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Taiwan elections: US must show respect for self-determination

As Taiwan presidential elections approach Jan. 14, the US has shown a preference for incumbent Ma Ying-jeou – who says he can work with China. The US should set aside wishful thinking about unification and respect the right of Taiwanese to decide their own future.


Taiwan's opposition presidential candidate, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen, shakes hands with supporters Jan. 4. The US appears to be tilting against this pro-Taiwan candidate, a slap against the democratic values that America espouses.

REUTERS/Ashley Pon

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The Taiwan question is an issue that almost everyone – except the 23 million people in Taiwan – wishes would go away.

US officials generally hope that natural economic forces will pull Taiwan and China inextricably together, and that the current government in Taipei will engineer a deal with China that finally answers the question of two countries, or one unified China.

It is not that simple on either side of the Taiwan Strait. There is no evidence that the Taiwanese people want to unify with China, nor that the Chinese will compromise on their position that unification is the only acceptable outcome. The United States should set aside wishful thinking and face that reality with policies that respect the right of Taiwanese to decide their own future.

As Taiwan prepares for presidential elections Jan. 14, the Obama administration, like its predecessors, has shown preference for the candidate of the  Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) – incumbent Ma Ying-jeou – who has cast himself as the man who can work best with China.


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