Taiwan

Having visited Taiwan very briefly in April just after the Kuomintang had won their presidential election, I was interested in this Asia Times column on the opposition to President Ma’s resumption of the KMT’s efforts at forging closer relations with Beijing:

The massive anti-China protests in Taiwan’s capital last weekend were a reminder to President Ma Ying-jeou that his attempts to forge closer links with China will not be all smooth sailing. Although the protest will not change Ma’s China policies, the rally underscores the challenges he faces as a large segment of the population remains deeply wary of the island’s longtime rival. 

Remembering that the DPP was ousted decisively not even eight months ago, I find the decline in Ma’s political fortunes remarkable.  Elected with 58% of the vote, his approval ratings are at 30%, which does not bode well for the long-term success of his proposals if broad popular discontent aids the DPP in future parliamentary elections.  Ma is already suffering from building anti-incumbency sentiment on account of the effects of the financial crisis and his speed in pushing for a closer economic relationship with China.  One of Taiwan’s great economic difficulties is that many international firms now bypass Taipei entirely and do all of their regional business on the mainland, and on the whole Ma seems to recognize this and is addressing it with proposals of establishing a common market and allowing Taiwanese companies to invest more their total assets in the mainland.  Along with the rest of East Asia, Taiwanese exports are suffering from weakened demand overseas, and this economic weakening will make closer economic integration with China even harder to avoid despite strong DPP opposition. 

Update: The Economist story on the protests is here.  They report that Ma’s approval has dropped to 24%.  Ted Galen Carpenter describes the political backlash against Ma here.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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