Atlantic Council

Cross-Strait Series: The Upcoming Taiwanese Elections

Dr. Carla Park Freeman,
Associate Director, China Studies Program,
Johns Hopkins-SAIS

Meredith Miller,
Vice President for Southeast Asia,
Albright Stonebridge Group

Robert A. Manning,
Senior Fellow,
Atlantic Council

Bonnie S. Glaser,
Senior Advisor for Asia,
Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Nike Ching,
State Department TVB Reporter,
Voice of America Mandarin Service

Daniel Chu,
Deputy Director, Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security,
Atlantic Council

Location: Atlantic Council, Washington, D.C.

Time: 12:30 p.m. EDT
Date: Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Transcript By
Superior Transcriptions LLC


DANIEL CHU: So good afternoon, everybody. Welcome to the Atlantic Council. Thank you so much for joining us today. My name is Daniel Chu. I’m the deputy director of the Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security. And it is my pleasure to welcome you to this event, where we’re going to talk about implications and perceptions on the upcoming Taiwan elections. This is part of our Cross-Strait Series at the Scowcroft Center, part of our Asia Security Initiative, and is sponsored by the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representatives Office, or TECRO.

Recently I led a delegation to Taiwan on behalf of the Atlantic Council with TECRO. And we heard a lot about the upcoming elections in Taiwan, a lot of interesting trends and implications of the current polling there, and a lot of interesting concerns about issues that are being raised with the perspective outcome of this particular elections. Coming back to Washington, even in the month since that trip, I’ve heard little or nothing on this. So we thought it was not only extremely important to raise this issue, but to talk about it from multiple perspectives.

So we’ve got a great panel here, that’s not only going to talk to us about what’s going on with the Taiwan elections right now, what some of the key implications are, but some important perspectives. In particular, what does China think about the trends that are evident in the current polls for this particular election? And what does the rest of the region, in particular Southeast Asia and Northeast Asia think? And what are the potential implications there? And not surprisingly, given the expertise we have on the panel today, you’ll also hear a lot about implications for U.S. policy and interests in the region as well.

The Taiwanese presidential elections, as some of you know, will be happening on the 16th of January in 2016. And it’s increasingly drawing attention in the region, even if not yet here in Washington, D.C. The DPP presidential candidate, Dr. Tsai Ing-wen, is predicted in pretty much all the polls to be the victor in this particular election over the KMT candidate. So the real question is what are the implications given eight years of KMT rule and policy, particularly with regard to cross-strait relations? The KMT has really emphasized its efforts to stabilize relationships – the relationship across the strait. So how will the election affect cross-strait relations?

KMT has also worked very hard on defining a more prominent role for itself with regard to disputes in East China Sea and South China Sea. So, again, a question of what some discontinuity or continuity here might look like if there is a change in party leadership. And then, of course, questions about Taiwan’s defense policy as they think hard about not only their defense strategy for deterrence and security across the strait, but more generally in the region as well. So the outcomes will be important and critical not only for the region, but for U.S. defense interests in the region as well. And we have a panel here to really help talk through these different aspects of it.

First, we have Ms. Bonnie Glaser, who I suspect all of you know as one of the foremost experts on Taiwan and issues in Taiwan. She is, of course, senior advisor for Asia and the Freeman chair in China Studies at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. And I won’t go through the extensive list of publications and issues, but I think you all know has quite a track record on these particular issues.

Next to her is Carla Freeman, who is associate director of the China Studies Program, and associate research director and executive director of the SAIS Foreign Policy Institute at Johns Hopkins University. And Carla will, in particular, provide us with a perspective from China.

We have Meredith Miller with us, who is currently vice president for Southeast Asia at the Albright Stonebridge Group. I met Meredith when she was working at the National Bureau for Asian Research. And Meredith is, by far, one of the best experts on Southeast Asian issues and perspectives. And we’re very glad to have her with us as well.

And then providing a perspective on—from Northeast Asia is our own Bob Manning, who is, of course, senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Asian security issues, previously a number of different positions in the intelligence community and elsewhere, looking at futures and Asia issues, and of course was once director of Asian studies and senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.

So we’ve got a very esteemed panel here to talk to you not only about the details and implications of the elections, but provide multiple perspectives. And here to really sharpen this particular conversation and help tease out the important questions is a good friend of mine, Nike Ching, who is the State Department TVB reporter for Voice of America’s Mandarin Service, has a very long career in media covering Capitol Hill, as well as Washington bureau chief for the Broadcasting Corporation of China, Taiwan’s largest radio news network for about six years, I think.

So I’m going to hand it over to her to handle this particular conversation. We’ll allow the panel to start with some discussion and then, as usual for our cross-strait series, very much look forward to having you all participate in the conversation as well. So thank you again for joining us. Nike, over to you.

NIKE CHING: Excellent, excellent. I don’t think I can say it better than you. (Laughs.) So I don’t know if you guys watched Stephen Colbert last night, but he said: As long as he has nine months to produce one hour live television program, he can do that forever. So I just talked to the Council, they only use a few weeks to put together this comprehensive panel of experts. So they can do this forever. (Laughter.)

So as (munchkins ?) and students are back to school, of course, parents are back to work, right? So today’s seminar is just one of the at least three seminars of the same topic, which is Taiwanese election, which explains that it’s very newsy and it’s very timely. So, as a reporter, I won’t give you 8,000 words. I will be quick and sweet.

So here, we have Bonnie Glaser, AKA Galai-ie (ph). And she will update us on the political situation in Taiwan, and how will the potential outcomes affect Taiwan politically, economically and its foreign policy. So, Bonnie, the floor is yours.

BONNIE GLASER: Thank you very much, Nike. And thanks to Dan and to the Atlantic Council. The community of people who pay close attention to Taiwan is small, but I think we’re all very passionate and I’m very glad to see that the Atlantic Council has convened this panel today. And as some of you may know, CSIS and Brookings will be holding an event next Monday. So this is just the beginning of what I think is going to be a longer conversation going on over the next several months in the run-up to the election in Taiwan. And it’s very important to understand what’s at stake, who the players are, what the implications are for the United States and for cross-strait relations that Carla will talk about. So I’ll just try to be brief.

I want to start by telling those of you who may not know all the details about these candidates, just a little bit of a thumbnail sketch of each of them. So we start with Tsai Ing-wen, who is the candidate for the DPP, a lawyer who studied in the U.S. and the U.K. She served in the Lee Teng-hui administration, she was chief negotiator for Taiwan’s entry into the World Trade Organization, under Chen Shui-bian’s administration she headed the MAC. She joined the DPP relatively recently, in 2004, served as legislator and later became vice premier, party – chair of the party, and was presidential candidate, as probably you all know, in 2012 and was defeated.

Hung Hsiu-chu is the candidate for the KMT, and a very untraditional KMT candidate. Her father was actually a victim of political persecution during the White Terror in Taiwan, which might make you think that she would actually not be so pro-KMT, but indeed she is. She has been a legislator, vice president of the Legislative Yuan, former deputy chair and deputy secretary general of the KMT. She has a very strong background in education, an area – she’s a former teacher – and was officially nominated by the KMT on July 19th.

