Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian is continuing to take steps toward Taiwan independence that are seen as provocative and unwelcome by Beijing and Washington. But experts say his actions are driven by domestic political concerns and have little chance of altering the cross-Strait relationship.
The rising proportion of islanders who identify themselves as Taiwanese is driving increased enthusiasm for an independent Taiwan. However, this study from the East West Center argues that Taiwanese public opinion is increasingly favorable to peaceful relations in the Taiwan Strait. Using generational analysis, it shows that while many older Taiwanese hold passionate views about cross-strait relations, younger Taiwanese tend to be pragmatic, moderate, and open-minded.
Summary: Although neither China nor Taiwan wants war, both pursue policies that raise the risk of bloodshed: the first by issuing vague warnings, the second by testing their limits. To stabilize the situation, the Bush administration should help broker a temporary agreement under which Taipei would put off independence and Beijing would stop threatening to attack.
Kenneth Lieberthal is Professor of Political Science and William Davidson Professor of International Business at the University of Michigan. In 1998-2000, he served as Special Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs and Senior Director for Asia on the staff of the National Security Council.
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