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Taiwanese Voters Send Message to Taipei — and Washington

Many Washington analysts need to stop assuming that Taiwan wants to be absorbed by the Chinese leviathan and made its 34th province.

by
Gordon G. Chang

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March 1, 2010 - 12:58 am
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On Saturday, Taiwanese voters, in four closely watched by-elections for seats in the national legislature, expressed growing dissatisfaction with the ruling Kuomintang (KMT).

The opposition Democratic Progressive Party retained one seat it previously held and won in two Kuomintang strongholds. The ruling party avoided a sweep by narrowly holding onto a safe “deep blue” seat. The DPP, often known as the green party, increased its percentages in all four districts. “This is the KMT’s fourth election setback, and this deals a fresh blow to President Ma Ying-jeou’s popularity and the party’s morale,” said Hsu Yung-ming of Soochow University.

“It tells President Ma, who doubles as KMT chairman, that he should stop trying to woo voters from the opposition Pan-green camp,” said Lin Huo-wang, a presidential advisor, referring to the stinging defeat. “A political party will not be able to hold its core support if it drifts further away from its ideals.”

And what are those ideals? In 2008, the Kuomintang, or Nationalist Party, won landslide victories, first in the January legislative elections and then in the March presidential contest. President Ma interpreted those wins as a mandate to more closely integrate Taiwan with China, and as a part of that effort he abandoned the notion, maintained by his two predecessors, that Taiwan is a nation separate from the People’s Republic. He has also signed various deals with Beijing to more closely integrate the Taiwanese and Chinese economies.

China’s friends in America have consistently maintained that the Taiwanese voted for the KMT and Ma because they wanted to reconcile with Beijing. Take the always-interesting George Gilder, for example. The American futurologist, in his recent Wall Street Journal essay, argues that “some Taiwanese politicians” may dream of independence, but the rest of the island has placed its bet on the Chinese giant next door.  In this regard he glowingly points to Taiwan’s “world-beating entrepreneurs” establishing links with China, two-thirds of its companies making investments there, and three-quarters of a million of its people residing on the Chinese side of the Strait. And from these facts he somehow concludes that Washington should stop selling Taiwan weapons.

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