William Rusher

Ma's victory, by the way, was strikingly big: 58 percent to the DPP's 42 percent, among Taiwan's 17 million eligible voters, an imposing 75 percent of whom cast ballots. And it was underscored by the defeat of two referendums, supported by the DPP, calling for Taiwan to apply for membership in the United Nations -- referendums the Nationalists had urged voters to ignore and which less than 36 percent supported.

President Bush issued a statement congratulating Ma on his election and added, "I believe the election provides a fresh opportunity for both sides to reach out and engage one another in peacefully resolving their differences."

That may be putting it a little strongly. Beijing regards Taiwan as simply a province of China in rebellion against the legitimate government. Taiwan's government regards itself as the authentic and indeed traditional government of a part of China -- the island of Taiwan -- that has never been a part of the People's Republic, and which will contemplate unification only when the mainland is noncommunist and free.

So the argument is obviously going to go on for some time. But at least the voters of Taiwan have signaled their preference for awaiting unification with a democratic mainland rather than cutting loose from China altogether. And that is assuredly a step in the right 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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