Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Taiwan less dangerous now

Here is the Register's editorial on last weekend's elections in Taiwan. The short version is that with the victory by the Kuomintang (KMT), which used the be the one available party but has been out of power for eight years, tension between Taiwan and the mainland should ratchet down. The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) had been edging ever closer to a formal declaration of independence from mainland China, thus upsetting the delicate balance of make-believe that has undergirded stability. The mainland claims Taiwan is a renegade province, of course, and Taipei still pretends it's the real government of all of China. Taiwan has de facto independence, but formal indendence could trigger military action by the mainland that could involve the U.S.

I talked to Ted Carpenter, who wrote a recent book on Taiwan, and he told me a few other things we couldn't fit into the editorial. For example, KMT candidate Ma Ying-jeou had to promise not to propose reunification. The crackdown in Tibet probably reduced the KMT margin of victory by six percent of so, but at 58% it was still decisive. Ted also offered a bit of an explanation for China's insistence on having every bit of territory it traditionally held, which still strikes me as an example of statist irrationality (why keep constantly troublesome Tibet?). In addition to constant propaganda from state-controlled media, of course, during the 19th century China was ruled by decentralized warlords, and the European colonial powers took advantage of that to establish local footholds. So there's at least a semi-understandable reason for China being so insistent on being unified. But I still think it's irrational.

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