Out of the straitjacket? Taiwan in the age of Tsai, Xi, and Trump
Since last year’s election of President Tsai Ing-wen in Taiwan, cross-strait relations between China and Taiwan are deteriorating once more. The new edition of ECFR’s China Analysis “Taiwan between Xi and Trump” reveals just how much Taiwan is stuck between a rock and a hard place. The Tsai government has little room for manoeuvre to forge a path independently of China. The president’s focus is set on fixing social issues and transforming the Taiwanese economy while quietly reducing its dependence on the mainland market. But despite Tsai’s attempts to keep a low profile and not to challenge China’s red lines, the Chinese Communist Party has strategic stakes in weakening her pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) to strengthen the position of the opposition party Kuomintang ahead of the local elections approaching in 2018.
The unpredictability of US president Donald Trump policy towards China and the self-governed island only adds to the tension. Trump’s transactional approach to Beijing has raised concern in Taipei that the island could be used as bargaining chip in a greater US-China game. At the same time, there is talk about a major arms sale from the US to Taiwan which could see ‘Trump the businessman’ re-emerge.
The Taiwan question also acts as an irritant in European-Union China relations. “More instability in the US-China-Taiwan triangle may make the EU’s stated goal to ‘explore launching negations on investment with Taiwan’ more challenging,” says Mathieu Duchâtel, senior policy fellow and deputy director of ECFR’s Asia & China programme. “But Europe should pursue this goal in connection to its ongoing change of approach on investment relations with China. For Europe, Taiwan is not leverage to be used to extract better deals from China, but a partner with which economic, cultural, and social interactions have the space to deepen.”
Articles in this China Analysis include:
- How are cross-strait relations seen from both mainland China and Taiwan In the age of Trump?
- Tsai Ing-wen’s New Southbound Policy: the view from the mainland
- Is an economic reset possible in Taiwan?