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Project September 4, 2015

Taiwan: A Changing Status Quo


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Tourists from Mainland China pose for pictures in front of a portrait of Chiang Kai-shek at the Chiang Memorial Hall in Taipei. Image by Richard Bernstein. Taiwan, 2015.

Cross-strait relations have never been better. Some 5 million Mainland tourists visit Taiwan each year. One million Taiwanese live on the Mainland. The status quo, meaning no Taiwan independence but also no reunification, seems accepted by both sides.

The situation seems stable and beneficial, with economic growth resulting for both sides even as Taiwan has done what the mainland has not, which is become a true, vigorous democracy.

In this project, veteran foreign correspondent Richard Bernstein updates the current state of affairs, by looking into three questions regarding the cross-strait relationship.

First, what effect does the fact of Taiwan's democracy have on the Mainland, if any? He speaks with Mainland tourists and students about the ideas and attitudes they bring home after seeing prosperous, democratic Taiwan.

Second, he looks at the political situation on Taiwan. Presidential elections are scheduled for January next year and the head of the normally pro-independence party, Tsai Ying-wen, is widely expected to win. Who is she? What's her appeal? What is she likely to do? And how will the Mainland view her election?

And finally, what problems loom ahead? While relations are peaceful and even friendly, Taiwan is ardently opposed to reunification and suspicious of a kind of creeping, economic annexation, a fear that generated student demonstrations last year.

Can China take over Taiwan without reunification? Many on Taiwan are worried that that's what it's doing.