Democracy and Progress:
Goals more Pragmatic and Ambitious than Taiwan Independence
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
November 21, 2012
Summary: The Ma administration's record has been poor. But that does not mean the Green Camp will win the 2016 general election. The Green Camp is its own worst enemy. If the DPP cannot offer a cross-Strait policy that puts people at ease, voters may still cast their ballots for the KMT. Phasing out Taiwan independence is the DPP's lifeline. Democracy and progress are more pragmatic and ambitious goals than Taiwan independence. The shore is not far. The DPP need only turn its head.
Full Text below:
After a second change in ruling parties, the DPP watched as Chen Shui-bian entered prison, and Tsai Ying-wen lost the 2012 presidential election. These were major blows to its morale. The Ma administration's record has been poor. But that does not mean the Green Camp will win the 2016 general election. The Green Camp is its own worst enemy. If the DPP cannot offer a cross-Strait policy that puts people at ease, voters may still cast their ballots for the KMT.
Mainland China has risen. That is an incontrovertible fact. Taiwan and the Chinese mainland are in close proximity. Economic, trade, and social relations are close. But politically the two sides remain at loggerheads. This is a unique case that has no precedent, past or present, east or west. The primary task of anyone who assumes power on Taiwan is to deal with cross-Strait relations. Anyone who aspires to high office cannot afford to ignore or be cavalier about cross-Strait policy.
The facts are clear. The Democratic Progressive Party's hostility toward the Mainland makes it incapable of understanding the Mainland. It is incapable of dealing rationally with cross-Strait relations. The party must totally overhaul its Mainland policy. Otherwise it will remain an opposition party forever. The KMT will have to commit far more serious errors than merely being "clumsy." Otherwise it will not be displaced by the DPP. This is not merely something that Green Camp supporters do not want to see. This is something that everyone who cares about democracy on Taiwan do not want to see.
Today the DPP Central Standing Committee will discuss whether to establish a "China Affairs Committee." We would like to take this opportunity to express our hopes for the party.
The DPP is establishing a body dedicated to cross-Strait affairs. The gears are already in motion. But it has three hurdles to overcome. The first is the name of the body. The second is who will be in charge. The third is whether there will be a substantive change in the party's Mainland policy. Regarding who will be in charge, outsiders need not interfere. That is outside the scope of this article.
The DPP is considering three names for the body. They are "Mainland Affairs Department," "Cross-Strait Affairs Department," and "China Affairs Department." We recommend the first two alternatives. The DPP should not adopt the name "China Affairs Department." The name "China Affairs Department" implies "one nation on each side." This is something Beijing would have a hard time swallowing. What is the DPP's motive for establishing this body? Is it to carry one its confrontation with the Mainland? If so, then that is another matter. But if the DPP is genuine about wanting change, then it has no reason to put this stumbling block in its own way. Green Camp elder Huang Hsin-chieh once quipped, "We can promote Taiwan independence, but we cannot talk about it." Today, the Mainland is highly developed. The power gap between the two sides has widened. The situation is very different from the one Huang Hsin-chieh faced. DPP leaders today must be wiser than their predecessors.
The DPP may name the new body the "Mainland Affairs Department." But it still must confront the 1992 consensus. The CCP 18th National Congress Official Documents mentions the 1992 consensus. It is considered an important basis for cross-Strait consultations, mutual trust, and peaceful development. The DPP must offer a response. The party may establish a "Mainland Affairs Department." But if it refuses to recognize the 1992 consensus, the DPP will not be able to establish relations with the CCP. When the 2016 election rolls around its cross-Strait policy will remain the Green Camp Achilles Heel. In other words, if the DPP refuses to fundamentally change in its attitude toward the Mainland, the new "Mainland Affairs Department" will remain an empty gesture.
DPP party members may assume that accepting the 1992 consensus and forsaking Taiwan independence will negate the party's raison d'etre. In fact, that is not the case.
When the DPP was first founded, its mission was to defy authoritarianism. Its clarion call was the pursuit of democracy and progress. It was not Taiwan independence and Sinophobia. As a result, it inspired high hopes among many who wanted Taiwan to move toward constitutional democracy.
But in 1991 the party approved the Taiwan Independence Party Platform. As a result, the DPP lost the opportunity to interact with the Mainland for the sake of peace. It destroyed its chance to promote constitutional rule. During Chen Shui-bian's eight years in office, cross-Strait relations and constitutional rule were put in jeopardy. This is still fresh in memories of the ruling and opposition parties. The DPP must make a fresh start. If it fails to do so, it will hold back Taiwan's progress. Its sole function will be to satisfy the emotional needs of voters dissatisfied with the KMT.
The public envies bipartisan politics in Europe and the United States. But it is unable to experience it. Why? Because in these advanced countries national identity is a non-issue. The two parties can compete with each other over public livelihood issues. The political arena is dominated by public livelihood issues. As a result their democracies mature, naturally. Public livelihood is an issue over which compromise is possible. Unfortunately the DPP has become a Taiwan independence party. Every election and every legislative battle becomes all about reunification vs. independence. No time remains to delve into the details of public livelihood. Worse still, national identity issues often hinder the implementation of policies relating to public livelihood. Cross-Strait relations are increasingly volatile as a result of the sudden and perplexing ups and downs of Taiwan independence. Taiwan is currently in a recession. The wealth gap is widening. If we could set aside the issue of reunification vs. independence, the KMT and DPP could advance different policies on public livelihood. They could make full use of cross-Strait economic synergies. They could lead Taiwan out of its current predicament.
The Democratic Progressive Party's middle name is "progressive." This implies concern for the socially disadvantaged. Unfortunately, over the years, the DPP has been preoccupied with Taiwan independence. No debate or compromise is possible between left and right. There is only internecine warfare over reunification vs. independence. The DPP should replace its "China Affairs Department" with a "Mainland Affairs Department." It should accept the 1992 consensus. This would benefit not just cross-Strait interaction, but also the DPP during the next general election. It would help Taiwan return to constitutional rule. It would improve the people's livelihood.
Phasing out Taiwan independence is the DPP's lifeline. Democracy and progress are more pragmatic and ambitious goals than Taiwan independence. The shore is not far. The DPP need only turn its head.