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December 11, 2004
Taipei Tiring Of Brinksmanship?

Taiwan's pro-independence parties suffered a defeat in legislative election yesterday, a result sure to please mainland China and a signal that the Taiwanese may be tiring of the adversarial tone between the two Chinese nations:

The coalition that included President Chen Shui-bian's party had been widely favored to win control of the legislature. But the opposition rallied, keeping its grip on parliament.

The opposition won 90 of the 176 seats that are directly elected by voters, while the president's group won 76 seats, the Central Election Commission said. The remaining 10 seats were still unconfirmed, the commission said. ...

Since he was elected in 2000, the Taiwanese president has repeatedly urged Chinese leaders to meet with him. They've rejected his invitations because Chen has refused to endorse their view that Taiwan is part of "one China."

Chen has been telling voters that Chinese leaders will be more willing to talk to him if his party won greater control of parliament. He has warned that if Beijing keeps ignoring him, Taiwan will drift further away from the mainland.

From the vote, it would appear that the Taiwanese do not want to continue a policy that results in severed communications with Beijing. Although most of the island nation wants to remain autonomous from Beijing's control, most fear that an overt independence movement would bring swift military reaction from China. The vote yesterday reflects a more conservative approach, maintaining the status quo of de facto independence while allowing Beijing to plausibly continue its illusion of control.

One woman who voted with Chen feels no such fear, although one wonders whether her faith may be misplaced:

Voter Tsai Ming-tai said she supported Chen's party and wasn't worried about how Beijing would react. "We can't stand China. Whatever we try to do, China tries to block it. Anyway, if a war breaks out, America will help defend us, and China is afraid of that," the 34-year-old businesswoman said.

Given the vehemence of the anti-war movement in the US and the deployment of our forces overseas, I wonder if she isn't fooling herself. Our policy has been that we will provide military support to Taiwan in case of attack from China, but just as in the 1960s and 1970s, I doubt the political will to honor our treaties exists, especially in the House. I think that such action would receive a majority vote, but it would gather few Democrats who worry about the power of MoveOn and International ANSWER in their next election. Much has been made -- correctly -- about the power of incumbency in House races, but the primaries can be highly competitive if someone wants to spend the money.

We can barely muster the Democrats to go after terrorists and to eliminate the environments that produce terrorists after 9/11. I don't see them leaping towards a war with China simply because we signed a paper decades ago promising to protect Taiwan.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at December 11, 2004 7:41 AM

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