Despite continued improvement in cross-Strait relations, 2009 proved to be rather stormy for President Ma Ying-jeou, whose ability to govern is increasingly being questioned in the wake of a series of political crises. The overwhelming parliamentary majority enjoyed by the ruling Kuomintang (KMT) party has also proven to be of little consolation, as Mr. Ma’s style of leadership has not been conducive to coalition-building and has fueled dissent amongst the long-feuding factions within the party. Serious challenges are also looming in the defense arena, with one of President Ma’s key campaign promises on force reorganization now likely to fall through, and civil-military relations at an all-time low.
The dynamic between Taiwan defense/national security and cross-Strait détente is taking on unprecedented complexity, and it will remain a challenge for Taiwan through the foreseeable future. Yet despite these challenges, we have seen some progress through 2009. The Obama Administration has begun the congressional notification process for a substantial arms sale package to Taiwan, a process undertaken just as an official Taiwan delegation headed to Beijing to begin consultations on a major cross-Strait economic cooperation agreement.
This report provides a brief overview of significant developments through 2009, and examines some of the factors that influenced the course of events during 2009 and into early 2010.