William Rusher

Following its lopsided victory in the legislative elections of Jan. 12, Taiwan's Nationalist Party (or Kuomintang) has nailed down control of that vital island by electing its candidate as president of the Republic of China for a four-year term.

This has been hailed in some American quarters as a victory for those who favor an accommodation between Taiwan and Beijing, but don't be deceived. The Kuomintang was Sun Yat-sen's party, which lost control of the mainland to the communists in 1949 but has maintained itself on the staunchly independent island of Taiwan ever since. Eight years ago, it lost control of the government there to the Democratic Progressive party, which has recently tried to revive its waning popularity by taking steps in the direction of total independence from mainland China. The Nationalists, though resisting such steps, do not favor reunification with the mainland until communism is gone and it is at last a free society. They favor the current status quo, under which Taiwan remains totally free while increasing its highly profitable economic relations with China.

The newly elected president of the Republic of China on Taiwan is Ma Ying-jeou, whom I met and got to know slightly when we were both at Harvard Law School in the early 1970s -- he to acquire his Doctorate in the Science of Jurisprudence and I in pursuit of the far lowlier degree of Bachelor of Laws. Ma speaks English fluently (thank goodness!) and is a solid friend of the United States. The idea that he feels any sympathy for communism is simply laughable.

Thus, at a victory news conference, Ma declared that he would immediately start negotiations for direct charter airline flights to and from the mainland. But he warned that any broader peace accord with Beijing would require China to remove from southern China more than 1,000 missiles there that are aimed at Taiwan. The likelihood of Beijing consenting to this suggests just how remote is the possibility of a true reconciliation.

Nonetheless, Ma's victory was undoubtedly welcomed in Beijing as at least a step away from the DPP's pugnacious moves toward total independence. And paradoxically, for the very same reason, Washington has hailed the election result. The United States is firmly committed to the defense of Taiwan's independence from the communist mainland but has had no desire to underwrite the DPP's recent grandiose gestures in that direction.

William Rusher

William Rusher is a Distinguished Fellow of the Claremont Institute for the Study of Statesmanship and Political Philosophy and author of How to Win Arguments .

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