Three years ago, the Sunflower Movement erupted suddenly in Taiwan. Students and other protesters occupied the Legislative Yuan and forced lawmakers to shelve the trade-in-services agreement with China. That, in turn, led to both a standstill in Taiwan’s engagement with the mainland and to a shift in political sentiment toward the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). In January 2016, DPP Chair Tsai Ing-wen was elected president, her party gained majority control of the Legislative Yuan, and cross-Strait relations deteriorated as Beijing refused to coexist with the Tsai administration. The arrival of the Trump administration and uncertainty concerning its approach to relations with Taiwan and China makes the current situation even more complex.
On March 7, the Center for East Asia Policy Studies (CEAP) at Brookings and the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (CEIP) co-hosted Ma Ying-jeou, the president of the Republic of China on Taiwan from 2008 to 2016, who spoke on the critical issues currently facing Taiwan’s political system, and cross-Strait and U.S.-Taiwan relations. Douglas Paal, vice president for studies at CEIP, provided introductory remarks. Richard Bush, director of CEAP moderated a discussion and Q&A with the audience following Ma’s speech.
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With the downward trajectory in [U.S.-China] relations, the incoming ambassador ideally will need to have a visible connection to the president and his senior advisers, familiarity with the range of issues that comprise the relationship, and a future in American politics. The more the ambassador is seen as likely to wield influence in the future on issues affecting China, the higher the cost and risk for Beijing to mistreat him/her.