The Chen Shui-Bian Administrations Mainland Policy: Toward a Modus Vivendi or Continued Stalemate?

Vincent Wei-cheng Wang, University of Richmond


This article discusses the main elements of the Chen Shui-bian administration's cross-Strait policy, analyzes the policy's key domestic and international determinants, and offers a preliminary assessment on the policy. Chen's crossStrait policy adheres to Taiwan's "economic security" approach to national security. Whereas the previous Lee administration sought to safeguard national security by reducing economic dependence on the mainland, Chen's policy strives to normalize cross-Strait economic relations as an important pillar to peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait. Although Chen has accelerated his political maturation, his China policy continues to be constrained by various factors (most importantly, the PRC's insistence on a "one China" precondition for cross-Strait talks) and has succeeded more in reducing tensions and maintaining the status quo than in reaching a modus vivendi with the mainland. A benign stalemate without imminent military threat has ensued. Diplomatic setbacks, electoral considerations, and growing frustration with Beijing's spuming of his good will led Chen to move toward to a hardened position, such as his "Taiwan and China, each side is a country across the Taiwan Strait" formula in August 2002.