The DPP is under Greater Pressure to change its Mainland Policy than the KMT
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
December 9, 2009
Some people say the KMT's election defeat was the result of voter skepticism about its Mainland policy. They say the KMT will therefore change its Mainland policy. But other people say the Democratic Progressive Party has shown signs of turning itself around during this election. Therefore it has an even greater need to change its Mainland policy than the KMT.
The KMT formulated its current mainland policy for two main reasons. First, the eight year long DPP government's mainland policy was a total failure. It had to be jettisoned. Secondly, the international balance of power has changed. Taipei's Mainland policy had to change accordingly. In other words, to label the KMT's current policy as the "Ma Ying-jeou Path" is political rhetoric for domestic consumption. The reason Taipei arrived at its current position, is that the Democratic Progressive Party government's Mainland policy already proved to be a dead end. The international balance of power has left Taipei with no other options. No matter who assumes office, he or she can no longer return to the Chen Shui-bian Path. Instead, he or she must take the path currently taken by the Kuomintang. It makes no difference whether Ma Ying-jeou is in charge. If Ma Ying-jeou had a better alternative, he himself might not be taking his current path. He too is at the mercy of circumstances. It is a choice he had to make. This is not to say that the KMT's Mainland policy cannot be more circumspect and cautious. But the basic framework has already has been forced upon it by a radically changing international situation. It is not subject to the will of any one individual.
By contrast, if the DPP wants to interpret this election as foreshadowing the DPP's return to power in 2012, then it must change its Mainland policy. The better its chances of returning to power, the more it must change. If the DPP wants to return to power, it cannot possibly relate to Beijing on the basis of its demands for the "rectification of names and the authoring of a new constitution," or "one country on each side," or "de jure Taiwan independence." It must re-establish the framework of the "Five Noes" or the "1992 Consensus." Even its "Taiwan Independence Party Constitution" and its "Resolution for a Normal Nation" must be changed or scrapped. The DPP cannot possibly stop cross-Strait direct flights, prohibit Mainland tourists from coming to Taiwan, or re-impose a "No Haste, Be Patient" policy. The triangular relationship between Washington, Tokyo and Beijing remains unchanged. As such, the Democratic Progressive Party cannot return relations between Taipei and Washington to what they were during the Cold War era. The DPP should probably change its stand on ECFA from outright opposition to demands for "amendment and reinforcement" and the addition of "safety measures." Otherwise, if one day it returns to power, it will be forced to renege on its promises. One can say with certainty that the more likely the Democratic Progressive Party is to return to power, the more it will have to change its policy toward the Mainland. For one, if it fails to change its policy, mainstream society cannot possibly support the Democratic Progressive Party's return to power. Also, if it fails to change its policy, once it returns to power it will precipitate a national disaster.
Beijing's interpretation of the recent elections on Taiwan and its reactions are worth pondering. If Beijing considers the DPP's return to power a possibility, this will naturally influence its cross-Strait policy thinking. If the DPP changes its Mainland policy, Beijing will draw certain conclusions. If the DPP doesn't change its Mainland policy. Beijing will draw different conclusions. This could well lead to a showdown between the DPP and Beijing. Beijing may make preparations for that day. The DPP should naturally make preparations as well. The election is forcing Beijing to consider other factors when formulating cross-Strait policy. This may affect the future of cross-Strait relations. Relations may become increasingly tense, or increasingly relaxed, increasingly amicable, or increasingly hostile. We will simply have to wait and see.
The KMT's cross-Strait policy had an impact on the current election. But it was not as significant as implied by some of the foreign media. For example, the impact of The Ilan Children's Festival was clearly greater than the impact of cross-Strait policy. The impact of loosened restrictions on US beef imports and the government response to the 8/8 Floods were also greater. Chen Tsung-ming's refusal to step down was also a source of public discontent. Even assuming voters have reservations about the KMT's cross-Strait policy, they are hardly demanding a return to Chen era cross-Strait policy. Besides, even though support for the KMT fell dramatically, and support for the DPP rose dramatically, the KMT and the Pan Blue Camp is still in the majority. It is too early to predict the overturning of cross-Strait policies in 2012. Most importantly, current and future cross-Strait relations are fully embedded within and subject to the larger international balance of power. Even the DPP cannot defy it. It can only capitalize on the trend.
Voters may have reservations about the KMT's cross-Strait policy. But the DPP is unlikely to be so deluded as to think that it if returns to power it can completely overturn the ruling Kuomintang's policy and the win-win cross-Strait relationship. The KMT's cross-Strait policy must be more mindful of public sentiment. But the KMT must not allow itself to be caught on the horns of a dilemma, not knowing whether to advance or retreat. It must not feel as if it is walking a tightrope. The international balance of power has left Taipei no choice. Beijing however, after observing this election, should realize that the right to speak on behalf of Taipei does not belong to either the KMT or the DPP, but an intelligent and flexible electorate.
Some people say this election will force the KMT to change its cross-Strait policy. The KMT must of course be circumspect and vigilant. But in the wake of this election, the Democratic Progressive Party is actually under greater pressure to change its Mainland policy than the KMT.
2009.12.09 03:57 am