May 21, 2008

HARRISONBURG— Today, in a commentary for National Interest online, the web edition of the foreign policy journal The National Interest, Dr. J. Peter Pham, Director of the Nelson Institute for International and Public Affairs at James Madison University, discusses the inauguration on Tuesday of Ma Ying-jeou as the new president of the Republic of China on Taiwan .

Dr. Pham argues that despite the expectations of a new chapter in cross-strait relations, “the new chief executive still faces considerable obstacles,” citing the lingering obstacles of the unresolved sovereignty issue, the tensions heightened by the continuing military build-up of the People’s Republic of China, and democratic consolidation on Taiwan in contrast to the authoritarian regime on the mainland. The essay concludes:

Since Ma’s election in March, tensions between Taipei and Beijing have been lessened by an adroit series of semi-diplomatic contacts. In addition to ROC Vice President-elect Siew’s sidebar with PRC President Hu, an emergency-response team dispatched by the Taiwanese Red Cross was one of the first offers of help accepted by Chinese authorities after the deadly earthquake last week; KMT chairman Wu Poh-hsiung will soon be making a six-day visit to the mainland. And the overall rhetorical temperature has gone down since the new administration in Taipei, without renouncing its claims to sovereignty, has studiously avoided its predecessor’s endorsement of formal independence. Nonetheless, the many pundits who have been predicting a new era along the narrow strait are being hasty in their judgments. In truth, it is a case of plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose —especially since the underlying geopolitical realities governing the dynamic between the two sides have hardly shifted .

The full text of Dr. Pham’s commentary, “Taiwanese Tightrope,” can be accessed by clicking here.