Thursday, February 22, 2007

Last Waltz

Taiwan's president gets even weaker
Jonathan Adams
Newsweek International, June 12, 2006

It was a bad week for Taiwan's embattled President Chen Shui-bian. Facing a series of corruption scandals involving his relatives that have driven his poll numbers to record lows, the president announced on Wednesday that he would delegate some of his powers. He'll retain nominal control over national security and foreign affairs, but has handed over the reins of day-to-day power to his prime minister—and possible 2008 presidential candidate—Su Tseng-chang. Chen also vowed to drop out of all campaign activities for his Democratic Progressive Party.

Facing an uphill battle to retain power in the 2008 election against the Kuomintang, the DPP is happy to distance itself from the unpopular Chen. How Beijing will react is another matter. Although Su will pursue a more moderate cross-Strait policy, any changes he makes will likely be modest, according to Lo Chih-cheng, a political scientist at Taipei's Soochow University. Expect minor adjustments like economic measures allowing in more Chinese tourists, he says. Beijing's distaste for the independence-leaning DPP will likely stymie anything more. "Su won't be able to jump-start political talks with China," Lo says. "It takes two to tango."

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