After more than a decade of escalating cross-strait polarization fed by growing nationalism on both sides of the Taiwan Strait, there has been since the late 2000s a historic rapprochement between Taiwan and mainland China. Such a rapprochement is not unique in the historically strained cross-strait relationship. There was some easing of tension following the Deng Xiaoping regime announcement of a bold new “three direct links” and “one country two systems” framework in the aftermath of Sino-American normalization in January 1979, and a second thaw accompanied the simultaneous democratization of Taiwan politics and post-Tiananmen crisis in Chinese foreign policy in the early 1990s. Yet neither of these antecedents has been as deep or so long sustained as the post-2008 détente, which has resulted in the formal realization of “three direct links” (postal, transportation, and trade) on December 15, 2008, and in 21 formal agreements (as of May 2014) to lift cross-strait tariffs on goods and investment barriers, including the landmark Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA), signed and bilaterally ratified in 2010. The initial focus has been socioeconomic rather than political, short-term advantage rather than long-term destination. But the Ma regime evidently intends to institutionalize Taiwan’s more cordial relationship to the Chinese mainland. Doing so has raised questions about the policy’s long-term geopolitical destination and strategic implications.
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