And then, of course, we have the independent candidate, James Soong. And for those of us who’ve watched Taiwan politics and elections for a long time, this feels a little bit like a déjà vu, when James Soong ran in 2000. He comes from a KMT military family – a long time, traditional KMT politician, former governor of Taiwan province when that position used to exist, ran for president in 2000 as in independent, ran as the VP on the ticket with KMT chairman Lien Chan in 2004, and ran again in 2012, garnering 2.8 percent of the vote. And he is the founder and chair of the People’s First Party.

As Dan mentioned, the polls do show Tsai Ing-wen having a significant lead. So in the most recent polls that I’ve looked at over the last week, he lead over James Soong, it varies in all of the polls, ranges to something like an 18 to 25 percent margin. It’s really quite significant. Hung Hsiu-chu is really in a solid last place, coming in somewhere between 13 and 23 percent. In my view, if all three remain the race – if there’s nobody who pulls out or there isn’t a consolidation of the Soong-Hung ticket, which some people were talking about last week, seems less likely now – so if things remain as they are I think that the chances of Tsai Ing-wen wining are really quite good this time.

And I think that many of the countries in the region, and including mainland China and the United States, are operating in the assumption almost now that Tsai Ing-wen will be the next president of Taiwan. Something that I think is particularly important to pay attention to is what will happen in the Legislative Yuan. For the first time, there really is a possibility that the DPP will gain a majority in the LY – not a sure thing, but would be a profound change in Taiwan’s politics, where the KMT has been in the majority for a very long time.

So I want to talk about a few key trends in Taiwan’s political environment. One is essentially growing dissatisfaction with what is seen as disappointing economic performance and poor governance. So there have been issues with Taiwan’s declining economic competitiveness, there have been food safety scandals, stagnant wages, soaring house prices. And of course, President Ma Ying-jeou’s poll ratings have been pretty low. They’ve hovered for quite some time between 20 and 25 percent. His disapproval rating has, at times, risen as high as 70 percent.

The economic picture has not really been that bad, but going forward really may face some significant challenges. So if look back the last three years, Taiwan has grown at 2.1 percent, 2.2 percent, 3.7 percent respectively over the last three years. I was just looking last night at the August figures. You know, exports just this past month fell by almost 15 percent year on year. This is the seventh consecutive month of decline in exports. And this is, in a sense, not surprising. China’s economy, the mainland, is slowing down, and Taiwan is going to bear the brunt of this in part because 40 percent of its exports go to China, but also because it has a lot of investment in China and it’s really inextricably connected to the mainland economically.

The other factor that has impinged on Taiwan’s competitive edge is the marginalization of Taiwan from the regional integration – economic integration process. So you take a country like South Korea, which produces many products that are comparable to Taiwan’s manufacturing, and South Korea has signed FTAs with the United States, with the European Union, with Canada, it’s negotiating with Australia. This has really, I think, raised some alarm bells in Taiwan. So there’s a lot of – there’s growing concern in Taiwan about what it should do to become part of this regional economic integration process that it has so far really been marginalized from.

A second trend that I would point to that I think is very important in Taiwan’s domestic political milieu is the trend of the politicization of the youth. The youth in many countries around the world can be pretty agnostic and apolitical and apathetic. And in Taiwan, I think this is really – to the extent that it was true in the past – has really fundamentally changed. We have seen, of course beginning with the Sunflower Movement – (audio break) – one of the issues in the Sunflower Movement was the opposition to the trade and services agreement with the mainland. And there were, of course, significant – (audio break) – occupation of the LY.

More recently, we’ve seen protests which are seen as pro-China and are charged with whitewashing the authoritarian period in Taiwan’s history. So I think youth are going to have a very significant impact on this upcoming election. One question, of course, is going to be turnout. Will they come out and vote? I think in our last election, and particularly first election that Obama was elected, youth was very, very important. And I think that it’s going to be a very significant factor in this upcoming election.

The third trend is I think there’s greater consensus in Taiwan than there actually has been in the past about the cross-strait relationship. I don’t want to exaggerate this. Taiwan is still divided. There is – there’s no firm consensus on what the relationship should be going forward with the mainland. But I think that it’s quite clear if you look at the polls that a very small percentage favors reunification, and certainly not in the near term. The mainstream wants to have cross-strait exchanges, stable relations, continued trade. And there is a growing sense of vulnerability, overdependence economically on Taiwan. There also is a widely held view that the mainland is blocking Taiwan from participating more in the international community.

So I see greater consensus than what we have had in the past in Taiwan about what kind of relationship they should have with the mainland. Very few really want reunification. A small but growing percentage want independence, although I don’t think the people in Taiwan want to put their own security at risk in order to achieve that, so the status quo, of course, is what is supported by the vast majority of people. And then finally, on the – on the issue of identity, a growing percentage of the population in Taiwan self-describes as Taiwanese. There was one poll in February of this year that found 90 percent of the population considered themselves as Taiwanese.

So let me just say a few things about the prospects for a few issues that the United States really cares about regarding Taiwan’s future. One is certainly the – whether the cross-strait relationship will remain stable. This is something that the U.S. has, I think, an abiding interest in. So if there were to be a KMT president or if James Soong were elected, I think actually dramatic improvement in the cross-strait relationship would be unlikely, but I don’t think that we would see major problems. They would both accept the 1992 consensus. If a future president in Taiwan were to push for a peace pact with the mainland, then I think if mishandled that actually could cause major demonstrations in Taiwan and could be a problem for the United States, something that we would be concerned about.

But that’s the less-likely scenario, since I’ve said Tsai Ing-wen is more likely to be elected, and she has advocated maintaining the status quo, which includes sustaining the freedom and democracy of the people, in preserving peace and stability, and upholding the will of the Taiwanese people. She spoke at CSIS in June. And she said that the status quo should be based on the existing ROC constitutional order, and the accumulated outcomes of more than 20 years of cross-strait negotiations and interactions. That’s actually a very interesting way to phrase the definition of status quo, because the more than 20 years outcomes actually includes 1992, the talks that took place then and their outcomes, even though she has not embraced the 1992 consensus and I don’t think will.

If elected, I think Tsai would be very unlikely to pursue provocative policies toward the mainland, though she in unlikely to embrace one China. So whether cross-strait relations remain stable depend on that interaction between her policies and then the mainland’s reaction. I think for the time being, Beijing has insisted consistently that she accept the 1992 consensus, and particularly its core, that the two sides of the strait are part of one China.

If she fails to do so, officials have actually said privately that China will close the door. It will end SEF ARATS talks. It may even stop mainland tourists from visiting Taiwan, and further squeeze Taiwan’s international space. This would have very negative implications for U.S. interests, quite frankly. I think the United States wants to see communication channels remain open and a pragmatic, problem-solving relationship between the two sides of the strait. I would just end that part of my presentation by saying I don’t think we’ve heard the bottom line for the mainland yet. We’re going to hear more after the elections and, of course, after the inauguration. So there’s a lot of time for this to evolve.

Rather than going into – I was going to talk about Hung and Soong’s policies towards the mainland, but I’ll skip that in the interests of time, and just briefly touch on three other issues that the United States has deep interests in. One is defense. If the DPP wins, it has put out some blue books with some interesting ideas on defense policy going forward that include an emphasis on development of dual-use technology, strengthening indigenous weapons manufacturing – which is actually already taking place in Taiwan – increased investment in defense industry, and a promise to increase defense spending to 3 percent.

