Taiwan's President Ma Ying-jeou marks his first year in office Wednesday.
Many Taiwanese worry their president's efforts to strengthen economic ties with
China may endanger the island's sovereignty. But larger concerns about Taiwan's
economy, and opposition party weakness are keeping his agenda on track.
Tens of thousands of protestors marched through the streets of the
Taiwan capitol recently to protest the policies of President Ma Ying-jeou. They
fear that Mr. Ma is moving too quickly in lowering economic barriers with
mainland China. Chen Jiang-jang came from the city of Taichung to
Chen says they want to
protect Taiwan's sovereignty. He says Mr. Ma's policies are too close to China,
and he compromises everything to China. Chen says he can not accept
China claims Taiwan as its territory, although the island has been
self-ruled since Nationalist forces fled there in 1949 after losing a civil war
to the Communists. Beijing says it will take the island, by force if necessary,
should its leaders ever move to declare formal independence.
office last May, Mr. Ma has swept aside his predecessors anti-China policies in
favor of closer ties. Last year, he established direct cross-strait shipping
links and charter flights. In April, the two sides took a step further by
signing agreements on cross-strait banking and crime fighting.
opinion is split. A recent government poll gave Mr. Ma a 55 percent approval
rating, but a poll by the opposition Democratic Progressive Party, or DPP, shows
him with 44 percent approval.
Despite fears that closer economic
integration may lead to a gradual loss of sovereignty, the recent protests are
unlikely to change Mr. Ma's policies. For one thing, opposition legislators lack
the votes to block him.
And the DPP, which also supports greater
economic integration with China, has been unable to clarify how it would do
things differently. Last week, DPP chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen said it was
impossible at this point for her party to make a fixed plan for changing the
relationship with China.
"You don't give yourself a timetable for
yourself for the cross-strait agenda because you're creating pressure for
yourself and giving leverage to the other side," said Tsai.
Mr. Ma has
said repeatedly that his efforts to improve relations with Beijing have not
compromised Taiwan's sovereignty. And, he told journalists Tuesday that one
success from his policies was the World Health Organization's decision to grant
the island observer status at its annual assembly this month. In the past,
Beijing has always blocked Taipei's efforts to attend the assembly.