Tsai Ing-wen Must Change DPP Relationship with the Mainland
China Times Editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
March 14, 2016
Executive Summary: Tsai Ing-wen must narrow the gap between herself and Beijing on one China. She
must rein in the DPP legislative caucus, and prevent them from passing
legislation or resolutions that severely impact cross-Strait relations.
She must prevent the DPP from using transitional justice to promote
cultural and historical Taiwan independence. She must be cautious about
Washington, Tokyo, Taipei relations, and East Asian regional strategic
issues, particular freedom of navigation and disputes over sovereignty
in the South China Sea. Cross-Strait relations may then enjoy some
breathing room. will not lead to disaster.
Full Text Below:
The DPP and the CCP are two freight trains on a collision course. Unless one of them changes course, the cross-Strait status quo will be unsustainable after May 20. Neither Beijing, Washington, nor Taipei want the change in ruling parties to harm strategic relations, or increase uncertainty in East Asian regional security. But if Tsai Ing-wen's May 20 inaugural speech fails to meet with the other side's satisfaction, cross-Strait relations will descend into “Cold Peace”, or even “Cold Civil War”. This would be detrimental to all parties involved. This would be detrimental to Taiwan, which needs to make an economic breakthrough, reestablish stability, and ensure prosperity.
DPP cross-Strait policy is subject to internal political pressures. It is subject to pressure from Washington, Tokyo, and Beijing. It is hampered by a lack of trust and communications between itself and Beijing. The January 16 two in one election is over. The two sides have demonstrated a modicum of goodwill. But on the 1992 Consensus, the two sides continue talking past each other. They are parrying each others' thrusts, and anger seems to be mounting.
The DPP argues that the Ma administration's eight year old cross-Strait policy is a failure. It argues that under ECFA, the Mainland benefited more from the peace divident than Taiwan. It argues that the public on Taiwan failed to experience any benefits, that cross-Strait economic integration failed to facilitate economic restructuring, or increase our breathing room on the international stage. It argues that the DPP won by a landslide, therefore Beijing cannot ignore majority public opinion on Taiwan. It cannot insist that Tsai Ing-wen follow in Ma Ying-jeou's footsteps.
Moreover, many believe that since the DPP is the ruling party, it must mark the end of an era. It must implement "transitional justice" and complete the final mile to democratization. Certain members of the new legislature have begun a “running of the bulls”. They have sponsored bills pertaining to sensitive issues such as national identity and reunification vs. independence. These however, do not represent the ideas of the DPP leadership. The DPP thinks Beijing is mistaken. Tsai Ing-wen will not take the same Taiwan independence path as Chen Shui-bian when he came to power.
Now consider the Mainland. The State Council Taiwan Affairs Office has held numerous press conferences urging the DPP to clarify its stance on the 1992 Consensus. Tsai Ing-wen may have declared that she "acknowledges the historical fact of the 1992 Consensus”. She may have pledged to “abide by the existing Republic of China constitutional framework”. But she has yet to make the most critical declaration of all. She has yet to declare that "The Mainland and Taiwan are both part of one China". Mainland Foreign Minister Wang Yi even stated, "We hope that the new rulers on Taiwan will accept the premise of their own constitution, that the Mainland and Taiwan are both part of one China". Beijing merely wants Tsai Ing-wen to revert to the ROC Constitution. This should not be difficult. She should then take the next step forward. But the green camp has played word games with Wang Yi. They have argued that Wang Yi's remarks meant Beijing had accepted Tsai Ing-wen's statement of position. Beijing eventually lost patience, became angry, and expressed its position more forcefully than ever. Taiwan Affairs Office Director Zhang Zhijun clarified. He said that refusing to recognize the 1992 Consensus amounted to changing the status quo. The two sides no longer have room for compromise. Mutual resentment and hostility are greater than ever.
Now that the DPP has come to power, cross-Strait relations will inevitably be affected. Is Tsai Ing-wen willing respond to Beijing's three points in her inaugural speech? Xi Jinping repeatedly referred to "two sides, one family". This should be sufficient to maintain the status quo, at least to some degree. It should be enough to ensure the Cold Peace that prevailed in 2000 when Chen Shui-bian came to power. ARATS and the SEF may terminate official contacts and economic and trade negotiations. The number of Mainland tourists allowed to visit Taiwan may be reduced. But if Tsai Ing-wen's inaugural speech fails to go beyond what she has already put out, the two sides could descend directly into Cold Civil War.
How will the new government handle high level personnel appointments for ARATS and the SEF? How will the new legislature handle bills pertaining to cross-Strait relations and sensitive national identity issues? How will it handle Taiwan's participation in United Nations related organizations? How will it handle internal matters, such as de-Sinicization in education? Beijing may use these to decide whether the new government is hostile, whether it is moving towards one China, one Taiwan, two Chinas, or Taiwan independence. The two sides could then descend into a Cold Civil War.
Cross-Strait relations descending into a Cold Civil War or even military reunification, is the worst possible scenario for both sides. Both sides face pressure from the current economic downturn and restructuring. The Mainland's "Ten Three Five Plan" touts supply side reforms. Economic growth in 2016 is expected to reach 6.5% to 7%. But if it fails to maintain 6.5%, the Mainland then faces serious challenges. Taiwan's economic situation is equally grim. Will cross-Strait relations result in "the earth moving and the mountains shaking”? They might not. But if cross-Strait official contacts and trade exchanges are severed, Taiwan businesses are likely to exit en masse, the way they did under the Chen regime. The new government could not sustain the impact. Tsai Ing-wen must be willing to move in the same direction as the Mainland in order to minimize any such impact.
She must narrow the gap between herself and Beijing on one China. She must rein in the DPP legislative caucus, and prevent them from passing legislation or resolutions that severely impact cross-Strait relations. She must prevent the DPP from using transitional justice to promote cultural and historical Taiwan independence. She must be cautious about Washington, Tokyo, Taipei relations, and East Asian regional strategic issues, particular freedom of navigation and disputes over sovereignty in the South China Sea. Cross-Strait relations may then enjoy some breathing room. will not lead to disaster.