KMT: Holding the Line Will Merely Ensure One's Defeat
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
October 16, 2012
Summary: Democratic Progressive Party members are experienced political fighters. Mainland policy is their Achilles Heel. They must overcome that Achilles Heel. If they cannot, the giant boulder blocking their return to power will remain in place, forever. Frank Hsieh has made his move in this chess game. The DPP is set to transform itself. The KMT is already on the side of expanded exchanges with the Chinese mainland. What reason does it have to assume such a timid posture? Holding the line will merely ensure one's defeat.
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Former Premier and former DPP Chairman Frank Hsieh concluded his "trail-blazing journey" to the Chinese mainland. He characterized his visit as a personal visit. But it will have political and economic repercussions. What repercussions will it have within the DPP? Many people are asking this question. What impact will Frank Hsieh's trip have on the KMT, which has spared no effort to expand cross-Strait relations? That too is worth watching.
Nineteeen years ago, Frank Hsieh led a delegation to Xiamen. Accompanying him were Taiwan independence hardliners Trong Chai, Yao Chia-wen, and others. When Taipei and Beijing allowed people on each side to visit relatives on the other side, opposition DPP members visiting the Chinese mainland far outnumbered ruling KMT members. Cross-Strait exchanges had yet to be politicized. It had yet to be linked to Chinese reunification vs. Taiwan independence ideology. That changed with President Lee Teng-hui's trip to Cornell. His "one country on each side thesis" froze cross-Strait relations. Taiwan independence consciousness underwent a quantum leap. Politicians exploited the issue to win votes. The epithet "mai tai ji tuan" (group that is selling out Taiwan) became a new way to accuse someone of being a "Communist sympathizer." The Democratic Progressive Party ruled for eight years. President Chen Shui-bian won the approval of moderate and swing voters. But during his eight years in power, whenever an election rolled around, reunification vs. independence and "ethnic group" (social group) rhetoric filled the air. Countless heavyweight Blue Camp political leaders were smeared as "Communists" by means of DPP propaganda. Frank Hsieh wept upon seeing his ancestors' burial sites. He met with Dai Bingguo, Beijing's Secretary-General for the Steering Group for Taiwan. Afterwards he could not resist patting himself on the back for not permitting himself to be "used." On the one hand, the Blue camp said it was only too happy to see him succeed. But in fact Blue camp leaders found it difficult to remain at ease.
Politics after all, is not deception. Wherever one goes, one leaves a trail. Frank Hsieh is pragmatic and flexible. He understands political reality and political power. He is all too clear on the pros and cons of straying from the beaten path. No one will ever forget his broadcasts on Green camp pirate radio stations. He blasted the Ma administration's cross-strait economic and trade policies. He said they would leave "workers on Taiwan unable to find work, and women on Taiwan unable to find husbands." The Hsieh faction in the legislature did everything in its power to prevent the government from recognizing Mainland student academic credentials. Many KMT party and government officials watched from the sidelines as Frank Hsieh arrived on the Mainland. They wiated to see how the Democratic Progressive Party would rationalize its past rhetoric about "Communist sympathizers."
The growth of democracy on Taiwan means an end to wild charges about "Communist sympathizers." That is a positive development. Only then can we liberate cross-Strait relations from the shackles of ideology. Only then can we courageously advance for the benefit of the people. The Ma administration has been in office for over four years. It has devoted most of its energy to Mainland policy. It has broken through the ice accumulated during 12 years under Lee Teng-hui. But it has always left people with the impression that it is timid, that it is only taking half a step when it should be taking a full step forward. For example, Mainland academic credentials were recognized only after two fist fights and three years of delay in the legislature. Conditional NHI coverage for Mainland students is still under discussion. Don't even bring up Mainland investments on Taiwan, and the huge impact they might have. The administration has opened up in form but not in substance.
The two sides have engaged in cross-Strait exchanges for over two decades. Beijing once had high hopes for Lee Teng-hui. It had high hopes for the Democratic Progressive Party. But in the end it was KMT Honorary Chairman Lien Chan and People First Party Chairman James Soong who first visited the Mainland to rebuild trust. Frank Hsieh's visit was nominally private. But Beijing gave him the red carpet treatment. It is testing the waters with the DPP. Beijing now understands how democracy on Taiwan operates. The ruling party may change, therefore they cannot limit their dealings to the KMT. Naturally they do not want cross-Strait relations to regress as a result of changes in the ruling party. But they must consider the possibilty of the KMT once again losing power. They must learn to cope. This is good news for cross-Strait interaction. This is a warning to the KMT, which is currently in power and has a strong desire to remain in power.
The CCP 18th National Congress will soon convene. Yet the CCP played host to Frank Hsieh. This shows how confident Beijing is about its Taiwan policy. By contrast, the first thing the Ma administration did was to change its cabinet heads charged wtih Mainland relations and with national security. The general evaluation of the new cabinet has been poor. It exhibits scant evidence of strong goal orientation. The economic picture at home and abroad is grim. Merely holding the line may not be a smart move. It may be a very bad move. The public will not tolerate a lack of achievements during the Ma administration's second term. A stagnant situation will only turn public opinion against the government. It will lead to a change of heart. The DPP will with little effort on its part be back on the road to power.
Given the political spectrum on Taiwan, the differences between the KMT and the DPP are not that great. One party opposes Taiwan independence. The other opposes China's reunification. The bottom line is both want to maintain the political status quo. The DPP hammered away at KMT leaders, accusing them of being Communist sympathizers. KMT leaders appear to have internalized this unearned guilt. The DPP holds high the banner of Taiwan independence, reassuring itself that it is applying the brakes in cross-Strait relations. Therefore when the brakes start to act up, the KMT no longer knows how to position itself. It must define itself more clearly. It has been blindsided. Frank Hsieh took one small step for a man. That may or may not be one giant leap for the DPP. Party Chairman Su Tseng-chang currently wields power. He has yet to make his move. But the vast majority of Democratic Progressive Party members are experienced political fighters. Mainland policy is their Achilles Heel. They must overcome that Achilles Heel. If they cannot, the giant boulder blocking their return to power will remain in place, forever. Frank Hsieh has made his move in this chess game. The DPP is set to transform itself. The KMT is already on the side of expanded exchanges with the Chinese mainland. What reason does it have to assume such a timid posture? Holding the line will merely ensure one's defeat.