China Leadership Monitor

Leadership Policy toward Taiwan and the United States in the Wake of Chen Shui-bian's Reelection

Friday, July 30, 2004

It is hardly surprising that the People's Republic of China (PRC) reacted negatively to the reelection of Chen Shui-bian as president of the Republic of China (ROC) on Taiwan. Leading up to the March 20, 2004, election, Beijing adopted a careful, low-key approach, in contrast to its missile launches in 1996 and its shrill threats in 2000. But there was little doubt that it hoped Chen would be defeated by the pan-blue coalition of the Kuomintang (KMT) and People First Party (PFP). In the run-up to Chen's victory, Beijing had once again failed to influence events in Taiwan. Still, the narrow margin of victory, the recount, the court challenge, and hopes that Chen might adopt an accommodating stance on cross-Strait relations in his May 20 inauguration speech all apparently combined to stay Beijing's hand. Now that Chen's speech has been delivered, assessed, and found wanting, however, high-level officials, media commentators, and "track two" scholars are pressing a harsher, more confrontational line. The revised approach will have consequences both for China's relations with the United States and perhaps on the domestic front as well.