Giant on the move
Chronically isolated Taiwan found a powerful new friend over the past year – its once bitter adversary China. But as Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou, a leading figure behind that friendship, reaches his first anniversary in office on May 20, the two sides have shown they’re ready to back away from each other again.
Ma’s first year saw what few could have imagined even two years ago, never mind 60, when Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalists fled to Taiwan from China after losing the Chinese civil war to Mao Zedong’s Communists. China still claims sovereignty over democratic, self-ruled Taiwan and has threatened to take it by force if necessary. It has said the two sides must ultimately be united.
Dropping the hardball that characterised previous Taiwan presidents, Ma’s government has met counterparts from Beijing to work out the first direct flights, a new tourism accord and investment in each other’s markets, all of particular benefit to recession-hit Taiwan.
Talks leading to those deals lifted mutual confidence to where China has thundered about fighting problems overseas under Beijing’s ethnic unity banner. China has asked Taiwan, which is 98 percent ethnic Chinese, to help combat the world financial crisis, implying that both were victims of the U.S. economy. More recently it suggested uniting to fight influenza A, which also started overseas.