DPP Cross-Strait Policy: Empty Slogans?
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
March 1, 2011
Cross-strait relations are special. Political parties on Taiwan disagree about what they ought to be. When addressing cross-Strait and Mainland policy, Blue and Green camp political leaders invariably avoid the tough issues. They invariably resort to obscurantist political jargon. But the purpose of language is communication. Only by communicating can we reach some sort of understanding. If political jargon is so vague that even people within our own political camp find it incomprehensible, that defeats the purpose of political discourse.
Democratic Progressive Party Chairman Tsai Ing-wen has been in the limelight recently, When the DPP established a think tank recently, it proposed a "new cross-Strait discourse." This discourse would begin by "identifying with Taiwan." It would adopt "Taiwanese values" as its core value. The two sides of the Taiwan Strait would "maintain peace but allow the two sides to remain different." They would "seek commonalities on the basis of peace." They would seek peace but not reunification.
Tsai Ing-wen offered a new understanding of cross-Strait relations. Her move was bound to attract attention. She is the Chairman of the DPP, which could well become the ruling party. Her understanding of such matters is likely to affect cross-Strait relations and Taiwan's development. Regrettably, Tsai Ing-wen's new discourse offers no clear direction. To say that one "identifies with Taiwan," and adopts "Taiwanese values" as one's core values, is meaningless. This was true even before Lee Teng-hui became president. The moment Chiang Ching-kuo said "I am also Taiwanese," identifying with Taiwan has been the national consensus.
The DPP boasts about its "identification with Taiwan," This helps distinguish it from its enemies. It also provides it with a basis for political mobilization. But this pitch involves a huge blind spot. Identification with Taiwan has long since ceased to be a DPP monopoly. Nor does it equate with the DPP's calls for independence. Most ROC citizens strongly identify with Taiwan, But they do not necessarily support Taiwan independence. After all, what is in "Taiwan's interest" remains open to interpretation.
In fact, ever since the opening of cross-Strait exchanges, interactions between the two sides have "maintained peace but allowed the two sides to remain different." They have "sought commonalities on the basis of peace." The two sides' political systems may be very different. But the two sides beliefs and values are very similar. They share historical memories of traditional Chinese culture, and of KMT vs. CCP rivalry. These factors underlie cross-Strait relations, and cannot be ignored. The DPP cannot sever these ties merely by advocating Taiwan independence. If the DPP is willing to confront the issue of cross-Strait relations, it cannot repudiate historical facts.
Following the five cities elections, the "princes" of the Democratic Progressive Party set forth their own proposals. Annette Lu, Frank Hsieh, Su Tseng-chang, and Tsai Ing-wen all came forth. Each candidate was vaguer than the next. Annette Lu opposed the 1992 Consensus. She proposed a 1996 Consensus. Frank Hsieh proposed a "constitutional consensus" to replace the 1992 Consensus, which the Democratic Progressive Party refuses to endorse. Su evaded the issue. But he affirmed that survival was foremost, and that democracy was the cornerstone. His terminology suggests that he knew cross-Strait exchanges must continue. He upheld Taiwan's belief in democracy. Maintaining peace while remaining different is a fait accompli. Chen Shui-bian has already advanced his "Five Noes" and his cross-Strait "Unification Theory." Therefore we would like to ask Chairman Tsai, just exactly what "commonalities" are you seeking? Do you agree with the 1992 Consensus? If not, what is the Democratic Progressive Party's alternative? Do you accept ECFA? If not, how does the DPP intend to deal with ECFA in the event it assumes power?
As the chairman of the largest opposition party on Taiwan, Tsai Ing-wen must make the Democratic Progressive Party more responsible to Taiwan. Especially since Tsai Ing-wen, or at least the DPP, is seeking the presidency in 2012. Is "maintaining peace while remaining different" and "seeking commonalities on the basis of peace" the theme of the DPP's 2012 election platform? If the DPP once again assumes power, what changes will there be to cross-Strait policy?
Ever since President Ma took office, he has been clear about advocating cross-Strait exchanges. He has been clear about Republic of China sovereignty. The two sides cannot possibly recognize each other legally. But they can refrain from repudiating each other in practice. He has been clear about "first economics, then politics." Under the framework of the ROC Constitution, he advocates "no [immediate] reunification, no independence, and no use of force," He advocates the development of cross-Strait relations on the basis of the 1992 Consensus. The Ma administration has not evaded the issues, either short-term or long-term. Ma administration theory and practice permit the development of cross-Strait relations. Meanwhile on the diplomatic front, the Republic of China expects one hundred nations to offer visa-free treatment this year.
Tsai Ing-wen blasted the Ma adminstration for identifying with China, for treating Chinese values as its core values. She blasted it for taking the road to "peace and reunification" and "peace and inevitable reunification." But she ignored the fact that the China which the Ma administration upholds is the Republic of China, as defined in our constitution. She persists in McCarthyite name-calling. It is hard to understand how someone who repudiates the Republic of China and the ROC Constitution, can have the temerity to run for Republic of China President.
The words and deeds of political leaders have a profound impact on the people of a nation. They cannot hide their own beliefs. Nor can they ignore the need to turn their beliefs into policy. These determine the direction a nation takes. Political language may be vague. But the direction the nation takes must not be. The Democratic Progressive Party has established a think tank. Tsai Ing-wen's cross-Strait understanding may be nothing more than general principles. But the DPP must behave responsibly. It must tell us just exactly what its "empty rhetoric" means for the future.