Michael Hsiao, the well-known sociologist and advisor to administrations in Taiwan, has a nifty overview of the election and the two candidates at the Jamestown Foundation. Among the highlights:

To Ma, the issue of Taiwan’s “national” identity is more complicated and still burdened by the legacy of the Chinese civil war between the KMT and the CCP. In Ma’s mind, only the Republic of China is sovereign—not Taiwan. At the beginning of Ma’s campaign, he claimed that Taiwan is ROC, but when he was questioned by the conservative KMT old guard he quickly qualified his statement by saying that ROC is not (just) Taiwan. Ma not only separates Taiwan from ROC, but also distinguishes CCP’s PRC from China. He wants to negotiate with China on the basis of the so-called “1992 consensus” and on the condition of what he coined as “mutual non-denial” [3]. When facing DPP’s challenges that he is too pro-China and not pro-Taiwan enough, Ma then hastens to state that in his term as president, he will not engage in “unification talk” with the PRC [4].

Hsiao neatly captures the way Ma changes his position depending on who he is talking to. Also of interest is his open reference to KMT-CCP cooperation, a rarity in presentations in the US:

Since 2004, a visible rift emerged between the new ruling DPP administration and the new KMT opposition on their respective China policies. The KMT began criticizing the DPP for being too reckless to maintain peaceful cross-Strait relations; at the same time, Lee Teng-Hui’s pro-autonomy—if not pro-independence—position was drastically denounced by KMT’s newly-consolidated power center under Lien Chan. Nevertheless, KMT did not formulate or promote a radically different China strategy between 2000 and 2004, which is because Lien Chan hoped to vie for the presidency of Taiwan, and in planning, did not wish to be seen as being too pro-China. Doing so would have been too politically risky, especially when weighed against the rising wave of Taiwanese national identity. After being defeated again in 2004, however, Lien Chan and the KMT took a wholesale anti-DPP policy by openly advocating a pro-China and more reconciliatory position, starting off by initiating several landmark visits by KMT high officials to China. The most significant representation of this shift is Lien Chan’s official visit to China in late April 2005. The meeting in the Great Hall of the People between Lien Chan and Hu Jintao marked the emerging political alliance of the KMT and the CCP—two historical archenemies—to boycott the DPP’s agenda. Lien himself even confessed that his visit aimed to seek the third KMT-CCP cooperation to contain Taiwan independence [1]. Since 2005 to the present, Taiwan-China relations entered an unprecedented era where the DPP, KMT and CCP are contesting one another in a very open, politicized, complicated and sensitive manner for the vote of the Taiwanese people.

Happy reading!