Those of us, of course, who have a memory of the past know that Chen Shui-bian also said that he would have defense spending at 3 percent, and so did Ma Ying-jeou. I think it would be very difficult for any Taiwan president to get defense spending back up to 3 percent, but the fact is now it’s almost 2 percent. And considering the threat that Taiwan faces from the mainland, I would say that it is too low. And it is often perceived, I think, in the United States as a reflection of the lack of determination of Taiwan to defend itself. That may be wrong. I’m not agreeing with that. But it sends a political message. And so it would similarly send a more positive political message if Taiwan to increase its defense spending.

On the economic side, the U.S. cares very much about Taiwan being prosperous, wants to see Taiwan more integrated into the regional economy. The DPP has said that it would foster growth in the local market and reduce dependence on exports, liberalize the domestic market, transform Taiwan’s industries. It has said that it would review the cross-strait trade and services agreement, and other cross-strait trade agreements, to make sure they are being implemented as promised.

DPP has said it will build economic partnerships with other countries. It often uses the phase: The DPP will go from the world to China, rather than from China to the world. And seek to join the TPP. A very ambitious agenda that, by the way, won’t work unless Taiwan has good relations with the mainland. That’s just a fact. But the United States very much would like to see Taiwan economically prosperous. Not clear what the DPP would do about the pork and ractopamine issue, and that remains a problem in the U.S.-Taiwan economic relationship.

So finally, I’ll just close by saying I think it’s unlikely that Tsai Ing-wen has the intention to pursue provocative policies. If she were to do so toward the mainland, it is possible that the relationship with the United States would suffer, as it did under Chen Shui-bian. And that should certain remain on our minds. But I do think that Tsai Ing-wen is committed to preserve good ties with the U.S. and to try to strengthen Taiwan and to maintain stable relations with the mainland. This is going to be a very, very difficult task if she wins. But I think Taiwan’s future is going to face many, many challenges and difficulties going forward, regardless of who is elected. And I’ll stop there.

MS. CHING: That was brilliant – that was brilliant. Thank you, Bonnie. So that was a brilliant analysis on Taiwanese definition of the status quo. And as so, from the audience, there are DPP representative. I’m sure during the Q&A there will be more follow up on this issue.

So moving on, our next speaker is Dr. Carla Freeman, AKA Foo Wei Jin (ph), and she’s going to tell us about the implication of Taiwanese election to China. And she will analyze from the Chinese perspective, especially in two weeks the state visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping. Carla.

CARLA FREEMAN: Well, thank you very much. And it’s an honor to be here. Thank Dan and the Atlantic Council.

I tend to take a broad view of China’s policy. And I see this as a very expert audience, so I hope you’ll take my remarks as the start of our discussion. I’m going to focus on Taiwan’s presidential elections. I’m not going to get into the legislative elections. And I’ll try to do that in about 10 or 15 minutes.

It’s very clear that the 2016 elections and Tsai’s increasingly likely win are – have injected some new uncertainties into the cross-strait relationship. It’s very unclear how the mainland is going to deal with a Taiwan government led by a party that has not endorsed a core principle that has enabled cross-strait – the cross-strait relationship to move ahead, and under the administration of that is the 1992 consensus. So that’s the big challenge here.

Let me just give a few minutes to three different questions by way of organizing my remarks, and try to hit a couple of key points. First, I want to talk about what the main contours of Xi Jinping’s policy have been today on Taiwan. And then let me comment on whether, based on recent developments in particular, there’s any indication that Beijing might be open to formulations other than the 1992 consensus, as it’s been used in order to sustain interactions – positive interactions with a DPP-led government on the other side of the strait. And then finally, I’ll engage in some probably wild, but brief, speculation about how China might continue to pursue its reunification objectives with a Tsai Ing-wen led Taiwan.

So first, what is Xi’s Taiwan policy look like? Xi has been characteristically bold and assertive in his Taiwan policy. From the time he came to office, his goal was to try to take the cross strait relationship beyond the expansion of economic ties in a new direction, to include political links beyond party-to-party ties. And this was reflected early on in Xi’s interactions with the Taiwanese. When he met with the Taiwan delegation at APEC in Bali he talked about moving – building mutual political trust, building political foundations toward bridging the cross-strait divide. And then several months later in conversation with KMT Honorary Chairman Lien Chan, she talked about – he affirmed the 1992 consensus as the basis for deeper relations across the strait.

And he also at that meeting indicated that he would be open-minded – I forget the precise language – but he would be open-minded about exchanges with DPP leaders who were willing to promote cross-strait relations. And on the basis of the 1992 consensus, there were – there was considerable progress made, or considerable – there were considerable new developments in the area of – in an effort to build political ties, including the inaugural visit by a sitting mainland affairs chairman to China, which initiated a series of exchanges between the Taiwan Affairs Office and the MAC on both sides of the strait and discussions between the two offices on things like the exchange of ARATS and Straits Exchange Foundation representative offices on either side of the strait. And interestingly, meetings between the Taiwan Affairs Office and the MAC included negotiations and discussion on boosting economic ties and moving forward on ECFA. Other signs, unilaterally Xi Jinping reportedly ordered all Taiwan affairs units to propose specific measures to advance cross-strait’s military trust-building measures as a national research project. This is not something that the Ma Ying-jeou administration responded to positively.

But all of this momentum toward the expansion of cross-strait ties in new directions were disrupted practically as soon as they began when, in the spring of 2014, the Ma administration failed to deliver on the services trade agreement, amid the Sunflower protests in Taipei, which were largely directed at the lack of transparency in the legislative process. And they were led by students. And then subsequently the Taiwan authorities decided not to proceed with negotiation on ARATS and Straits Exchange Foundation representation until the straits trade – sorry – the services trade agreement was passed.

This disruption in the relationship has, I think, been seen – Xi has been palpably frustrated by this and has spoken very firmly, drawing some very firm lines on China’s views on the cross-strait relationship. During the Hong Kong Occupy Central movement in late September last year, Xi chose to meet with pro-unification Taiwanese groups, and at that meeting mentioned the one country, two systems formula for cross-strait relations, a formulation that is anathema to the majority of the Taiwanese citizens.

And then in March 2015, at a time when Taiwan’s presidential elections started to heat up, Xi spoke to the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Congress on the Taiwan question, and identified Taiwanese independence as the biggest threat of cross-strait stability that should be resolutely opposed. And at the same meeting, he underscored the commitment – the need to stay committed to the 1992 consensus, as both the basis and the precondition for exchanges with Taiwan and its political parties. And Xi has used other occasions since to underscore this point and the importance of the 1992 consensus and to direct specific criticism against DPP-associated formulations, such as one country on each side of the strait.

But while Xi’s rhetoric is harsh, and he has used other methods as well to warn the island about a pro-independence stance, while Tsai Ing-wen was speaking at CSIS, the PLA was conducing drills near Taiwan. But as the election approaches, and as it looks increasingly like Taiwan will have a DPP president, it’s an election outcome that, talking to Chinese experts who work on Taiwan, that I think the Chinese authorities are increasingly resigned to. The question is, is there any way that Beijing – is Beijing starting to think about how it might work with a Taipei that may not want to interact with Beijing on the basis of the 1992 consensus, in order to prevent the relationship from regressing and to preserve the status quo.

