- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 12, 2004

TAIPEI, Taiwan — Opposition lawmakers cruised the streets in trucks yesterday, thanking voters for their upset victory in an election that is expected to calm U.S. fears that the island was headed toward a conflict with rival China.

Three opposition parties teamed up Saturday to defeat Taiwanese leader Chen Shui-bian’s pro-independence coalition, winning 114 of parliament’s 225 seats.

The opposition favors a more conciliatory policy toward Beijing, which claims the self-ruled island as part of Chinese territory. China has threatened to attack if the Republic of China (Taiwan) refuses to unify eventually and seeks a permanent split.

Following a Taiwanese election tradition, candidates climbed on their flatbed campaign trucks once more yesterday and drove around thanking voters for their support. The candidates wore colorful satin sashes bearing their names.

Mr. Chen’s Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and its allies have pushed for a revised constitution and a Taiwanese identity that is separate from China’s. The policies have alarmed both Beijing and Washington. The United States, Taiwan’s bodyguard, has urged Mr. Chen to moderate his stance.

Lin Cheng-yih, a researcher at the Institute for International Relations in Taipei, said the vote shows that Taiwanese want the legislature to restrain Mr. Chen.

“They don’t trust the DPP to control both the government and the parliament because they feel uneasy about the DPP’s China policy,” Mr. Lin said.

Chiu Tai-san, a top official for China policy, said the opposition’s victory likely will convince Beijing that it does not need to use force to restrain Mr. Chen.

“The mainland will realize that there’s a political force that can check and balance Chen Shui-bian, so there’s no need for them to make drastic policy changes,” said Mr. Chiu, a vice chairman at the Cabinet-level Mainland Affairs Council.

Lai I-chung, an analyst at the Taiwan Thinktank in Taipei, said Beijing will feel less pressure to negotiate with Mr. Chen now.

Lai Hsin-yuan, a former consultant for the National Security Council, agreed. Beijing will stick with its strategy of using the United States to pressure Mr. Chen to moderate his policies, she said.

She added that China also would continue to seek greater control of Taiwan by making the island’s economy more dependent on the mainland. About half of Taiwan’s direct foreign investment is in China.

“The challenge is that Taiwan faces a tough battle over economic and trade ties,” Miss Lai said. “Taiwan doesn’t have a good strategic plan that will balance our economic and national interests.”

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