Can Tsai Ing-wen Free Herself from the Macao Model?
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
May 13, 2011
Over the past two years, the DPP has failed to offer any new cross-Strait arguments. The DPP has been willing to say only that it does not recognize the 1992 Consensus. Former DPP Mainland Affairs Council Chairman Joseph Wu recently visited the United States. During his visit, he suggested the "Macao model" as a substitute for the 1992 Consensus. By doing so, Wu unwittingly showed the Democratic Progressive Party's hand. He unwittingly showed that if the DPP returns to power, cross-Strait relations may well suffer an across the board setback. He showed that the DPP was desperate, and had nothing to offer.
Democratic Progressive Party Chairman Tsai Ing-wen has repeatedly lambasted the Ma administration for "pandering to [Mainland] China," and "failure to assert sovereignty." But what has the DPP done? What is its position on the status of Taipei and Beijing? Under Tsai Ing-wen, the DPP leadership has done everything possible to dodge the issue. Shortly after Tsai Ing-wen declared her candidacy, she trotted out her mantra, "peace but with differences, peace and the search for common ground." This mantra is extremely vague. It bears no resemblance to practical policy. It also leaves far too much room for interpretation by the two sides.
It was not until the DPP presidential primary, when Hsu Hsing-liang forked out 5 million NT to enter the presidential race and participate in the presidential debates, that the DPP was free to openly discuss cross-Strait policy. Hsu challenged Tsai Ing-wen. He said that ECFA was a bilateral agreement whose tariff conditions benefitted Taiwan one-sidedly. Yet Tsai Ing-wen wanted to appeal ECFA to the WTO. This might invalidate ECFA. More importantly, Hsu Hsin-liang challenged Tsai Ing-wen over bilateral direct links and trade agreements. These were possible only because the Ma administration recognized the 1992 Consensus. If the DPP returns to power and refuses to recognize the 1992 Consensus, cross-Strait economic and trade exchanges could be completely disrupted. What contingency plans does the DPP have, in the event this happens?
During the primary debates, Tsai Ing-wen never gave Hsu Hsin-liang a direct answer. Instead she waited until the DPP presidential nomination was announced. She then told the media that cross-Strait relations should look to the future. If the Democratic Progressive Party returns to power in 2012, she promised, it would maintain an open and pragmatic approach to cross-Strait exchanges. Cross-Strait exchanges would be based on a "shared and sustainable basis. "
Her statement was extremely vague. The DPP candidate has already been announced. Yet Tsai Ing-wen remains reluctant to discuss cross-Strait policy. That is why Joseph Wu's mention of the Macau model aroused so much public concern. Joseph Wu said that if the DPP returned to power, ECFA and other cross-Strait agreements would not be overturned, but that the DPP would not accept the 1992 Consensus. Wu said that if Beijing broke off talks between the SEF and ARATS, the two sides would fall back on the Macau model of "industry to industry" and "organization to organization" communications during the Chen era.
The Macao model had its origins in the DPP era. Cross-Strait communications had been disrupted. Therefore in 2005, Spring Festival charter flights for Taiwan businessmen were negotiated by means of private sector consultations. DPP officials were overjoyed with this model. But the Macao model is hardly ideal for cross-Strait exchanges. Negotiations for the Spring Festival charter flights for Taiwan businessmen were conducted on the Mainland side by Civil Aviation Administration officials, and on our side by a representative of the Taipei Airlines Association. Our side was deprived of governmental status. Worse, the relationship between the negotiators became one of "officials addressing citizens." Paradoxically, this demeaned Taipei's status.
An even more serious objection was that the government ostensibly commissioned a non-governmental organization to conduct cross-Strait talks. This blurred the lines between public authority and civil society. As a result, Beijing could readily leapfrog the ROC government, and talk directly to private sector groups. It could grant favors to private sector groups on Taiwan. Lured by profits, these groups fell over each other and made a beeline to Beijing. The government no longer figured in their calculations. Has the DPP forgotten how harshly they criticized Beijing for "using businesses to beseige and isolate the government?" This is the side effect of the Macao model.
Tsai Ing-wen and the DPP insist on repudiating the 1992 Consensus. But direct links and ECFA are not the only victories scored by the Ma administration on the basis of the 1992 Consensus. Victories include cross-Strait "government to government" negotiations on other issues. The DPP insists that the 1992 Consensus stresses the One China Principle, and therefore demeans Taiwan's [sic] sovereignty. (Translator's Note: Taiwan has no sovereignty. Taiwan is an administative region of the Republic of China. The Republic of China has sovereignty, not Taiwan.) But real world practice shows that the Macao model is more likely to demean the Republic of Chna's sovereignty. The Macau model eliminates the role of the government. In the long run, it works to the Republic of China's disadvantage.
Tsai Ing-wen has publicly declared that Joseph Wu never participated in DPP policy discussions regarding Mainland China. She said his statements cannot be regarded as representative of the Democratic Progressive Party. But Tsai Ing-wen has repudiated the Macao model, while faiing to offer any alternatives. In fact, the Macao model is the only alternative left to the Democratic Progressive Party. The DPP has no other alternative. If the Democratic Progressive Party returns to power, cross-Strait exchanges will again be disrupted, When that happens, the DPP will be impotent, unable to do anything. Does the DPP really intend to fall back on the Macau model to deal with complex cross-Strait relations?
One cannot prove that one "Loves Taiwan" merely by foaming at the mouth. Cross-Strait relations require more than rigid ideology. The DPP has dismissed Joseph Wu's remarks about the Macao model. They say he mispoke. But Joseph Wu's remarks were highly significant. Joseph Wu tried to offer an alternative to the 1992 Consensus. His alternative proved detrimental to the Republic of China. This is something the DPP must contemplate.