If you’re optimistic, you can look and see some positive signs. It’s clear that China has little trust for Tsai Ing-wen, but it has tried to build relations with members of the DPP party, actually facilitated by the DPP’s own policies. And you’ve seen mayors from various cities in Taiwan, now the majority of which are DPP party members, they visited the mainland and have taken part in various exchanges. The case that has drawn the most attention, of course, is the case of Mayor Ko of Taipei. Ko questioned the 1992 consensus, saying he didn’t know what it was, and that raised questions about whether he could participate in the Taipei-Shanghai or Shanghai-Taipei forum.

Ultimately, the forum did take place and Ko went to Shanghai, but after he had indicated that he, quote/unquote, “respected” the 1992 consensus and he acknowledged the importance of the existing political formulation to promoting cross-strait relations, and – peaceful cross-strait relations, and made it clear that he did not see cross-strait relations as international exchanges. He also later echoed a remark that both Xi and Li Keqiang have made, saying that people on both sides of the strait are one family. He received a fair amount of criticism for these comments in Taiwan, but a fair amount of praise in the mainland for his pragmatism and flexibility. And some experts started talking about the Ko Wen-je model as a potential – as a source of insights into how the two sides of the strait might work together in a new DPP-led era.

Many Chinese experts that I’ve talked to said – have dismissed this idea, and said there’s no Ko model, the 1992 consensus will remain the basis of cross-strait relations, it’s the bottom line. But in any case, whether there is a Ko model or not, it seems like you can look at it as an effort to find some potential space for working with a DPP government. And it’s at least consistent with Xi’s earlier statement that he’d be open to exchanges with DPP leaders who seek to promote cross-strait ties. Of course, this leaves open the question that Bonnie had mentioned of whether – the extent to which Tsai going to be pragmatic herself. If she wins by a very strong margin, she may take that as an endorsement of the DPP platform and feel emboldened to take an approach to cross-strait relations that is a lot less cautious on the pro-independence front, although that would depart from her commitment to the status quo.

Finally, and really quickly, let me just speculate – make a couple points about how China might pursue its reunification objectives post-election in addition to trying to find common ground with the DPP. First, it’s almost certainly going to place a lot more attention on cultural exchanges with Taiwan. A major concern for China about a DPP-led government is that it – that Tsai will pick up on Chen Shui-bian’s Taiwanization agenda in the education area. Preserving the Chinese part of Taiwan’s identity is going to be a very important goal of the mainland. China is also going to try to keep providing incentives to important contingencies, the Taiwanese business leaders, including through traditional party-to-party ties, and to continue to foster exchanges, I think, with local-level leaders, whatever their party background.

Second, China has been pretty conservative about the way that it has constrained Taiwan’s international space since Ma came to office. And it’s all relative, but there is speculation that failure to make progress by ECFA by the next administration is going to have an impact on Taiwan’s participation in other regional economic integration initiatives, including TPP and RCEP. Whether that will be Chinese policy isn’t clear, but it’s clear that China would not be supportive of Taiwan’s – it seems clear that China’s likely, and some Chinese experts have suggested that China’s unlike to support Taiwan’s participation in those efforts.

So let me just wrap up. So to – I think that – just to summarize, Xi came in with a very ambitious agenda to work with a KMT-led government to make cross-strait ties more robust than they have been historically. Ties have come very far, but they’ve fallen short of Xi’s cross-strait dream. And I think that the reality of Taiwan’s electoral politics mean the opportunity that Xi saw in a Kuomintang-led government is going to have passed. So if you’re a pessimist, you focus on Xi’s hard line. If you’re an optimist, you’re going to focus on every little early sign of potential pragmatism on the Chinese side. I’ll stop there.

MS. CHING: Fantastic. That was a fantastic observation that Beijing is thinking about pragmatic way to cope with the elective Taiwanese government. So I see there are Chinese medias and some other China experts, like, who might be able to take – share with us their take during the Q&A session.

So our next speaker, Meredith Miller, AKA Mi Li-ler (ph), I just doubled checked with her the Chinese name, and she will provide from the Southeast Asia’s perspective, and explain the implication of Taiwanese elections to the Southeast Asian countries. The floor is yours.

MEREDITH MILLER: OK, thank you. I mean, I should say I don’t speak Chinese, so I’m just taking Nike’s word for it that that is my Chinese name. And I’m happy to have it. (Laughter.)

MS. CHING: It was published.

MS. MILLER: (Laughs.) Many thanks to the Atlantic Council for having me here for this very interesting discussion. I’ve already learned quite a bit from the preceding speakers. I’m actually going to start out by saying that, you know, earlier we were talking before the panel about how the Taiwan elections have not received a very high level of attention yet in policy circles here in the U.S., and that is equally true in Southeast Asia at this time.

Just for a little bit of context, there were some major political events happening throughout the ASEAN region. We have elections coming up on September 11th in Singapore, a historic election in Myanmar in November, a party Congress for Vietnam in January, elections in the Philippines in May, not to mention a huge political scandal involving the prime minister of Malaysia and ongoing military rule in Thailand.

And on top of all that, Bonnie mentioned how deeply impacted Taiwan has been from China’s economic slowdown. That’s equally true for Southeast Asia. Most of the countries in the region have been hit hard by that, as well as falling commodity prices, and the recent depreciation of the renminbi. So there’s a lot of issues demanding attention within each country’s own borders, and this has not yet risen very high on the radar.

That said, as attention picks up here in the news cycle, I think that will also be the case in Southeast Asia. There was just last month a delegation that the DPP put together that went on an 11-day tour to some of the key countries in the region to help raise awareness about the DPP and upcoming elections. And we’re starting to see a little bit more of a focus. And Taiwan is certainly a very important partner for Southeast Asia. And Southeast Asian countries care very deeply about the status of cross-strait relations.

So I’m going to keep my remarks brief and just focus broadly on regional stability, which is the first basket of concerns that I would lay out for Southeast Asia, and the second being regional economic integration, which has also been touched on already in this discussion. So first, in terms of regional stability, for Southeast Asian countries, peace and stability in the region is of paramount concern, and particularly relations between the U.S. and China. So within this context, the health and stability of cross-strait relations is very important.

And Southeast Asian policymakers too I think sometimes have a longer memory than we do here in our own capital. And when they are focused on this, they will be thinking back to the peak of tensions in the Chen Shui-bian administration, when cross-strait relations really became an issue that were difficult for many countries in the region to juggle. In one respect, I think we saw during that period sometimes miscalculations in terms of how sensitive China would be to Southeast Asian’s engagements with Taiwan.

One example of this is in 2004 then-Deputy Prime Minister Lee from Singapore, who’s the son of the recently-deceased founder of Singapore Lee Kuan Yew, and now prime minister, went on a trip to Taipei that was focused on economic issues. But he did meet with Chen Shui-bian while he was there. And Singapore was really caught off-guard by the magnitude of China’s response to the visit at the time, which included not only public criticism of Lee Hsien Loong, but also of Singapore and the cancellation of several high-level visits, and basically put the relationship into a deep freeze for a while.

They’ll also be remembering the way tensions played out in international organizations between – for example, in the WHO or in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum, where Southeast Asian countries often found themselves in the crosshairs of cross-strait relations, particularly between the U.S. and China. The United States remains a very important security partner for most of the countries in the region, and also an important economic partner. And China’s economic importance to Southeast Asia has only continued to grow since 2008, when President Ma came into office. So this is a kind of situation that countries in the region would just as soon avoid.

