Chinese President Xi Jinping and Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou recently met in Singapore. Never before has Beijing treated the island’s government as an equal. It was a small step for peace, but the circle remains to be squared.
China insists that Taiwan is a wayward province, while the vast majority of Taiwanese feel no allegiance to the People’s Republic of China. If, as expected, Taiwan’s opposition presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen wins in January, relations between the two states are likely to shift into reverse.
The island of Formosa, or Taiwan, separated from the mainland when the Kuomintang government relocated to Taipei following the triumph of the Chinese Communist Party. Taipei continues to promote a separate identity.
The PRC insists that the island should return to Beijing. China’s growing power has encouraged its leaders to press Taiwan to accept some form of “one country, two systems.”
The PRC has hoped that closer economic and cultural ties would move the two countries closer to union. Yet Taiwan is steadily moving away from the PRC. More than 80 percent of Taiwanese back independence—if it would not trigger Chinese military action.
Now the KMT is likely to lose the presidency and possibly the legislature. The opposition is unlikely to enter into serious negotiations leading to reunification.