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Ma likely better choice for stable China ties: U.S. pundit

Ma likely better choice for stable China ties: U.S. pundit

Taipei, Jan. 9 (CNA) With Taiwan's presidential campaign entering the final stretch, a visiting American scholar said Monday that if voters take ties with China seriously, incumbent President Ma Ying-jeou probably is the "better choice" to ensure stable cross-Taiwan Strait ties. Although the United States is willing to work with anyone who wins the Jan. 14 poll, there will likely be "a little bit more" apprehension on the U.S. side if Taiwan's main opposition party regains power, Dennis Hickey said. Hickey, a professor at Missouri State University's Department of Political Science, said that "a series of surprises" -- including the promotion of a referendum that Taiwan enter the United Nations -- under the Democratic Progressive Party's (DPP's) 2000-2008 rule caused a lot of problems for the U.S. The "surprises" not only led to former U.S. President George W. Bush calling Chen "his least favorite democratic elected president," but also brought bilateral relations to an "all time low," Hickey added. In contrast to the unpredictability of the former DPP administration, Ma's administration has so far demonstrated that it is a more stabilizing force capable of forging ties with both China and the U.S., he told CNA in an interview in Taipei. "I think it's an open secret that the U.S. would prefer to see President Ma elected," said Hickey, who arrived on Jan. 2 to observe the closely contested presidential election. The American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) has said that the U.S. takes a neutral stance on the presidential election and is happy to work with whomever the people of Taiwan elect. The AIT represents U.S. interests in Taiwan in the absence of diplomatic ties. During his 21-day visit, Hickey is scheduled to visit the Central Election Commission and attend press conferences held by the three presidential candidates -- Ma of the Kuomintang (KMT), Tsai Ing-wen of the DPP and James Soong of the minor People First Party. The U.S. has a tendency toward supporting Ma's re-election because his "track record" shows he has improved Taiwan-China relations, whereas his major competitor Tsai remains an "unknown entity" from a party that has previously caused worries, he said. Ma's administration "stabilizes ties with the mainland, so the U.S. doesn't have to worry about a situation turning into a conflict that might involve the U.S.," he said. "What America wants is for Taiwan and mainland China to work out their differences peacefully," he said, noting that the candidate with more potential to deliver that message will gain the support of the U.S. "President Ma would probably be the better choice to do that," he said. Although Tsai has vowed to push cross-strait relations forward if elected, Hickey said that her denial of the "1992 consensus" -- a basis for cooperation between Taiwan and China -- and unwillingness to renounce independence as an option would make collaboration more uncertain. The "1992 consensus" refers to what the KMT describes as a tacit cross-strait understanding that there is only "one China," with each side free to interpret the meaning of the phrase. "The U.S. will work with anyone who is elected," he said, "but there might be a little bit more apprehension if Tsai wins as she is an unknown entity." (By Nancy Liu)