossess, and many Taiwanese remember with fear the tense summer 20 years ago when China fired missiles not far from the island’s shores.
But for Taiwan, Ms. Tsai’s ascension would cement an identity change in a place that today considers itself more distinct than ever before. Researchers at National Chengchi University have conducted regular polling that, starting in 1992, found just 17.6 per cent of people called themselves Taiwanese. This year, that number rose to 60.6 per cent, a record. Just 3.5 per cent now consider themselves Chinese…
Hmm. Very relevant: