Taiwan in a Fix (2008)

Bernt Berger

Taiwan in a Fix – The Taiwanese elections against the background of a changing security landscape, EU-ISS Opinion Paper, March 2008. Link

The presidential elections and parallel referenda that are due to take place in Taiwan on 22 March 2008 have become more than just a plebiscite on who is governing the island or its degree of emancipation from the mainland.

Two crucial issues for the future of Taiwan are at stake: its international standing and internal political and democratic progress. From an external perspective, the future of cross-Strait relations is not decided at the ballot box, but by external circumstances. Improving US-China relations and mainland China’s growing international role are important factors that add to a changing regional security landscape and are weakening the existing status quo. A new kind of rational status quo, as an alternative to the existing deterrence-based version, needs to be sought. This could be achieved through a legally-binding (peace) agreement between Taipei and Beijing that regulates relations and secures the peace in the Strait. Seen in this context, the referenda could weaken Taiwan’s own interests. If the people vote in favour of the referenda domestically a strong statement will be made that closes doors for compromise and narrows down the government’s ability to negotiate internationally.

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