Uncharted Strait

Uncharted Strait: The Future of China-Taiwan Relations

RICHARD C. BUSH
Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 450
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7864/j.ctt1xx69q
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  • Book Info
    Uncharted Strait
    Book Description:

    The future of the Taiwan Strait is more wide open that at any other time in recent decades. Tensions between China and Taiwan have eased since 2008, but the movement toward full rapprochement remains fragile. Whether the two sides of the Strait can sustain and expand a cooperative relationship after decades of mutual distrust and fear is still uncertain.

    InUncharted StraitRichard Bush, who specialized in Taiwan issues during almost twenty years in the U.S. government, explains the current state of relations between China and Taiwan. He discusses what led to the current situation and then extrapolates the likely future of cross-Strait relations. Bush also explains America's stake, analyzing possible ramifications for U.S. interests in the critically important East Asia region as well as recommending steps to protect those interests.

    Current engagement between Beijing and Taipei increases the likelihood of a peaceful long-term solution to their six-decade dispute. Whether, when, and how that might happen, however, is shrouded in uncertainty. The Taiwan Strait is now uncharted water, and both shores worry about the shoals that may lurk below the surface. China still fears the island's permanent separation, either because it makes an overt move to de jure independence or continues to refuse unification on Beijing's terms. Taiwan fears subordination to an authoritarian regime, an adversary from the past that may not have its best interests at heart. And the United States fears instability in East Asia.

    Contents1. Introduction 2. Historical Context 3. Political Context 4. Setting the Analytical Stage 5. Economic Stabilization 6. Political Stabilization 7. Security Stabilization 8. PRC Pressure 9. Ma's Second Term 10. Can Taiwan Strengthen Itself? 11. Implications for the United States

    eISBN: 978-0-8157-2385-1
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. 1 Introduction
    (pp. 1-8)

    May 20, 2008, was a brilliant day in Taipei, Taiwan’s capital city. A cold front had blown away the clouds and pollution, and the sky was crystal clear. Fine weather was uncommon at that time of year in northern Taiwan, but it fit the political calendar well. For May 20 was the day that Ma Ying-jeou took office as the president of the Republic of China after winning a decisive victory in the election. His party, the Kuomintang (KMT), thus resumed control of Taiwan’s executive branch. Ma and the KMT promised to end the problems that had beset Taiwan during...

  5. 2 Historical and Political Context
    (pp. 9-30)

    The story of Taiwan’s historical development and relationship with China is a complicated tale, one that has been told before. Others have provided their own fine treatments, and I offered mine inUntying the Knot.¹ The discussion that follows lightly covers what transpired in cross-Strait relations before 1988 and then summarizes in more detail what happened in the three decades that preceded Ma Ying-jeou’s election.

    Taiwan, which first came into the Chinese cultural orbit in the sixteenth century, became a unit within the imperial administrative system in 1689. An unruly frontier area for more than a century thereafter, it was...

  6. 3 Setting the Analytical Stage
    (pp. 31-44)

    After Ma Ying-jeou’s inauguration as Taiwan’s president in May 2008, Taipei and Beijing were able to reverse the downward spiral of the previous fifteen years and put their relations on a more normal footing. This chapter and the two that follow present an analytical assessment of what happened and what did not happen during Ma’s first term and what that means. The question to be addressed is how far the upward spiral has spun and how much further it can go. That progress occurred in Ma’s first term does not mean that it will continue in the second. That the...

  7. 4 Economic Stabilization
    (pp. 45-68)

    In the summer of 2008, Taiwan and China began the task of stabilizing their relationship through negotiations. Their focus on the economic sphere made eminently good sense. The two sides understood that success was more likely if they tackled easy issues first and difficult ones later. Economic issues had their own complexity, to be sure, but mutually satisfactory business relations were already quite advanced, and broad constituencies on each side favored removing policy obstacles and creating new business opportunities. The benefits of expanded economic cooperation appeared to outweigh the costs, which was not the case for political and security issues....

