Leading China-Taiwan scholar Scott Kastner spoke about issues of peace and conflict across the Taiwan Strait to more than 350 people at the University of Central Florida on Tuesday.

The presentation was organized by the UCF Global Perspectives Office and held during a special open meeting of UCF LIFE. The program was part of the 2011-2012 theme, “People Power, Politics and Global Change.”

In his overview of cross-strait relations, Kastner – an associate professor at the University of Maryland – outlined the historical impediments that have led to the current stalemate over Taiwan’s political status. Since the Chinese Nationalist Party, the Kuomintang, fled to the island in 1949 and established the Republic of China, there has been a struggle over whether the island is technically a part of the People’s Republic of China on the mainland, Kastner said.

Until recently, Taiwan’s internal debate over its political status had been a severe irritant to China, which considers the island a province. Kastner discussed how other countries, such as the United States, play a role in maintaining a precarious power balance in the region.

Taiwan’s current president, Ma Ying-jeou, has been able to ring in “a new era of more constructive cross-strait relations with a policy of “Three Noes” – no unification, no independence and no use of force,” Kastner said. Citing results of multiple national surveys, he indicated that many Taiwanese prefer the status quo, which leaves the question of the island’s status for future generations.

Taiwan’s presidential election Saturday may determine the course of future relations between the two governments, Kastner said.  Ma supports continuing the “Three Noes” policy, while opposition candidate Tsai Ing-wen fears Taiwan has grown too dependent on China in recent years.

One audience member, who referred to himself as a Chinese-American from Taiwan, underscored the importance of the election, and said he would be flying there this weekend to cast his vote.

Another audience member mentioned that, beyond politics, there is an unresolved question of identity, which is an emotional issue driving both sides that cannot be forgotten or overlooked.

In addition to the Global Perspectives Office and UCF LIFE, sponsors and partners included the UCF China-Taiwan Cross-Strait Program, C.T. Hsu and Associates, the UCF Political Science Department, The Chinese American Scholars & Professionals Association of Florida, and the Global Connections Foundation.