The game may be over. The Taiwan presidential election and other dramatic developments since then have made peaceful reunification on Beijing's terms well-nigh impossible. In one short week, Taiwan has been transformed into a pluralistic, multi-party entity that is in many ways the antithesis of the few remaining authoritarian regimes in Asia. The gulf between a largely democratic Taiwan and a largely monolithic mainland has widened significantly. The anti-Lee Teng-hui movement of the past few days has as much significance for democratisation as the accession to power of the opposition Democratic Progressive Party's (DPP) Chen Shui-bian via the ballot box. All over the island, tens of thousands of disgruntled Kuomintang (KMT) members and followers of independent candidate James Soong have staged protests to force Mr Lee to resign from his KMT chairmanship and 'express a full apology to the nation'. This assertion of people power has shattered the remnants of Taiwan-style authoritarianism. In spite of his reputation as 'Mr Democracy', Mr Lee has retained many dictatorial traits of his mentor president Chiang Ching-kuo and the latter's father, Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek. Until last Friday, when Mr Lee was campaigning for KMT candidate Vice-President Lien Chan, the 77-year-old leader always had a halo over his head. Thanks to the so-called Lee Teng-hui complex - lionisation of Mr Lee because he was the first native Taiwanese to become head of state - the out-going president was simply untouchable. Those noisy - but quintessentially democratic - calls for his immediate resignation, however, have knocked the Taiwan helmsman off his pedestal. And if most Taiwanese have seen through the new clothes of their own emperor, how much respect will they have for authoritarian figures across the strait? Efforts by Beijing's patriarchal leaders to accomplish reunification via some quasi-imperial edict seem doomed. The latest effort to do so by 'liberal patriarch' Premier Zhu Rongji last Wednesday proved counter-productive. Election analysts in Taipei say Mr Zhu's threats boosted the voter turn-out rate and support for the DPP by at least a couple of percentage points. Other post-election developments in political reform have magnified the gap. Take the separation of party and government, the idea that a political party, even a ruling party, should not interfere with the government. Paradoxically, the idea was first raised in Beijing, not Taipei. In 1987, ousted Chinese Communist Party (CCP) chief Zhao Ziyang pointed out at the 13th Party Congress that the CCP should beat at least a partial retreat from affairs of state. Mr Zhao's reforms died with the Tiananmen Square crackdown two years later. Since the early 1990s, President and party General Secretary Jiang Zemin has moved in the other direction by boosting the CCP's authority. Last Sunday, DPP chairman Lin Yi-hsiung announced that his party would adopt the 'American model'; that is, the party's main function would be to help its candidates win elections, not meddle in governmental affairs. Mr Chen then resigned from all his party positions. The other feat is the 'civilianisation' of the army, where military forces should report to a civilian administration, not the ruling party. Again, the objective was raised first by Beijing, not Taipei. In the early 1980s, when Taiwan was still under martial law, Deng Xiaoping took the first step to wean the People's Liberation Army (PLA) from the CCP. Again, the ideal was abandoned after the June 4, 1989, massacre. Mr Jiang has since then bent over backwards to ensure 'the CCP's absolute leadership over the PLA'. Within minutes of Mr Chen's victory last Saturday, the Chief of Staff of the Taiwan army appeared on television to offer full allegiance to their new commander-in-chief. The depoliticisation of the Taiwan army was achieved in one stroke. Given the many threats issued by CCP leaders, it is unlikely Mr Chen or other DPP stalwarts would actively push for independence in the near future. However, the victory of the DPP - and the assertion of people power - will inevitably hasten the so-called native-Taiwanisation of the island, where mainlanders make up less than 20 per cent of the population. This means the native Taiwanese dialect will be used more often on television as well as in karaoke bars. Until the mid-1980s, history, geography, language and political science textbooks in high schools and colleges maintained that Taiwan's culture was an offshoot of the mainland's - and that Taiwan's eventual goal was to return to the motherland's fold. Even without the active encouragement of the Chen administration, however, Taiwan educational institutes and books will emphasise the 'great Taiwan experience' and play down historical links with the mainland. Government statistics for 1992 showed 16.7 per cent of the populace regarded themselves as 'Taiwanese', and 36.5 per cent as 'both Taiwanese and Chinese'. The figures rose to 36.9 per cent and 45.4 per cent last year. After last weekend's polls - and the fire-and-brimstone remarks by Premier Zhu and other cadres - the proportion of Taiwan citizens who spurn their Chineseness is tipped to surge. Given the apparent growth of anti-mainland feelings, and the fact that the dump-Lee movement signifies the end of the era of authoritarian leaders, Mr Chen's room to manoeuvre is limited. 'Any future Taiwan president will have much less power than the two Chiangs and Lee Teng-hui,' said a Western diplomat in Taipei. 'Beijing, of course, will continue to say Chen is citing public opinion as a pretext not to talk. The reality is, even if Chen were pro-unification, he would lack the mandate to make a big move on the mainland front.' A researcher at the Mainland Affairs Council said Mr Chen might have no choice but to stick to President Lee's policy of procrastination. A former defence attorney, Mr Chen has a Clintonian gift for word-play. This was demonstrated on Monday when the president-elect said that while he did not embrace the 'one China' principle, he did not object to the issue of 'one China' being put on an agenda as a 'discussion item'. This was in response to Beijing's insistence that subscription to the one China ideal by Mr Chen was a precondition for talks. It is precisely to forestall never-ending word games that in the White Paper on Taiwan last month, Beijing cited 'perpetual procrastination' as a condition for the possible use of force against the island. President Jiang is faced with a cruel dilemma. The chances of the democratised, increasingly native Taiwanese island responding to Beijing's reunification overture are extremely low. And the risks of war are still too high to make that a viable option.