The other issue that relates to regional stability that maybe I’ll table and we can return in the discussion, is the South China Sea. Again, since 2008 we’ve seen – but in a less positive sense – we’ve seen a ratcheting up of tensions in the South China Sea, where several Southeast Asian countries have territorial claims that are overlapping with China’s. To date, the KMT’s claims in that area have been pretty much indistinguishable from mainland China’s, but there have been some early indications that perhaps the DPP will think about defining in a different way what China’s claim is in the South China Sea, and also a few statements from DPP talking specifically about the importance of using the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea to settle the disputes.

So this is another area where I think Southeast Asian policymakers will be watching closely any new statements from Madam Tsai, if she does become the winner of the next election. And this could be seen in two lights. I think many ASEAN countries would welcome a greater emphasis on using legal tools to settle the disputes through UNCLOS. But they’ll also be wary of any moves that could deepen cross-strait tensions or perhaps cause further instability in the contested areas in the South China Sea.

The second core area that I’m going to address is regional economic integration. We’ve already heard how concerned Taiwan has been about being relatively isolated from the proliferation of trade agreements that we’ve seen happen throughout Asia. ASEAN, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, has really tried to position itself as a leader of regional economic integration efforts. This is happening primarily through the regional comprehensive economic partnership agreement, which is an effort to knit together ASEAN’s bilateral FTAs with key dialogue partners, which include China, Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand and India.

Taiwan has expressed an interest in joining RCEP, both the KMT and the DPP. And I think for ASEAN, looking at the economic relationship, Taiwan’s a very important partner. It’s the seventh-largest trading partner for ASEAN. In turn, for Taiwan ASEAN is its second-largest export market, but far behind the first which is China. And it makes a lot of sense from an economic perspective to have Taiwan be a party to this agreement. But a condition for doing that would to first negotiate an FTA with ASEAN, and the second would be to have the agreement of the other parties to the negotiation. This would obviously be very difficult, if not impossible, without China’s tacit support for progress moving forward.

Taiwan did sign a free trade agreement with Taiwan in 2013, which is its first with an ASEAN country, and was really touted as being economically as well as strategically significant, perhaps laying a path forward for an ASEAN-wide agreement. But thus far, we’ve seen very little movement on this particular front. Maybe I’ll just leave things there, but I do want to say that I think also one of the reasons this may not be receiving as much attention right now is that cross-strait relations have been relatively relaxed, which has allowed a lot more space for the relationship between Taiwan and ASEAN, but also individual ASEAN members.

And I do think that probably when the elections happen, there’s going to be a lot of attention and focus really on reactions from China. I think that there is a sense, in talking to people before this discussion from the region, that Madam Tsai is not going to be provocative, that she is going to have an emphasis on maintaining balance in the cross-strait relations. But what people are less certain is that, and as Carla said, is China’s reactions. So that’s going to be very important for ASEAN, and they’ll be paying very close attention to that.

MS. CHING: Great. That was great, Meredith, between the South China Sea issue is one of the hottest issues. And remember, Taiwan also claimed sovereignty on areas of disputed islands.


MS. CHING: Yes. Our next speaker is Bob Manning, AKA Manning. (Laughs.) I would say that Bob is in a very good place today because he’s – (in Chinese). (Continues in English.) He was – he is surrounded by many – such a many beauties, with the seniority. (Laughter.) So, Bob will explain from the perspective of Northeast Asia, and then explain to us the political implications of Taiwanese elections to Japan and Korea. Bob.

ROBERT MANNING: OK, well, I think Northeast Asia, particularly Japan and to some lesser extent Korea, is more – a little different from Southeast Asia. They’re more kind of on the frontlines in the event of crisis or tensions. And I want to make a couple of points, just on context. And I think one way to think about is that the worst fear of just about every Asian country is having to choose between the U.S. and China. And that’s what a Taiwan crisis would evoke.

I think the second contextual point, and this applies to both Japan and Korea, is that it’s a strange feature of Asia-Pacific that there’s a kind of what I’ve called two ages, that you have – it’s a whole pattern of growing economic integration and insecurity. You have growing confrontation, growing military spending and growing tension. And how that – I think that captures a lot of the issue.

What I’m going to talk about is a rise in tensions, because I think that we’re likely – or, let me say, I won’t be at all surprised if we see a rise in tensions. You’re going to have a new government in Taiwan. I think the Chinese are reconciled that the DPP they’re going to have to live with. Then about a year after that they’re going to have a new U.S. government. And I think China historically has always tried to test new presidents. So that’s something you have to worry about.

And then the third point would be, just based on what Xi Jinping has said so far, which is not much, but there are two potentially troubling things. The big statement he made on Taiwan was, you know, we’re not a rush, we do things gradually, but we can’t wait forever. That’s one. And the second one, that I think is much more troubling to Taiwan, was he keeps talking about Hong Kong as the one state – one country, two systems model. And in Taiwan, especially particularly after the Umbrella Revolutions in Hong Kong, I think Taiwan is looking at it much more like one country one and a half systems, and doesn’t want any part of it.

And that’s where, I think, you may get a build-up of tensions, because I think under the Ma government in Taiwan, I think Taiwan and the cross-strait relationship have gone about as far as they have. We’ve seen a backlash, that’s been talked about, on the economic front. I think there’s zero support for any kind of political or security movement with the mainland in Taiwan. So the question is, is Xi Jinping content to live with the status quo? Because I do think both China and the DPP both learned lessons from the Chen Shui-bian government in terms of how to deal with each other. So that’s one thing.

Now, in terms of Japan, they’re really on the front line, because in – they have a troubled relationship with China. A lot of tensions and confrontation over the Senkakus, over the Diaoyutais, as the Chinese call it, islands in the East China Sea. That seems to have calmed down a little bit, but the Chinese have pushed it very far. There were more Japanese jets scrambling in the last year over the East China Sea than any time in the last several years. So you have that.

And of course, you know, for the communist party of China, there’s two pillars of legitimacy. One is delivering economically, which is increasingly in question, and the other is nationalism. And a lot of the Chinese nationalism is a kind of anti-Japan nationalism. So I think what we’re seeing, though, and this was evident in Korean President Park when she attended the 70th anniversary parade and got Xi Jinping to agree to a trilateral summit with Japan, was it’s kind of moving into a more stabilizing role.

And what we’re seeing is a kind of bifurcated China-Japan relationship that China – Japanese investment in China’s been down by 40 percent since 2012 when they had these anti-Japanese riots. And I think that the Chinese want to – want to get Japanese investment, given the state of their economy. So I think you’re seeing more economic cooperation and some level of tension over the East China Sea.

In the event of a crisis, I think – you know, if there was any confrontation, U.S. forces deployed to support Taiwan would most likely come from Japan initially. And similarly, we have two X-band radars in Japan. If any missiles started firing across the straits from the mainland, that might come into play as well. So you have this complex relationship. And I think if you took a poll in Japan, should Japan support the U.S. in a conflict with Taiwan, I think the majority would probably say no. If Abe is prime minister, I think the answer would probably be yes. But if something happened in a post-Abe administration, I think it’s more ambiguous how the Japanese would respond to a crisis.

