With the election of Ma Ying-jeou, Taiwan has once again demonstrated the maturity of its political processes.
The successful conduct of Taiwan’s democratic elections reminds us that Taiwan is part of the growing group of states capable of undertaking peaceful elections as the means of effecting political transition and change.
With his election, it is to be expected that President Ma will continue the various policies begun in his first administration, including deepening economic ties with the mainland through the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement mechanism. At the same time, it is presumed that he will continue to seek steps to keep cross-straits tensions low and expand trade with his other neighbors, as already begun with Singapore. Discussions are also underway with New Zealand, India, and the Philippines.
The cross-straits relationship, of course, reflects not only Taiwan’s political situation but also the mainland’s. In this year of comprehensive political change, it is unclear how Beijing will deal with Taipei. If the Chinese leadership chooses to sustain and improve cross-straits relations, it is to be hoped that President Ma will respond positively. If the Beijing leadership chooses a more bellicose stance, however, it is to be expected that the United States will maintain its longstanding policies of supporting a peaceful resolution of the Taiwan Straits issue. Under either scenario, the U.S. should abide scrupulously by its commitments under the Taiwan Relations Act and Reagan’s Six Assurances.
A strong Taiwan, confident in its relationship with the U.S., is key to peace and security in the region.
In the weeks before Taiwan’s election, the U.S. Administration suddenly dispatched several senior officials to Taiwan. As it has been almost 12 years since a visit from a sitting U.S. cabinet member, the re-election of President Ma would seem to present an opportunity to demonstrate that this lack of attention has come to an end. The Administration should send a cabinet member to Taiwan as soon as possible, thereby underscoring both the importance of Taiwan to the United States and that Washington will maintain its own policy prerogatives regarding the island.