China and Taiwan relations

Challenges and prospects

Authored by: Sheryn Lee

East and South-East Asia

Print publication date:  March  2013
Online publication date:  July  2013

Print ISBN: 9781857436396
eBook ISBN: 9780203146026
Adobe ISBN:


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With the inauguration of the Kuomintang (KMT)’s Ma Ying-Jeou as President of Taiwan in 2008, attempts to expand political, economic and social linkages between Taiwan and the People’s Republic of China have improved dramatically. In a 2011 speech to the Center for Strategic and International Studies, President Ma stated:

Before I came to office, we had all witnessed the spread of instability, especially in security in cross-Strait relations. I had long recognized that cross-Strait relations require a new mindset, one that would emphasize the commonalities, take advantage of our shared interests, capitalize on our mutual opportunities and de-emphasize our political disagreements.

( Ma 2011 ) Since Ma’s appointment, significant steps towards rapprochement have been reached through deals, such as the establishment of direct shipping, air transport and postal links, and the opening of Taiwan to independent tourists from the mainland through the Free Independent Traveller Programme ( Taipei Times 2011). The most significant cross-Strait agreement signed was the June 2010 Economic Co-operation Framework Agreement (ECFA), which liberalized important aspects of cross-Strait economic relations via reducing tariffs, the elimination of non-tariff trade barriers, promoting trade and investment contacts, and boosting economic development and employment (Glaser and Billingsley 2011: 1). This marked improvement in cross-Strait relations was given further impetus when on 14 January 2012, President Ma won a second term in office, consolidating on the KMT’s first term political gains of reaching a mutual consensus with Beijing on resolving the issue of Taiwan’s sovereignty. Thus, the situation appeared to offer the prospect of détente—an opportunity for Taipei and Beijing to move on from past trauma to pursue reconciliation and remove one of the region’s most potent tinderboxes.

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