In terms – let me just say a few words about Korea. And that’s an even more complicated relationship, because as you know Korea is also a divided country, although they – I’ve always wondered why they don’t raise it more with the Chinese, because China plays an important role in why Korea is still divided because of its support for North Korea. And so you have – you have that. And then in Korea, the same thing.

You have – Korea’s become – China’s become the number-one export market for Korea, their number-one trading partner. And President Park, who speaks very good Chinese and has a very good relationship with Xi Jinping, has really solidified relations. The Koreans are very concerned about where North Korea is going. And, you know, the last couple of years there’s been an unprecedented debate in China about whether North Korea is an asset or a liability. And there’s a lot of very – unusually prominent Chinese, including several not-so-retired generals, saying they’re not an asset and we have to dump them.

But I think the bottom line is China has decided it’s more afraid of instability or chaos in North Korea, or collapse, than it is about nuclear weapons or anything else. And I think the cost to China in providing food and fuel to North Korea is low enough that they’re going to keep doing that. So you have that dimension of it. And I think the Koreans are also looking to China as a moderating force. I mean, there’s probably a reason we haven’t had another North Korean missile or nuclear test, although I think we probably will see in the next couple of months a North Korean ICBM test, wouldn’t surprise me at all. They appear to be making some preparations.

So on – for Korea, if you have a rise in tensions, I think – I think they would make the gargantuan effort to stay neutral and not get involved. And I think they’d be very concerned about the U.S. trying to push them into a role. Right now they are debating what kind of missile defense system they want. And I think that the trend lines seems to be increasingly toward integrating with the U.S. X-band radar system with Japan, which would provide the best protection against a North Korean attack.

The Chinese have overplayed their hand badly with the Koreans on missile defense. There was an open statement by a Chinese – visiting Chinese senior general telling them not to – not to buy the THAAD. And I think the Chinese have falsely claimed that this is a threat to them. But the U.S. missile defense system in no way affects their second strike retaliatory capability. I think what the Chinese are more upset about is trilateral cooperation between U.S., Korea and Japan. And so they leaned on the Koreans on that.

I think in the interest of time I’ll leave it there. We can pick up any questions.

MS. CHING: Thank you so much, Bob. So as a moderator, I will be proactive and then take the liberty to ask the very first question. We heard the panelists talking about – (in Chinese, then continues in English) – the ’92 consensus. And in the buzzwordings from the Chinese President Xi Jinping is – (in Chinese, then continues in English) – which means – which brought a lot of discussions and debates. It means that if there is no solid foundation, then earth and – if there is no solid foundation of the ’92 consensus, then the earth and the mountains are moving.

So I wonder, in two weeks, in September 25, if I remember correctly, Xi Jinping is coming to the White House to have a state visit. How do you expect the Taiwan election to be raised and discussed during his visit here?

MS. GLASER: Oh, thank you. You know, I think that every Chinese leader when he meets with an American counterpart raises Taiwan. In recent years, my understanding is that has been relatively perfunctory, mostly because China has felt that it’s been able to manage the relationship with Taiwan by itself. I doubt, actually, that this time around that it will be very different. I think there’s an enormous number of far more pressing issues between the United States and China that are on the agenda. And frankly, limited time between the two presidents

MS. CHING: Thirty hours, we’ve heard.

MS. GLASER: Well, 30 hours probably includes all of the events, right? So that means the ceremony on the South Lawn, the state dinner, the luncheon at the State Department. There will be two opportunities for in-depth discussion, one in the dinner the prior evening when he arrives, and then one the following day, with some other, of course, number of people in the room.

So I would be surprised if Xi does not raise it, because I think that this is something that Chinese leaders always want to lay down a marker. This time I would guess that Xi Jinping’s message will be that the United States should try to play a more proactive role to ensure that cross-strait stability exists, and that in order to have cross-strait stability that there must be an acceptance by Taiwan’s next president of the 1992 consensus and, more importantly, one China, and that the U.S. should play a role in ensuring that that happens.

But I doubt it would be a prolonged conversation. I think we’re looking at more from China after the election, and at this particular juncture in time I think there are just far more important and really urgent issues that the two presidents will want to talk about.

MS. CHING: Do you feel that they are being – they are having self-control not to say too much on this, because they don’t want to affect – influence the outcome one way or the other?

MS. GLASER: You mean the United States or the Chinese?

MS. CHING: No, China.

MS. GLASER: The Chinese would be very happy to influence the outcome if they could. (Laughter.) I don’t think that they actually think they can this time around. The Chinese are worried about one issue that Carla raised, and that is the margin of victory that Tsai Ing-wen might have. They are quite concerned about a very large mandate and the potential fracturing of the KMT. They want to see the KMT remain an effective counterbalance minority party that could restrain the DPP and Tsai Ing-wen as president, and also within the Legislative Yuan.

So, but getting the U.S. to really get seriously involved at this point, I think is not really very much on the agenda. I think this will wait until after the elections, and then there will be probably more discussions of – and they will not just be initiated by the mainland side. They will be initiated by the Obama administration that already is encouraging the Chinese to be more creative and flexible, just as they are encouraging the other side, in Taiwan, to creative and flexible.

MS. CHING: Yeah, I guess we should have another seminar on 2016, January, after the election here – right here. So, Carla, what do you think? Can you tell us what’s in Xi Jinping’s mind? (Laughter.)

MS. FREEMAN: If I could – (laughs) – that would be fantastic. I can’t, and in fact China-watching has become more difficult than ever, partly because it’s very hard to understand Xi Jinping, I think. And we’re still figuring that out.

I know some commentators have said that they would hope that the U.S. would make some sort of statement, expect the U.S. to make kind of statement, make – making a statement of commitment to the one China policy as part of the – part of formal remarks. I’m not sure. I tend to agree with Bonnie. I think that there’ll certainly be a discussion here. This is very much on Xi Jinping’s mind, but it’s always on his mind, talking about U.S.-China relations. But there are an array of other issues that need to get covered and addressed, including some that are more positive for the relationship. And I think that both leaders want to come out with some positive dividends from this exchange.

MS. CHING: Excellent. So looking around, I saw a very knowledgeable crowd here. So I will stop here and open the floor to the Q&A session. So would you – if you could please tell me – tell us your name, your affiliation, and then if there is any specific speaker you would like to address your question to, that would be great.

First I will go from the front row. Gerrit?

Q: Hey. My name is Gerrit van Der Wees. I’m editor of Taiwan Communique, a publication here in D.C.

Both Bonnie and Meredith, you referred to the statement by Tsai Ing-wen that she doesn’t intend to provoke – to have provocative policies. Together with the DPP office, we actually coordinated her visit to D.C. back in early June. And in talking with her, she is very serious on that point, not to provoke China. But on the other hand, they don’t want to be bullied into submission, in a sense, and undermine Taiwan’s hard-won democracy.

So the question is really, does China intend to pursue provocative policies? If you look at China’s track record – South China Sea, East China Sea – the answer is basically very clearly no. So shouldn’t we basically lean on China and try to put the burden on them to show that it can be, as Bonnie said, flexible and more creative, to accept Taiwan as a friendly neighbor? That would be a very stable, long-term position, instead of trying to cling to ’92 consensus, which is a very vague formulation?


