Jan 1, 1995
For more than 40 years, the China-Taiwan conflict has effectively institutionalized the outcome of China's 1945-49 civil war. Since 1949, each side of the Taiwan Strait has been ruled by one of the two main parties to that conflict — the Chinese Communist Party and the Kuomintang — and until the mid-1980s the claims of each to represent China's legitimate national government limited flexibility on both sides and rendered real movement in the relationship virtually impossible. Since the mid-1980s, however, Kuomintang authorities have loosened some political restrictions in Taiwan. This shift has produced rapid economic and political developments on the island, the thrust of which is extremely disturbing to China's leadership and which has fundamentally altered the parameters of the Strait conflict. The author foresees a degree of stability in the short to medium term but identifies three potentially destabilizing trends that may pull Taiwan away from any substantive commitment to reunification: the political and social changes favoring a "distinct" Taiwan identity; "Taiwanization" of the ruling Kuomintang; and increasing confidence in Taiwan's ability to leverage wealth, investment, and trade for ambitious foreign policy goals.
Political-Military Trends: Consensus, the KMT, and Policy Incrementalism
Socio-political Trends: Flexible Policy, Confident Identity, and Social Pluralization
Economic Trends: Trade Dependence, Offshore Investment, and Industrial Restructuring
Implications and Possible Scenarios
Trends to Watch: Change and the Three Scenarios