While many observers have been fixed on the violence in Tibet (Zangzu Zizhiqu), potentially highly significant political events have been taking place in Taiwan. Ma Ying-jeou, the KMT Presidential candidate won a resounding victory over DPP candidate Frank Hsieh 58% to 42%. Further 2 contentious referendum defining under what name Taiwan would seek UN membership were defeated.
In a short but useful RSIS Commentary “Fundamental Change in Taiwan Politics,” March 26, 2008 by Arthur Ding currently a Visiting Senior Research Fellow at S. Rajarantram School of International Studies (RSIS) Nanyang Technological University, Singapore sets out the regional implications of this significant Taiwan vote. A quick note on RSIS Commentaries. This is a prolific series edited by Yung Razali Kassim ([email protected]) at NTU in Singapore. Though uneven, the RSIS Commentaries provide an abundant on-the-ground survey of issues concerning South, Southeast and East Asia.
Politically on Taiwan now, the KMT has both the Presidency and a majority of the Taiwan Parliament. The new President has endorsed the “1992 consensus” (agreement that there is one China but with the two sides having different interpretations of what that means). In the ‘near future’ Ding suggests that we are likely to see the resumption of a dialogue at the semi-official level between the Mainland and Taiwan. These talks have been suspended since 1999 and the first DPP President, Lee Tung-hui.
But the real challenge is a question of “Rising China” and the effectiveness of regional governance in Asia. China has become a significant player in regional goverenance from the ASEAN +1 and +3 the SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organization) and the 6-Party Talks. China has brought new vigor to regional governance in Asia and has promoted a ‘dialogue and consensus’ approach that eschews power politics and focuses on building trust and a consensus for the approach to regional governanace. This growing Chinese regional commitment and the promotion of ‘dialogue and consensus’ has gone a significant distance to allaying fears on the part of China’s neghbors over China’s role in Asia. And while the Chinese mainland leadership sees a real difference over the question of Taiwan - that is that Taiwan is a domestic issue - the degree of collaboration and cooperation with the Island represents a real test of ‘the consensus and dialogue’ approach throughout regional governance. An aggressive ‘hard’ approach could well doom China’s current regional governance strategy.