China Leadership Monitor

Ma at Mid-Term: Challenges for Cross-Strait Relations

Monday, June 28, 2010

In his inaugural address in May 2008, Ma Ying-jeou laid out a vision for cross-Strait relations that was at once ambitious but also grounded in the reality of Taiwan’s political divisions. He set out a complex formula on the question of Taiwan’s status that he felt he could both defend domestically and still use to establish common ground to bring progress across the Strait as well as greater international space. And underlying the substance, he adopted an approach that was almost assured of achieving some success, if only because it was sharply different from that of his predecessor and eschewed all ambition to “declare independence.” But there was—and is—no certainty regarding how far cross-Strait relations can go based on this approach alone. After providing some assessment of recent developments, including ECFA, Taiwan politics, and the current issues in U.S.-PRC relations regarding Taiwan, this essay steps back for a moment to assess how Ma has done with respect to his inaugural vision and to suggest some factors that will affect how much more progress he can make over the remainder of this term.