China Leadership Monitor

The 2012 Taiwan Election: Off and Running

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The focus of cross-Strait relations has turned to Taiwan’s January 2012 presidential election, and particularly to the Democratic Progressive Party’s selection of its candidate for president and on the shaping of party positions on key issues—each with potentially major implications for relations between Beijing and Taipei. The DPP’s nomination of party chair Tsai Ing-wen and its focus on domestic economic and social issues as well as cross-Strait policies will have an important bearing on Beijing’s attitude toward the prospect of another DPP administration, and principally with regard to the DPP’s underlying doctrine regarding Taiwan independence and the concept of “one China.” With only a few months to go before votes are cast, most public opinion polls show a very close race between incumbent President Ma Ying-jeou and Tsai. Demonstrating its continued hope that Ma will win reelection, Beijing has been sending out increasingly explicit signals that any administration in Taipei that does not oppose “Taiwan independence” and embrace the “1992 Consensus” (or some equivalent formulation affirming “one China”) will find it hard to do business across the Strait. At the same time, Beijing must wrestle with the very real possibility of a Tsai victory and the prospect that freezing cross-Strait relations could ultimately redound to the detriment of its long-term efforts to woo Taiwan toward reunification.