MR. MANNING: Well, I think – I think, as I said, I expect to see some level of rise in tensions. But there are a couple of important issues where the Chinese could be creative. One being TPP, is that Taiwan is a member economy of APEC. And there’s no reason why they shouldn’t be allowed to join TPP if they can abide by the standards that are going to be agreed to – presuming we get TPP. And then the other one is the Asian Investment Bank. There was an initial back and forth, and Taiwan had indicated an interest and the Chinese said – they didn’t say no, they said not now. And I think – I think those are two things that the Chinese could use to try to get more cooperation from a DDP government as leverage. I don’t know if they’ll be creative enough to do that, but those are things I look for.

MS. CHING: Anyone on the panel would like to add a point? OK, I’m taking another question, from left to the gentleman from the second row.

Q: Thank you. I’m Tom Reckford with the Malaysia-America Society and the Foreign Policy Discussion Group.

On the South China Sea, I wonder if any – if the presidential candidates in Taiwan have made any comments about the Chinese buildup on some of the islands and reefs, and whether Taiwan has commented at all about the judicial efforts of the Philippines to press China, and Vietnam’s also forceful efforts to affect China’s policy.

MS. GLASER: The position of the Taiwan government under Ma Ying-jeou is to try and reduce tensions in the South China Sea. And he has put forward this concept of the South China Sea Peace Initiative. He has supported the application of international law, and not said anything to criticize in particular the Philippines taking its case to the permanent court of The Hague. But Taiwan’s main concern has in fact been that the Philippines case rests on the fact that none of the land features in the Spratlys could be considered islands. That is, the most they could be would be rocks that at most get 12 nautical miles territorial sea.

Now, Taiwan, of course, occupies the largest of the natural land features, what we call, you know, Itu Aba or Taiping Island. And so on July 7th, the Taiwan government released a rather lengthy statement taking the position that Taiping Island is an island, that it – under the definition in UNCLOS that it should it be entitled to a 200 nautical mile exclusive economic zone. Now, whether or not the permanent court in The Hague, the arbitral tribunal, will rule on this particular point of the case is open to question anyway, but I think that that was really Taiwan’s main concern.

But it does want to use, I think, the fact that there are heightened tensions in the region to try and create a role for Taiwan. You know, Taiwan has been excluded from the talks between China and ASEAN on the code of conduct, would very much like to participate, believes that it has a stake and it has the right, since it actually occupied two islands in the South China Sea, the Pratas being in the north. So this is – I think that this is something that Taiwan’s government has spoken out quite a bit. The candidates, far less so. And Tsai Ing-wen has certainly said that she would like to handle the issue according to law, but it is unclear what that would really mean if she would become president.

MS. CHING: So because it’s very likely we’ll have a female Taiwanese president, so why don’t we go to a lady. The lady’s question, Iris.

Q: Hi, Iris Shaw from the DPP U.S. Mission. Thank you, panelists, for all this very valuable insight, a lot of food for thought for our party to take back.

My question could be for any one of the – the DPP is committed to the vital partnership with the U.S., principled in cooperation with China and economic – maintaining economic autonomy as well as trade diversification, also participating in the international projects not just international organizations, where Taiwan could contribute.

So I’d like to learn from – pick your brain on what could the U.S.-Taiwan relationship be going forward next year? Susan Thornton has said the U.S. administration has worked to reconceptualize and reinstitutionalize the relationship. So I’d like to know where – what do you think about all these four baskets of area?

And if I may respond to Bonnie’s last comment on not sure what the DPP will do with the pork and beef issue, our chief economic advisors have been here at the end of May. They were well-received by their U.S. counterparts. And they definitely thought long and hard on the beef and pork issues, as well as other trade – bilateral trade, international trade issues with the U.S. administration. So I think we can all stay tuned for their economic policy to roll out.

MS. CHING: Yeah, so U.S. policy?

MS. FREEMAN: This is not an issue that I follow particularly closely, but I think there are opportunities for the U.S. to work with some of the TPP partners to work with Taiwan. Right now, Taiwan’s efforts to move forward with FTAs with some of the countries in Southeast Asia have – and India as well – have faltered, in part because of some assumed pressure from China. It would be helpful for the U.S. to support negotiations – bilateral negotiations between countries that are members of the TPP, perhaps as a preparation for eventual Taiwan participation in that regional agreement.

MS. CHING: So Meredith used to work for State Department. Would you like to –

MS. MILLER: Yeah, with Bob. (Laughter.)

MS. CHING: With Bob. (Laughs.)

MS. MILLER: Oh, sorry, what was the question?

MS. CHING: Yeah, do you want to respond to Iris’ question, how is the U.S. going to continue to policy while keeping both the national interests and the stability of the cross-strait in perspective. Do you have anything to add?

MS. MILLER: Sure, but I will defer to all the China and Taiwan experts on the panel, since my main focus is Southeast Asia.

MS. CHING: Bob, do you want to say something?

MR. MANNING: Well, I guess one thing I would say is I think – I think the U.S. would be open to a trade agreement with Taiwan. But Taiwan has some problems with protectionist policies that have been an impediment. So I think the ball is really kind of in Taiwan’s court on that. If the DPP comes up with more free trade approach, I think that something could happen quite easily.

MS. CHING: OK. Do we have more questions? We’ll move to the gentlemen. So, the gentleman from first row.

Q: Thank you, ma’am. Bonnie, my question’s to you. You really touched on it right at the end of your remarks, and – I’m sorry. Scott Harold from the RAND Corporation.

You touched on it at the end of your remarks. If the KMT goes down in flames, which it looks like Ms. Hung may, there’s a fear within the KMT, I understand, that she may drag the rest of the KMT down. You touched on that a little bit in the sense that they may lose the LY. You saw last week Ms. Hung suspended her campaign. There’s rumors that she did so to try to prevent the Cabinet from resigning and trying to change the date of the LY elections so that the members who might lose on her short coattails would not lose.

What happens if the KMT really implodes after an election that brings Dr. Tsai to power? Who wins within the KMT? Who really loses? Obviously Eric Chu could take a lot of the blame for not having run and for not having prevented Ms. Chu from running – I’m sorry – Ms. Hung from running. But who’s the winner within the KMT? And then, if I could ask you to speculate, what would China do if the KMT really implodes and there’s no check? That’s probably much more dangerous for cross-strait relations, and may not even be to the DPP’s benefit insofar as it may raise the willingness of Beijing to say, well, there’s just no hope now? Softball question. (Laughter.)

MS. GLASER: You paint a very dire picture, Scott, and I hope it won’t be that bad. But even in many countries where we have had really far-reaching losses by a party, they reinvigorate themselves, they bring in new blood, they adopt new policies and over time become stronger, or other parties are formed. Some of the people leave the party and they form other parties.

In the case of Taiwan, of course, that might take a little bit of time. And the interim period could be very worrisome to the mainland, also to some extent to the United States, if that were to happen. I think ultimately the health of any democracy means that you need to have a good political debate, and you do need checks and balances. And so I think that the U.S. hopes that there will be a number of political parties, not just one, that’s in Taiwan.

It’s easier for me to see the losers than it is to see the winners. The KMT has been so dominated by the older generation, and so reluctant to allow in the younger people, that it’s really hard to see who the up and coming people are. And so many of us have really anticipated that Eric Chu eventually would get into the race – I, myself, really thought eventually – it was just a question of timing. But clearly, that was not correct. But I think he would be a loser if the KMT really implodes, because he is the chair of the party.

