The position of Taiwan in the US' foreign policy is becoming less important, as Beijing has long seen the island as an integral part of its territory.
Compared with Tsai Ing-wen, who refuses to acknowledge the 1992 Consensus after being elected as Taiwan's top leader this year, the US likes Ma Ying-jeou more, who advocates establishing friendly ties with the Chinese mainland.
The Tsai-led Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) may have closer ties with Japan than with the US. Former US President George W. Bush once criticized Chen Shui-bian as a "trouble maker" when Chen was in office in Taiwan from 2000 to 2008.
Since taking office, Tsai has adopted an equivocal policy toward the Chinese mainland by neither recognizing the 1992 Consensus nor challenging Beijing's bottom line. She is very likely to hold this blurry attitude for a long period of time in order to stabilize her status in the DPP, which sees Taiwan's independence as one of its political goals.
Under the circumstances, Kuomintang Chairwoman Hung Hsiu-chu started his mainland trip to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping. But whether the Xi-Hung meeting will bring positive changes to the frosty cross-Strait relationship remains to be seen, because the Kuomintang's ability to overcome challenges to win the hearts of people in the self-ruled island remains to be seen.
Some observers doubt that the Chinese mainland can interact with the DPP while being on friendly terms with the Kuomintang which is demoralized by internal strife. Beijing feels awkward about it. The biggest card that Beijing could play with the DPP is economy, but whose results need a long time to be seen. Moreover, the Tsai administration is carrying out the "New Go South" policy to revitalize Taiwan's economy.
Tsai will be happy if Beijing gives economic support to Taiwan, but she will become tough when it comes to the one China policy. It is hard to say that Beijing's unilateral economic sanctions on Taiwan will drag down the island's economy, because Taiwan's labor-intensive enterprises like Foxconn can move their assets from the Chinese mainland to Southeast Asian countries with low-cost labor. Although the relocation will be painful, it may not force Taiwan to submit to Beijing.
At present, the US government is holding a wait-and-see attitude toward the Taiwan issue. In the US, the majority labels Taiwan's democracy as a paragon for Asian countries. In addition, the Taiwan issue is also used by the US government as a card to contain China's rapid development. At the current stage, the US government is glad to see Taiwan maintain the status quo.
The US government's attitude is reflected in its decision to sell weapons to Taiwan which was developed during the later period of Ma's tenure. It means that the US neither wants to provoke Beijing nor welcome a reunification.
If Taiwan declares independence, Beijing will implement countermeasures, adding to the possibility of a war. If it comes true, the US will be in a dilemma on whether to send troops. So, the best choice for the US is to allow Taiwan to maintain the status quo.
Yuan Zheng is a researcher at the Institute of American Studies of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
(Opinions expressed in the article don't represent those of the Sino-US.com.)