Earlier this month Taiwan President Ma Ying-Jeou announced he will resign as chairman of the ruling Nationalist Party shortly after voters criticized how he handled the social and economic policies in local elections. This has led to a heavy loss for his party in local elections and has highlighted unease over his government’s push for closer economic ties with China.
“I must apologize for the losses and have let down the founders of this party,” Ma told Kuomintang party members today. He remains Taiwan’s president. “The election results tell us that our reform isn’t fast enough and doesn’t meet the expectations of the public.”
Many foreign affairs experts have interpreted the defeat as a resounding vote of no-confidence of the leader and his party. Ma has sought to have a meeting with Chinese President Xi, which would be a historic moment between the two nations.
Ma will remain president until his term ends in 2016, despite the resignation. Some analysts say many of Ma’s pro-china policies turned off voters, with others speculating that China will now withhold economic ties and that Beijin’s interest is significantly reduced.
Said Liu Shih-chung, head of the Taiwan Brain Trust, “For such a meeting to happen, Mr. Ma will have to bring something to the table, such as some sort of progressive agenda. But now, there is no more incentive for Mr. Xi to meet with Mr. Ma.”
“I’d expect Beijing to hold back on awarding Taiwan any more economic goodies during Ma’s last 18 months in office,” says Sean King, senior vice president with the consulting firm Park Strategies in New York and Taipei. “A future Democratic Progressive Party government would inherit these wins and Beijing would come off as the petulant, spoiled child if it then yanked them away.”
With low approval ratings, Mr. Ma lacks the command to start a political dialogue with Beijing. Wu Yongping, a professor on cross-strait relations at Tsinghua University’s School of Public Policy and Management in Beijing said a meeting is less likely, however is Ma continues to push, anything is possible.
“But given Ma’s character and style, the possibility of this is minuscule,” he said.