First accommodation on sovereignty issues is likely to face considerable

First accommodation on sovereignty issues is likely

This preview shows page 86 - 88 out of 193 pages.

First, accommodation on sovereignty issues is likely to face considerable political resistancein Taiwan. Most people in Taiwan view their country as sovereign and independent, even if it is not internationally recognized as such,92 whereas support for unification with mainland China—even in the long term, under favorable conditions—is thin. President Ma has been able to pursue a policy of détente with the PRC by embracing the ambiguous “1992 consensus,” which he interprets as an agreement that “one China” exists, but that Beijing and Taipei have different interpretations as to what that “one China”[End Page 86] means; for Ma, the Republic of China is the one China. Although thissort of ambiguous and pragmatic formulation hasbeen acceptable to the majority of Taiwanese, further accommodation of China on the sovereignty issue would be a risky political move in Taiwan. Consider, for instance, the decision by Ma to broach the possibility of a cross-strait peace agreement in the midst of his reelection campaign in the fall of 2011.93 Even
though Ma’s proposal was, as Alan Romberg writes, “heavily caveated from the beginning,”94 it generated a tremendous amount of domestic criticism, with DPP candidate Tsai Ing-wen attacking the idea as putting Taiwan’ssovereignty at risk.95 Ma was forced to add further caveats, such as promising that the ROC government would not pursue an agreement until first obtaining the consent of the Taiwan people in a national referendum.96 The entire episode was generally viewed as a major political blunder by Ma, and it suggests that opposition would be fierce if a future Taiwan government were to contemplate significant accommodation on sovereignty issues.Insights from prospect theory reinforce this basic point. In the language of prospect theory, being a functionally independent state forms Taiwan’s reference point. A shift from deterrence to compellence means that the PRC would be in a position where it could demand—under credible military threats—that Taiwan cede some of the status it currently has; that is, it would imply that cross-strait bargaining—from Taiwan’s perspective—would shift from the domain of gains to the domain of losses. Prospect theory predicts,however,that individuals are more willing to take risks in the domain of losses: people want to protect what they already have. As such, Taiwan’s people—and hence its popularly elected politicians—might resistPRC demands to yield sovereign status even if doing so is risky.97Finally, commitment problems would likely complicate the search for a peaceful accommodationeven if a future Taiwan government comes to recognize that China’s redline has moved to the leftof the status quo and is, in principle, [End Page 87] willing to bargainaway some of its sovereignty to preserve the peace.98 The problem here is that the issue being bargained over, Taiwan’s sovereign status, affects Taiwan’s future

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