Tsai Ing-wen: Seize Opportunity to Promote Cross-Strait Mutual Prosperity
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
July 22, 2013
Summary: The ruling and opposition parties on Taiwan must reach a consensus. Otherwise genuine reconciliation between Taiwan and the Mainland will be impossible. Both sides must benefit and prosper. The Blue Camp alone cannot ensure cross-Strait communication. DPP cross-Strait policy reform must not be an election ploy. It affects the future of Taiwan. As a DPP candidate, Tsai Ing-wen must act in her own interest, and in Taiwan's interest as well. She must bear the heavy burden of DPP policy reform.
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Former DPP Chairman Tsai Ing-wen recently invited Mainland Chinese scholar Cao Yuanzheng to visit Taiwan to discuss the RMB issue. She referred to the discussion as "Understanding China [sic] from a Professional Perspective." She deliberately used the term "China" instead of "Mainland China." She was fearful people would conclude that the DPP was "colluding" with the CCP. One thing is certain. The DPP and CCP may not be conducting normalized exchanges in the foreseeable future. But Tsai Ing-wen has at least held out the possibility of bridge-building. This will be of crucial importance, both to the future of Taiwan, and to the future of the DPP.
Cross-Strait relations have long been the DPP's Achilles Heel. Previous DPP elders have attempted to change DPP thought. But all they did was get themselves expelled from the party. The DPP has clung to its Taiwan Independence Party Platform. Every word, every deed, reeks with hatred for "China," i.e., Mainland China. This may delight Deep Green extremists. But it has never gained the trust of swing voters. Worse still, it has frightened away economically motivated voters. The Democratic Progressive Party lost the presidential election last year, by a three percent margin. The key to its defeat was the DPP's cross-Strait policy.
The DPP faces a turning point. As a presidential candidate, Tsai Ing-wen must be deeply concerned. In her concession speech she said the DPP "lost during the home stretch." She was even more blunt in the DPP's follow up election defeat report. "The DPP has long faced an extremely tough problem -- how to deal with [Mainland] China. How to deal with cross-Strait issues more energetically and capably. Only by doing so can the DPP gain the pubilc trust." The DPP has only recently acknowledged this problem. Can it gain the ROC electorate's trust? The most important precondition is a robust cross-Strait policy acceptable to the Mainland side.
Unfortunately, after last year election loss, the DPP refused to follow Tsai Ing-wen's course. Instead it resolved that once Su Tseng-chang took office in 2016, it must aggressively solicit the support of Taiwan independence extremists. Everyone looked forward to the DPP's formation of a long-awaited "China Affairs Committee." But the newly formed committee was restricted to policy research and forbidden to communicate with the Mainland. Frank Hsieh visited the Mainland last September, on his "ice-breaking journey." He proposed a "shared constitutional consensus." But Su Tseng-chang slapped Hsieh down, saying that Hsieh "was not speaking for the DPP." This ended further discussion within the party.
We can be thankful for one thing. The DPP may have no intention of taking the lead in cross-Strait policy reform. But cross-Strait policy is too important. Even within the Green Camp, Su cannot single-handedly lay down the law. Su's path is conservative. Frank Hsieh by contrast, has visited the Mainland twice this year. He has conversed directly with Taiwan Affairs Office Director Zhang Zhijun.
Tsai Ing-wen falls somewhere between Su and Hsieh. She does not reject exchanges. But so far she has avoided dialogue with Mainland officials responsible for Taiwan affairs. Her "Xiaoying Foundation" has invited scholars from the Mainland to visit Taiwan. She wants swing voters to know she is not a Taiwan independence extremist. She is letting the Mainland know where she stands, and is keeping open channels of communication.
Tsai Ing-wen is seeking progress amidst stabilty. But she must do more. Tsai Ing-wen is likely to run for president in 2016. By then, Tsai and Beijing must have established channels of communication. They must have a basis for mutual trust. More importantly, they must prevent miscalculations. The best and fastest way to build trust with the Mainland is for Tsai Ing-wen to visit. As Tsai Ing-wen has stressed, "Cross-strait issues cannot be solved by sitting at home. To deal with cross-Strait issues, we must understand the Chinese mainland. To understand the Chinese mainland, we must interact with it." Tsai Ing-wen is interested in "Letting grass-roots party members better understand the Mainland individually." Party members should strive to better understand the Mainland. This is especially true for Tsai Ing-wen, who could become the nation's leader.
The DPP and the CPP are communicating. Frank Hsieh has been leading the way. He and senior Mainland officials have dialogued with each other, and confronted each other. They have not been accused of "selling out Taiwan." They have instead been perceived as partners in dialogue. Elders have blazed the way. Cross-Strait exchanges are nothing to fear. Tsai and Hsieh are friendly with each other. If Tsai Ing-wen wants to improve communications with the Mainland, she can be assured of Frank Hsieh's support.
Take another matter, cross-Strait economic and trade policy. Tsai Ing-wen must jettison her overly cautious demeanor. Three years ago, Ma Ying-jeou and Tsai Ing-wen took part in a major debate over ECFA. Tsai Ing-wen said the DPP would approach the Chinese mainland only in step with the rest of the world. She criticized the KMT for approaching the Chinese mainalnd before the rest of the world, arguing that the risk was too high.
Three years later, the two sides have signed TISA. Recently the ROC and New Zealand signed a trade and economic cooperation agreement. This was the first time the ROC has ever signed a cooperation agreement with a nation with which it lacks diplomatic ties. The ROC is also about to sign an agreement with Singapore, another nation with which it lacks diplomatic ties. Last month the Economist affirmed the rightness of the ROC's direction. Ma administration policies are working, across the Strait and around the the world. Tsai Ing-wen vowed to let the ROC join the world. Ma Ying-jeou exposed the fallacy of Tsai Ing-wen's "globalization without the Chinese mainland." It defied global trends and was strategically unfavorable to Taiwan.
Former National Security Council Secretary-General Su Chi put it well. The ruling and opposition parties on Taiwan must reach a consensus. Otherwise genuine reconciliation between Taiwan and the Mainland will be impossible. Both sides must benefit and prosper. The Blue Camp alone cannot ensure cross-Strait communication. DPP cross-Strait policy reform must not be an election ploy. It affects the future of Taiwan. As a DPP candidate, Tsai Ing-wen must act in her own interest, and in Taiwan's interest as well. She must bear the heavy burden of DPP policy reform.