Taiwan’s Journey From Troublemaker to Peacemaker

OXFORD – Is the “harmonious society” that Chinese President Hu Jintao constantly proclaims being realized in China’s relations with Taiwan?

Before Ma Ying-jeou became President of Taiwan (officially known as the Republic of China) in May 2008, Taiwan was regularly portrayed in China as a “troublemaker,” and was the main cause of tension between China and the United States. Now Taiwan has become something of a diplomatic afterthought because it no longer makes trouble. At the US-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue, indeed, Taiwan was barely mentioned, as North Korea, Iran, and the value of the renminbi claimed the most attention.

It has always been unfair to demonize the Taiwanese merely for wanting what most people around the world take for granted: to uphold their basic human rights and way of life, including the right to decide through a democratic process their own future.

China, however, rejects such sentimentality about self-determination. And, as a rising power, China is not a force that leaders, even democratic ones, dismiss lightly. For years, China’s ruling Communist Party has maintained that Taiwan is a “core national interest,” despite the reality that Taiwan has existed and functioned as a virtual state for 60 years.