To the DPP: Liberate Yourself from Your Own Bonds
China Times Editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, China)
April 18, 2008
At a moment when attention is focused on cross-strait relations after May 20, the Democratic Progressive Party, from top to bottom, seems intent on poor-mouthing the Boao Forum. The DPP's take on the forum departs sharply from mainstream 's consensus, and leaves the public with a powerful impression that the ruling DPP can hardly wait to resume the role of opposition party. It leaves the impression that as the two sides of the strait move toward reconciliation, the DPP is seeking emotional refuge in its familiar rhetorical framework.
If the Democratic Progressive Party's motive is merely to challenge the effectiveness of the Boao Forum, then it is perfectly justified. The problem is their rhetoric. None of it is new. All of it is old. First, Chen Shui-bian alleged that Vincent Siew was invited to this year's Boao Forum merely because Beijing wanted to draw attention away from the unrest in Tibet and the protests along the Olympic Torch Route. Chen Shui-bian even alleged that the front row where Vincent Siew sat during the opening ceremony was "Seating for Regional Governors." Annette Lu described the Boao Forum as "War of Reunification Political Theater." The DPP legislative caucus criticized the result of the Boao Forum as "Four Humiliations." In short, according to the DPP hierarchy, the forum was a complete bust.
Boao is merely a forum for friendship and dialogue. Whether it has the wherewithal to shift international attention from Tibet and the Olympic Torch Relay we leave to your common sense. The chief executives of the world's nations receive global intelligence reports every day. Yet Chen Shui-bian, in complete violation of common sense, could draw such an absurd conclusion. What is there left to say? The DPP described the seating arrangements as "Seating for Regional Governors." That was interesting. No matter how you slice it, Vincent Siew will not be Vice President for another month. One can argue endlessly about whether he should be treated as a vice president, a regional governor, or a chairman. Based on the seating arrangements for the opening ceremony or Hu Jintao's banquet table, one could arrive at two entirely different interpretations. Regional governors were hardly the only ones attending the forum. Many foreign officials and heads of state also sat in the front row or at the main table. Were they all "demoted" as well?
Another scene was even more interesting. After the closing ceremonies, a number of ruling Democratic Progressive Party Mayors and County Magistrates displayed an entirely different attitude than the Chen administration and the DPP Legislative Caucus. These local officials were concerned about getting their cut once direct flights were initiated and the floodgates to mainland tourists opened after May 20. Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chu took the lead, demanding that Kaohsiung be designated the port of entry and port of departure for mainland tourists. In other words, "Southern Entry, Southern Departure." Yunlin County Magistrate Su Chi-fen announced that he would personally lead a group to the mainland to solicit tourists. Chiayi County Magistrate Chen Ming-wen wanted Bu Tai Harbor designated a port of entry for direct cross-strait flights. According to the DPP's Conventional Wisdom, these Green Camp Mayors and County Magistrates were "openly colluding with the KMT," or worse, endorsing a "One-China Market." If Siew's participation in the Boao Forum was nothing more than "War of Reunification Political Theater," if Siew's participation meant he had been "demoted" to the status of a "Regional Governor," then weren't all these Green Camp Mayors and County Magistrates publicly endorsing Siew's "demotion?"
This is hardly the greatest irony. Promoting direct flights and letting in mainland tourists has been DPP policy for some time. Now that a breakthrough has finally been achieved, isn't that tantamount to implenting DPP policy? Is the DPP determined to negate the value of the breakthrough merely because it was made by the KMT? We don't want to accuse the DPP of being "sore losers," but can't the DPP see that it is already behind the curve relative to mainstream public opinion?
Some people may conclude that the DPP's poor-mouthing of the Boao Forum is mere show. That it is playing "bad cop." That cross-strait interactions have always involved someone playing "good cop" and someone else playing "bad cop." That may be true. But is the DPP determined to play only "bad cop" forever? If so, then it is relegating itself forever to a supporting role in perpetuity. As cross-strait relations evolve rapidly, the DPP will find itself increasingly marginalized.
An ever bigger problem for the DPP is its seeming inability to liberate itself from its own rhetorical shackles. At a time when the KMT is talking about scheduling weekend charter flights and establishing mechanisms for SEF/ARATS cooperation, the DPP is still harping about "Regional Governors" and "demotion." The times they are a changing. But the Democratic Progressive Party leadershop is seeking refuge in the mental prison created by its own election rhetoric, ignoring changes to the outside world.
Following the DPP's election debacle, some party members urged debate over the party's direction, as soon as possible. But these voices have died out. The DPP kept Taiwan ideologically bound and gagged for eight years. Now the public has liberated itself from these bonds. The DPP however, persists in incarcerating itself within its own ideological prison, determined to ignore changes to the outside world.