From the following statement from this post, it seems to be indeed a real irony purely from the point of view of Taiwan’s economy:
‘In fact, the profound political shift in Taiwan is more closely associated with the economy’s failing struggle to re-invent itself. With per capita income around US$22,000, Taiwan is above the middle income threshold, but it has been unable to emulate its neighbours like South Korea and Japan in Asia in climbing up the income scale. Its export-dependent manufacturing sector faces competition from South Korea from above and emerging economies, like China, from below. GDP grew a measly 1 per cent in 2014; wages are stagnating and unemployment, at 4 per cent, is considered high. The irony is that Taiwan’s tortured, ‘one-sided’ economic relationship with China — which Ma had been trying to correct — might well be a core element in Taiwan’s economic woes. While direct trade has opened up across the Strait, Taiwan has continued to restrict Chinese imports and investment, essential to enjoying the fruits of fuller integration into the regional and global economy. South Korea has imposed no similar burdens on its international competitiveness.’
Is the restriction on Chinese imports and investment and its impact on its international competitiveness the key factor to Taiwan’s economic stagnation in the past up to now? If it is, then the expected new president will face a serious dilemma: accountable to an electorate that may like to see a more distant relationship with the mainland, and to develop strategies to kick start the economy where a distant relationship may work in an opposite way.
Yes, it is possible to diversify its economic relationship, but it will take time to achieve. More fundamentally, defying an inherent international comparative advantages under the current circumstances is likely for Taiwan to continue to pay a price.