Global Insider: Cross-Strait Peace Talks

Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou recently said that he would not conduct peace talks with mainland China without first holding a referendum. In an email interview, Richard Bush, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and director of its Center for Northeast Asian Policy Studies, reviewed the status of peace talks between China and Taiwan.

WPR: What is the recent trajectory of cross-Strait relations, in terms of attitudes toward a final peace settlement?

Richard Bush: Ever since Chiang Kai-shek and his armies were defeated on the Chinese mainland and retreated to Taiwan, the China-Taiwan relationship has been fraught with a degree of mutual fear and militarization. Even in recent decades, when the two sides created a thriving and mutually beneficial economic relationship, each feared that the other would take steps to threaten its fundamental interests; each acted on the basis of those fears; and a vicious circle resulted. Since Ma Ying-jeou became Taiwan’s president in 2008, that trend has been reversed. Economic obstacles are now smaller, and mutual confidence is growing. The two sides have talked about further stabilizing relations by concluding an interim peace accord, though this is not a new idea. Ma seemed to revive that idea in remarks on Oct. 17. Yet the current goal is a more stable, more predictable and mutually beneficial status quo, rather than a “final peace settlement.” China understands that final resolution is a long way off, and that’s fine with Taiwan.

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