But I’m – I think there’s a lot of very bright young people in Taiwan. There are people who are in politics or people who are not yet in politics who would ultimately form new parties or reinvigorate the KMT from within. Just it would take time. The old political ways of doing things in Taiwan, maybe they have to change, and the people at the top have been very reluctant to make those changes.

MS. CHING: That was a very good point. So let’s see, I think I saw one gentleman over there.

Q: Hello, Eric Gomez from the Cato Institute.

I was wondering what kind of impact does U.S. defense commitments to Taiwan have on the Taiwanese political parties in general, but also in particular the presidential election? And following on that, how do the youth view the American commitment? Do they see it as something that is very stable and it’s going to be there for a long time, or are they taking more of a we have to look out for ourselves approach? Thank you.

MS. CHING: So, Bonnie or Carla, would you like to? (Laughter.) Well, it just reminds me of a State Department’s June briefing, they did mention that U.S. commitment to Taiwan is not changed, and they do not have any plan – or they have not been planning to review its policy toward Taiwan. That said, I did hear that – you know, there were some articles on that, if Tsai Ing-wen was elected as the president, then the tendency of instability may trigger some worries in the United States. But I would like to forward that to Carla. Would you like to respond to these questions?

MS. FREEMAN: Well, I mean, I haven’t talked – I can’t talk about the response of the Taiwanese youth to this issue. I think it’s a very important question. I think the U.S. government’s pattern – recent pattern in terms of arms sales to Taiwan has sent a clear message that there is no blank check, and the Taiwanese are aware of that. But ultimately, the premier security guarantor of Taiwan is the U.S., and young people continue to view that that way.

The mood though in Taiwan, I think, is of frustration and a desire for a stronger Taiwan that can act more independently. And I think in talking with at least the limited – my limited pool of students, there’s a lot of frustration that the U.S. hasn’t done more to support Taiwan expand its international space. And on that level, Taiwanese students feel that we have not served their futures very well. They have limited – more limited options in the world. I work in an international relations school. These are people who historically would have been diplomats, served in multilateral institutions. They don’t have those options. So that’s a great source of frustration.

MS. GLASER: So if I could just add to that, it’s unfortunate that they blame the United States. It’s really not our fault. There’s only so much the U.S. can do to help fix that, Taiwan’s international space. And I actually think that the United States has worked pretty hard in support of Taiwan. And you can cite many examples where you have helped Taiwan. But ultimately, for better or worse, it is just a fact that the mainland is increasingly power. It has a great deal of influence over the choices of other countries and the choices of international organizations.

And China is I think, going forward, going to be less willing to allow Taiwan’s participation, even in the case where we have seen a better cross-strait relationship. There have been very, very few breakthroughs in international space under Ma Ying-jeou’s tenure. The World Health Assembly and a, you know, attendance at the International Civil Aviation Organization. So, I mean, that’s – it is unfortunate, but I don’t think that the U.S. has the magic wand here that can solve it.

On the defense issues, my sense is that the majority of people in Taiwan do not sense a great military threat from mainland China. This is not something that’s talked about on a daily basis in Taiwan. Certainly the military knows, the intelligence community knows, but it’s not highlighted. So that said, of course, people in Taiwan see the United States as an important security partner and want to constantly be reassured that the United States is going to be there if Taiwan faces a threat.

But I don’t think that defense issues are in the top three on the minds of most people living in Taiwan. And some of these other issues I talked about earlier, mostly pertaining to the economy, opportunities for young people, job-wise for example. You know, Taiwan produced an enormous number of people coming out of college with degrees that then they can’t use to get jobs. So there’s a mismatch between the education provided and the kind of job opportunities that exist. I think this is what the youth really cares about.

But of course, at the level of elites and the government and the military, there is always a desire in Taiwan to see symbols of commitment from the United States, and that can come in so many forms whether it’s a speech by a U.S. official like Susan Thornton or maybe a comment by the president, or a transit, as we had by President Ma Ying-jeou recently, and potentially maybe another arm’s sale. One could take place before the end of – another one of them could take place before the end of this administration. So I think all of these are also seen as just important signals of the continuing important close relationship between the U.S. and Taiwan.

MS. CHING: And there hasn’t been a major arms sale announcement in years. And I heard that – I just want to echo want Bonnie was saying, that people are expecting there might be one coming before the end of the Obama administration. I would say (that ?) after this panel there will be a U.S.-Taiwan Business Council press conference. And they have an annual military – they will have an annual conference. And I would expect that to be discussed, so stay tuned.

We have a question from the Chinese media, this gentleman.

Q: Thank you. My name is Dong Quai-yeu (sp) with China – (inaudible) – News Agency of Hong Kong. My question is for Bonnie.

You mention that it’s unlikely – (audio break) – provocative policy toward China. But I also heard some concerns from the Chinese experts. They said Tsai Ing-wen is fickle. And maybe with the political momentum in Taiwan changing, she will change her policy. They raised the case of Chen Shui-bian. At the very beginning when he took office, he was modest, he was low-key. But just within one or two years, he was changing. So it will happen again this time? How confident are you to predict that Tsai Ing-wen won’t change her policy – will keep the policy stable in her four or even eight year, if she is elected? Thank you.

MS. GLASER: So this is an – (audio break) – dynamic process. And I would certainly urge people on the mainland to do an in-depth study as to why Chen Shui-bian changed his policies, right? This wasn’t because he had some deep desire to be a, you know, pro-independence, provocative leader. That’s my view. I think that the mainland’s policies towards Taiwan made Chen Shui-bian very frustrated and pushed him to go in a more radical direction. The mainland should really draw some lessons from that period when they think about how they’re going to manage Tsai Ing-wen.

But you do make a point about Beijing’s mistrust of Tsai Ing-wen. And this is something that is actually more serious than Chen Shui-bian. People on the mainland have done a lot of study of Tsai Ing-wen’s past positions. Now, we all evolved. And there’s no reason to say that Tsai Ing-wen’s positions are exactly the same as they were in the past, but, yes, when she worked for Lee Teng-hui she was in charge of a – (audio break) – proposed the two-states theory. She served in Chen Shui-bian’s administration when President Chen put forward the position of one country on each side of the strait. And she in fact strongly discouraged Chen Shui-bian from accepting the 1992 consensus, and said so publicly. And I think that the Chinese are very worried about her history. Chinese scholars often say Chen Shui-bian was an opportunist. Tsai Ing-wen is an ideologue. I don’t accept that, but it represents to me how deeply suspicious they are of her.

Now, that means that Tsai Ing-wen needs to do more to reassure the mainland. Even if these concerns are not valid, nevertheless there is some responsibility on her side to provide some reassurances that she is not going to pursue these kinds of agendas that she has put forward in the past.

MS. CHING: So do we have more time for one question?

MS. GLASER: I think we’re done. (Laughs.)

MS. CHING: OK, right.

MR. CHU: I apologize. (Off mic.) We started a little bit late, but we also ended a little bit late, I think a sign of having a great panel and some great interest on the part of you all. So thank you very much. There’s a lot of great experts in Washington, D.C. I’m particularly proud that we have this group here to provide us with an initial discussion on this issue and some different – (off mic).