China – Taiwan meeting

I have a piece in the Wall Street Journal today on the China-Taiwan meeting:

This Tuesday, government representatives from the Republic of China, otherwise known as Taiwan, and the People’s Republic of China will meet in an official capacity for the first time. The historic meeting comes after several years of warming relations generated by the rapprochement policies of Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou. While ground-breaking agreements are unlikely, there is reason to hope significant progress will be made in laying the foundations for a peaceful, more sustainable relationship.

In Mr. Ma’s first term beginning in 2008, the two sides established direct transport links, stopped competing for diplomatic allies and signed a limited free trade agreement. Beijing relaxed its opposition to Taiwan’s participation in some international organizations, and the movement of people in both directions across the Strait increased dramatically.

But then momentum slowed. Implementation of the FTA was problematic, and ratification of a follow-on agreement stalled in Taiwan’s legislature. The promised economic benefits for ordinary Taiwanese didn’t materialize. Mr. Ma lost the public backing that saw him comfortably re-elected to a second and final term in 2012, and his relationship with his own Kuomintang Party (KMT) collapsed.

Mr. Ma’s travails have helped revive the prospects of the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) in national elections early in 2016. The DPP’s more hardline approach to Taiwanese autonomy holds much less promise for Beijing. So while Beijing is confident that the trends favor integration, uncertainty over the policies of future administrations in Taiwan makes institutionalizing ties during Mr. Ma’s remaining time in power more urgent…Continue reading