Taiwan Keeps Its Distance

Article excerpt

Byline: Isaac Stone Fish

China's recent belligerence is making everyone in the region nervous--including Taiwan, which Beijing still regards as a renegade province of the People's Republic. Although the mainland regime keeps drawing the island closer with strengthened economic ties, particularly since a breakthrough free-trade agreement between the two was signed this past June, the business thaw has not led to improved political relations.

On the contrary, military tensions are worsening. Despite the vague assurances of the mainland's Premier Wen Jiabao that his government intends to withdraw the more than 1,600 missiles that are aimed at the island, the Taipei government is bracing for more threats from the mainland. Taiwan's president, Ma Ying-jeou, has announced that his government intends to keep buying arms on the international market.

Ma's not letting Beijing see him sweat, either: he publicly sent his congratulations to imprisoned Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo for winning the Nobel Peace Prize (Beijing denounced the recognition as "blasphemy") and urged Beijing to free him.

Hostility between the two governments may not be at the worrisome level it reached under Ma's pro-independence predecessor, Chen Shuibian, but peaceful reunification seems less and less likely. …