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Mr. Ma's Taiwanese Identity

USCI's Daniel Lynch discusses Ma Ying-jeou's adoption of Taiwan-centric consciousness

March 31, 2008

The Far Eastern Economic Review's March issue opens with Daniel Lynch's take on Taiwan's recent presidential election. Lynch, a member of the USC U.S.-China Institute's executive committee and an international relations professor, explains that Ma Ying-jeou's victory was possible only because Ma had moved to "align his presidential campaign with Taiwan-centric consciousness." Because Ma now sees Taiwan as "a subject freely determining its own future," Lynch anticipates that China's government, which sees Taiwan as a part of China, will eventually find Ma irritating.

Lynch's article begins:

Some observers are speculating that Ma Ying-jeou’s election as president of the Republic of China (ROC) means the end of identity politics in Taiwan and dramatically closer cross-Strait relations. Evidently, Taiwan’s voters reject the notion that their society’s future welfare is best served by baiting China and emphasizing ethnic differences among the ROC’s various communal groups (including Taiwanese, Mainlanders, Hakkas, and Aboriginals). Mr. Ma’s victory probably does signal the bankruptcy of the radical de-Sinification movement promoted by President Chen Shui-bian, which increased ethnic tensions in Taiwan while infuriating the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). But a deeper aspect of Taiwanese identity—Taiwan zhuti yishi (“Taiwan-centric consciousness”)—not only remains alive and well, but was even confirmed and strengthened by Mr. Ma’s victory. Once realization of this fact sinks in, CCP elites will likely begin to find fault with President Ma (or his successor) and cross-Strait tensions will resume.

Please click here to read the full article at the Far Eastern Economic Review website.