Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Ma Bids to Head KMT

Taiwan's "Golden Boy" Throws His Hat in the Ring
By George Wehfritz and Jonathan Adams
Newsweek International "Periscope" item, February 28, 2005

Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou, a 54-year-old Harvard graduate with two decades of experience in the Kuomintang's inner circle, last week declared himself a candidate to lead Taiwan's grand old party. In so doing, he challenged current chairman Lien Chan to retire or risk being voted out, and exposed a leadership struggle between himself and veteran lawmaker Wang Jin-pyng. The KMT power struggle defies forecasts that a resurgent Kuomintang would moderate politics on Taiwan by reining in President Chen Shui-bian and his pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party. But regardless of who becomes its next chairman, the KMT's top priority is to win back power in the 2008 presidential election. And while leaders in Beijing hope that scenario would mean closer cross-strait relations, they may be deluded. Wang has said he can't rule out formal independence for Taiwan down the road, and Ma believes any political deal with the mainland must pass muster with Taiwanese voters—a position identical to the DPP's. "If China is waiting for a dream candidate who would agree to the conditions they've set [for unification], it's just not going to happen," says a Western diplomat in Taipei. With Japan publicly agreeing last week to support the United States in case of a cross-strait military conflict, Beijing's headaches are not going to be solved by a new KMT chairman, whoever that turns out to be.

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