First of all, Goldfarb needs to replace the propagandist wording "mainland China" with accurate wording. If he would like to give a longer title, then call it "People's Republic of China," or "China" for short. Taiwan is not connected with any "mainland." Taiwan is "Taiwan."
The government ruling Taiwan now has the long title of the "Republic of China," or "Taiwan" for short. From 1996 to 2008, it looked like the government was moving away from authoritarianism and colonialism towards becoming a legitimate government of Taiwan. It was also moving towards a new name -- either the "Republic of Taiwan" or just "Taiwan" as its official name. After the elections that saw the current President Ma Ying-jeou get elected and his party gain a larger majority in the legislature, it has increasingly moved away from democracy towards authoritarianism and again a colonialist attitude by an ethnic minority of elites ruling the majority population. Since these elites control the KMT party and huge amounts of money stolen from Taiwan over the 50 years of dictatorship, they can control the legislators who owe the party for the campaign financing and so are more loyal to the party than to the constituents who elected them.
President Chen did not pursue "creeping independence" but rather a gradual move from de facto independence to de jure independence. Taiwan has been independent since 1951's Treaty of San Francisco where Japan gave up its claim in perpetuity but did not designate a successor. Until 1996, Taiwan was subject to a colonialist government in exile -- the one-party Leninist dictatorship of the Chinese Nationalist Party who lost a civil war in China and fled as refugees to Taiwan.
Switzerland had de facto independence for more than a century before other nations recognized it. Taiwan has more international recognition than either Switzerland had or the United States had for several decades after it first won its independence from England.
Goldfarb is to be commended for correctly recognizing that Ma Ying-jeou did not get elected with a mandate to pursue unification with China but rather the opposite -- he got elected by pretending to be pro-Taiwan and pro-status quo of de facto independence. He got elected by having overwhelming campaign finances, a party that fully controls almost 90 percent of the television and news media, and eight years of KMT legislative obstructionism. He got elected by promising an improvement of the economy and drawing on the connection of the economic strength of the 1990's under the KMT administration of President Lee Teng-hui.
If he had run on what he is doing now, he probably could not have won the middle electorate and we might have seen Frank Hsieh with 50-60 percent and Ma with the 40 percent instead of the 2008 outcome that was the other way around.
Later on again Goldfarb gets his wording straight out of the propaganda of China -- calling direct air links between the "island and the mainland." We would not use that description for direct air links between Cuba and the USA. Note to all journalists and writers in the media around the world: stick to these words: "China" and "Taiwan."
Unlike the article's take on the situation, the Ma policy of engagement has not led to any success for Taiwan. It has led to success for Ma's real goal of eventual forced unification. China has played the KMT for fools. Each of the "concessions" China has made has only served China's interests. No great economic benefit, no large crop of Chinese tourists -- there has been nothing substantive to benefit Taiwan. It has served to cause business know-how, intellectual capital, money, etc. to flow in a one-way direction -- out of Taiwan into China.
Taiwan has not gained any more international space. Malawi, disgusted with China's colonialist attitudes and empty promises had made gestures to restore ties with Taiwan. Ma sat on his hands. He could have re-established ties with Malawi this year, but he held back -- and only to China's benefit.
The DPP is not "exploiting protectionist sentiment" but raising legitimate economic issues when the policies of Ma, so blinded by the propaganda and ideology in which he was immersed from childhood in the elitist KMT circles, that his policies are not leading to economic parity, but only leading toward a gutting of Taiwan's economy. The DPP cannot take credit for the Taiwanese public outcry at all of the poison, food scares, and corruption in China that would lead Taiwanese to want to be literally protected from China's dangerous goods. Furthermore, with the complete lack of transparency of fair market practices in China, Taiwan also needs to be protected from "dumping" and other procedures that China will design to destroy Taiwan's economy.
The KMT and the CCP have the same goal -- a 21st century Chinese colonial empire. Annexation of Taiwan to China is a mere start. The problem with KMT has is that this vision of empire can only have one emperor. The KMT and the CCP will not be able to share power. And the KMT does not wish to settle for a vassal state kingdom that their party controls. They also cannot handle settling in a separate nation that is not China.
The KMT itself probably does not know how to reach an end game with it on top of the Chinese empire. But in the meantime, it pursues whatever steps will seem to bring it more power. With that in mind, a democratic Taiwan is anathema, something to be tolerated only until they can get away with getting back to the good old days of one party dictatorship.