In January, Taiwan signed an agreement with the United
States for the purchase of, among other things, air defense
robots and helicopters for $ 6.5 billion. The arms purchase
agreement had been delayed for several years due to
political opposition in both countries. China criticized the
settlement. Despite this, the two arch-rivals continued to
grow closer to Taiwan and China. In May, official tourist
offices were opened in each capital.
After lengthy negotiations, a trade agreement with China
was also signed in June. The agreement, which was described
as historical, meant, among other things, reduced duties on
a total of around 800 goods and services. The majority, over
500, applied to exports from Taiwan to the mainland, worth
nearly US $ 14 billion over three years. According to
President Ma Ying-jeou, this should provide a much-needed
boost to growth and increase the chances of entering into
free trade agreements with other countries. The opposition
feared that the agreement threatens to make Taiwan
financially dependent on China and accused President Ma of
pursuing policies aimed at reunification. The agreement was
approved by Parliament and entered into force in September.
Taiwan has the population of 23.78 million. The voters also seemed to approve of the closer
relations. That conclusion drew political observers who saw
the mayor's election in November as a value gauge on Mas's
policy. The ruling party of Guomindang won in three of the
country's five largest cities, including Taibei.
Former President Chen Shuibian was repeatedly denied his
request during the year pending release of the pending
judgment against him. Chen and his wife Wu Shu-jen had both
been sentenced to life in prison for corruption. In June,
the sentence was reduced to 20 years in prison, and the
fines they were sentenced to pay were also reduced. Chen
denied the allegations, claiming they were politically
motivated. He again appealed the verdict.
Justice Minister Wang Ching-feng resigned in March in
protest of plans to carry out the death penalty for the
first time in just over four years. In May, four violent
criminals were executed. Another 40 or so sentenced to death
were sent to Taiwanese prison.