  8. 5 Political and Security Stabilization
    (pp. 69-117)

    During Ma Ying-jeou’s first term, China and Taiwan made significant progress in normalizing and liberalizing their economic ties and, more broadly, in reducing the mutual fear that had previously clouded their relations. They did not complete the liberalization agenda by any means, but a lot was accomplished nonetheless. And during the 2012 elections, when Ma’s policies and performance were the focus of debate, Taiwan voters endorsed his record.

    In contrast, Beijing and Taipei were unable to do much to formally stabilize the political and security dimensions of their relationship. That should not be surprising, since the fundamental disagreement between the...

  9. 6 The 2012 Transitions and Scenarios for the Future
    (pp. 118-136)

    The Taiwan elections of January 2012 demonstrated the impact of politics on China policy. Any election is a contest in at least three different arenas: the first concerns the character and reputation of the contenders; the second, the relative ability of the competing parties to mobilize their loyal voters; the third, how voters, particularly swing voters, rank various issues. Taiwan’s elections were no exception.

    In the first arena, Ma Ying-jeou and Tsai Ing-wen, the two major candidates, were remarkably alike. Each came from an elite family, though Tsai’s forebears had arrived on Taiwan long before Ma’s parents, who arrived in...

  10. 7 The Dynamics of Power Asymmetry
    (pp. 137-158)

    The idea that China might somehow use its power to get other relatively weaker actors to do what they previously were unwilling to do is eminently plausible. It is based on an underlying premise of political philosophy: influence is a function of power. It also informs the growing literature on the impact of a stronger China on the international system.¹ So, it is reasonable to hypothesize that should Beijing grow frustrated with endless cross-Strait negotiations, it might seek to secure through pressure what it cannot get from Taipei through persuasion.

    Curiously, how the contemporary Chinese state manipulates or might manipulate...

  11. 8 What Taiwan Might Do to Help Itself
    (pp. 159-195)

    It is clearly in Taiwan’s interest to keep cross-Strait relations in the paradigm of mutual persuasion and out of the paradigm of power asymmetry. One way of doing so is to consolidate the gains of Ma’s first term and seize opportunities where they exist; that will help foster the PRC’s confidence that someday it will achieve its fundamental objective (“Keep hope alive,” to quote Jesse Jackson). But more seems to be needed in order to strengthen its position in the realms of economics, security, politics, and the U.S. relationship. Such efforts would be beneficial for their own sake, but they...

  12. 9 What China Might Do
    (pp. 196-212)

    Staying within the paradigm of mutual persuasion is certainly good for Taiwan, because it means that whatever choices it makes about the medium- and long-term future will be voluntary. It is also good for the United States, because it will avoid having to decide what to do in complex circumstances in which Taipei faces Chinese pressure, a scenario that is technically peaceful because there is no violence but in which coercion is still present.

    I would also argue that it is also in China’s interest to continue mutual persuasion and its effort to convince Taiwan’s leaders and its public that...

  13. 10 Policy Implications for the United States
    (pp. 213-243)

    The United States has been an integral element of the Taiwan Strait equation from the time that North Korea invaded South Korea in 1950. For the next two decades, American military power and a mutual defense treaty with Taiwan deterred any PRC attempt at a takeover. Through economic assistance and policy guidance, Washington facilitated Taiwan’s rapid economic growth and emergence as a middle-class society. U.S. diplomacy protected the position of the Republic of China in the international system. And Beijing drew the obvious conclusion: that the United States had obstructed its goal of unifying China after a century of disorder...

  14. 11 Epilogue
    (pp. 244-250)

    It was rainy in Taipei on May 20, 2012, the day that Ma Ying-jeou was sworn in for a second term as Taiwan’s president. It was typical weather for northern Taiwan in late spring and a sharp contrast to the sparkling blue skies of four years before.

    As was the weather, Taiwan politics was reverting to the norm. In 2008, Ma won an easy victory because voters were dissatisfied with the outcome of Chen Shui-bian’s presidency. In 2012, the election was a referendum on Ma’s policies. His pursuit of engagement with China may have made sense for Taiwan as a...

  15. Notes
    (pp. 251-308)
  16. Index
    (pp. 309-320)
  17. Back Matter
    (pp. 321-322)