Prominent China scholars Harry Harding and Syaru Shirley Lin, both professors at the University of Virginia, jointly gave a presentation on “Cross-Strait Dilemmas: Challenges Facing Donald Trump, Xi Jinping, and Tsai Ing-wen” at a luncheon meeting of AmCham Taipei’s Greater China Committee on May 5.
- Despite Taiwan’s huge trade and investment links with China, interest in Taiwan in unification with the mainland has declined sharply over the decades, especially among the younger generation.
- The reason is development in Taiwan of a distinct Taiwanese identify, defined mainly by perceptions of a different “way of life” centered on civic values.
- The change poses serious policy challenges for the leadership in all three places, but especially for Taiwan. Should it deepen its economic integration with China or give priority to improving relations with the rest of the world?
- Beijing’s approach toward Taiwan hasn’t been working. Looking ahead, it has three options (none ideal from its point of view): 1) stay the course, hoping that deeper economic integration and more frequent political dialogue will gradually restore a Chinese identity and interest in unification, 2) increase pressure on Taiwan using diplomatic and economic sanctions or even military action, and 3) narrow the gap, undertaking reforms reducing the differences between the two political systems.
- Washington has to consider whether its “One China” policy is obsolete or is it an irreplaceable component of American’s China policy? Its options include: 1) upgrading relations with Taiwan within a One-China framework, 2) making a deal with China, and 3) no change.
- Taiwanese tend to blame their problems on China, but many of the difficulties are reflections of globalization and the “High Income Trap” Taiwan shares with other more-developed economies. The political consequences of these trends are being seen worldwide.