A Milestone in Taiwan Politics
By Dr. William Fang
The China Post

Amid the Kuomintang's (KMT) return to power with a solid victory of Ma Ying-jeou in the 2008 presidential election, a political milestone has been set in Taiwan. As pointed out by noted political scientists, a second peaceful transfer of power is a clearer measure of a modern democratic country. In this sense, Taiwan deserves to be congratulated on the successful conclusion of this year's presidential election, although the final outcome has long been predicted.

Other significant observations made by local media are listed as follows:

1. The election of Ma, generally considered a "mainlander" politician, by a wide margin at a time when so-called "indigenous consciousness" had been whipped to a new high by ill-motivated Taiwanese politicians, was attributed more to the public being disgusted with a corrupt and incapable regime of President Shui-bian than to the political wisdom and strength of Ma. Indeed, as a humble and urbane politician without great interest in political power, Ma is being perceived as a politician lacking decisiveness and boldness in ruling Taiwan in a chaotic and complicated situation marked by a deep ethnic split and public mistrust in politicians in general.

2. Even though emphasized by the KMT and the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) throughout the campaign to the contrary, the election process, nevertheless, was characterized largely by a negative tone, particularly toward the end of the campaign. Innuendoes, mud-slinging and character assassination abounded. It was heartening to see, however, that the KMT in particular still strived to offer some "beef" in their platform.

3. As the situation stands now, it doesn't appear justified to pin too much hope on Ma in bringing about a better Taiwan in a significant way in the short term. The first order of business for him should be to make great efforts to unify and control his own party machine.

4. His "mainland" origin would be one of Ma's greatest weaknesses in handling future cross-strait relations. He must take special care in walking a thin line between vigorously promoting cross-strait exchanges and not seemingly kowtowing to Beijing under the principle of "one China." Indeed, his inherent weakness in being classified as a "mainlander" may have prompted China to have second thoughts on whether to support him. Instead, it may decide to befriend pro-Beijing native Taiwanese, who will be much easier to initiate and implement cross-strait policies without fear of being accused of selling out Taiwan. For Americans, the misgivings about Ma getting too close to mainland China under such schemes as the "cross-strait common market" are always present. As a strategic maneuver, the U.S., deep in its heart, supports an independent Taiwan so that the island may serve as an anti-Communist vanguard in the Asia-Pacific region. This is why the Chen administration, despite its corrupt scandals, incompetence and wanton manipulation of populism, survived so long because of its continuous backing by the U.S.

5. As President Ma must be ready to face a country with serious economic problems and stiff and fierce opposition posed by the DPP