Su Tseng-chang's Semantic Dilemma
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
June 2, 2012
Summary: The DPP has announced its intention to to reinstate its "Department of China Affairs." It has also declared that referring to the Mainland as "China" is a neutral gesture without political implications. As a result, one reporter asked State Council Taiwan Affairs Office spokesman Yang Yi whether he considered the DPP's move a gesture of goodwill toward the Mainland.
Full Text below:
The DPP has announced its intention to to reinstate its "Department of China Affairs." It has also declared that referring to the Mainland as "China" is a neutral gesture without political implications. As a result, one reporter asked State Council Taiwan Affairs Office spokesman Yang Yi whether he considered the DPP's move a gesture of goodwill toward the Mainland.
Yang Yi was blunt. He said the Mainland resolutely opposes any Taiwan independence assertions that the cross-Strait relationship involves "one country on each side."
The Democratic Progressive Party is one of the major political parties on Taiwan. Yet it actually dissolved its Department of China Affairs. This was truly incomprehensible. Now it is considering reinstating it. But opinion is divided on what to name it. Some DPP leaders think it should be called the "Mainland Affairs Committee." Others think it should be called the "Cross-Strait Policy Committee."
The debate reflects a struggle within the Democratic Progressive Party over the party line. Democratic Progressive Party ideology dictates the name "Department of China Affairs." It reflects the DPP's "one country on each side" thinking. Names such as the "Department of Mainland Affairs" or "Cross-Strait Policy Committee" imply "one country, two regions" or "one China, different interpretations." That is why Taiwan independence hardliners lean toward "Department of Chinese Affairs" and revisionists lean toward terms such as "Mainland" or "cross-Strait."
The media asked Su Tseng-chang why the reinstated Department of China Affairs is not being referred to as the "Department of Mainland Affairs." He said "Because China is a neutral term." He said the entire world uses the term "China." He said even [Mainland] China refers to itself as "China."
When Chen Shui-bian was party chairman, he dissolved the "Department of China Affairs" as part of the "one country on each side" premise. He merged it into the "Department for International Affairs." This was a deliberate attempt to cast Mainland China as a foreign nation. Su Tseng-chang now wants to extract cross-Strait affairs from the "Department of International Affairs." Yet he remains trapped within "Department of China Affairs" thinking. So has he really "transcended" anything?
The DPP says the whole world says "China means the People's Republic of China." Therefore adopting this stance represents the adoption of an "international perspective." But Taiwan and the Mainland are engaged in coopetition. Taiwan must not accept the notion that "China is the People's Republic of China." Taiwan must not accept the notion that "one China means the People's Republic of China." Taiwan must take into account the cross-Strait situation, the strategic situation, and the constitutional framework.
By contrast, the Ma administration's 1992 consensus and one China, different interpretations. rejects the notion that "one China means the People's Republic of China." Instead, it champions "one China, different interpretations." These strategic and constitutional considerations are why President Ma insisted that official documents must never use the term "China" but instead "Mainland China" or "the Mainland."
The DPP's traditional view is that "one China means the People's Republic of China," or "one country on each side." But the Ma administration's view is that one China has different interpretations, based on constitutional and strategic considerations.
So how will the DPP name the new body? Naturally it will involve strategic concerns about national and constitutional allegiance. . Will the DPP support the view that "one China means the People's Republic of China?" Will it argue that this is the "international perspective?" Will it leave the definition of "China" in the hands of Beijing? Or will it adopt a "one China, different interpretations" cross-Strait perspective, one that takes into account constitutional and strategic concerns? Will it engage in a dialogue with the Republic of China's democracy, with 1.3 billion people on the Mainland, and with supporters of democratic institutions the world over?
Su Tseng-chang said that referring to the Mainland as "China" is neutral, and has no political implications. Beijing replied that the Mainland resolutely opposes Taiwan independence assertions that the cross-Strait relationship is "one country on each side." Earlier, Tsai Ing-wen expressed opposition to "one country, two regions." Beijing cited this as an example of "one country on each side," and "mulish Taiwan independence." Beijing has clearly laid out its position in its upcoming struggle with the DPP. The naming of the new DPP body may seem insignificant. Will the DPP use the term "China," or "the Mainland," or "cross-Strait?" This will become a problem for Su Tseng-chang and the DPP as they attempt to arrive policy positions that involve strategic and constitutional implications.
During his party chairman inaugural speech, Su Tseng-chang proposed "three guarantees." Namely, "Taiwan is the Taiwanese people's Taiwan. Taiwan is all Taiwanese people's Taiwan. Taiwan is every generation's Taiwan." This tongue twister may appeal to Taiwan independence hardliners. But it can never serve as cross-Strait or Mainland policy. The DPP's Taiwan independence rhetoric cannot even deliver the votes during election season. The DPP must ask itself how it can win an absolute majority during the presidential election. It must ask itself how it can ensure peace and prosperity on Taiwan, across the Strait, and internationally, in the event it is elected to office, Tsai Ing-wen accumulated enormous momentum during the presidential election. But at the last moment, the voters applied the brakes. Shouldn't Su Tseng-chang consider Tsai Ing-wen an object lesson?
A few days ago this newspaper published an editorial, saying Beijing has changed tack. It is now using the Republic of China Constitution as its bottom line. Beijing's move is directed at the DPP. The DPP opposes "one country, two regions." That is one reason Beijing believes the Ma administration's formulation "one Republic of China, two regions" is no obstacle to cross-Strait peaceful development. Whatever the Democratic Progressive Party opposes, may well become the very thing Beijing accepts. The DPP is now fulfilling the role of "bad cop" in cross-Strait relations.
But is the DPP content to forever be the bad cop? If not, it should think twice about what it intends to call the new body it is forming.