Firmly believing that all politics is local,” I have long argued that the issue of Taiwanese independence” can only be understood in terms of the national power struggles taking place on each side of the Taiwan Straight. So I was not surprised by yesterday’s Washington Post story arguing that the two main factions of China’s ruling party are using the Taiwan issue as a cudgel to keep the other side in line:

A prolonged struggle for power between Jiang’s allies and those who support Hu has created a dynamic in which any senior leader who argues for even a slightly more moderate policy risks being attacked by rivals in the other camp as too weak to govern, said the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity and said they favor neither faction.

Policy is being used as a weapon in the power struggle,” said one government official with access to the senior leadership. Under these conditions, no one wants to be soft. Everyone wants to be tougher.”

Though Hu took over as the party’s general secretary in late 2002 and as president in March 2003, Jiang, 77, continues to wield influence as chief of the nation’s military. Sources say he is resisting pressure to retire and to relinquish that post to Hu at a key party meeting later this year and that he is using the challenges posed by Taiwan and Hong Kong to his advantage.