Ma Ying-jeou is one of those rare politicians who have an opportunity to shape the destiny not only of their own nation but also of an entire region. In March elections, the charismatic Ma, 57, won Taiwan’s presidential election on a message of hope that could defuse his country’s nearly six-decade conflict with China and put to rest one of the last vestiges of the cold war in Asia.
Ma, a Harvard Law School graduate, is proposing that China and Taiwan set aside the ideological differences at the heart of their conflict and engage in a sweeping program of economic and cultural exchanges. The heightened traffic of people and money would, he argues, strengthen ties between the two countries, boost their economies and reduce the risk of war.
However, as with any reformer, the challenges facing Ma in his quest are as imposing as the goal he is seeking to achieve. Though Beijing appears willing to cooperate in Ma’s effort, it is hard to know how far the Chinese leadership is willing to go on issues it considers highly sensitive. Many people in Taiwan are also fearful that gargantuan China will end up absorbing their tiny island if ties become too close. Ma, though, is focused on the opportunities. "It is going to be a win-win situation," he predicts.