China Times Editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
October 1, 2016
Executive Summary: President Tsai has been in office less than six months. Cross-Strait relations have once again turned hostile. This worries people concerned about cross-Strait relations. We devoutly hope President Tsai will fulfill the pledges she made during her election campaign, and prove that she has the ability to deal with cross-Strait issues. She must not return to the Chen Shui-bian era, and fan the flames of cross-Strait conflict. That would not be a blessing for the people of Taiwan.
Full Text Below:
On the 30th anniversary of the Democratic Progressive Party, President Tsai Ing-wen, in her capacity as party chairman, published an open letter to party members. She reaffirmed her determination to implement reform. But she also talked tough on cross-Strait relations, provoking grave concern. She declared her intention to "resist pressure from China", referring to the Mainland as “China” instead of "Mainland China", the way she did when the DPP was in the opposition. She apparently changed her non-provocative, low-keyed style.
The results of such an approach are predictable. Upon being shut out of the ICAO conference, the presidential spokesman began referring to the Mainland as "China". Clearly the DPP government secretly resents the increasing pressure applied by the Mainland over the past six months. As the DPP sees it, Tsai Ying-wen's inaugural address and low-keyed follow-up, were expressions of goodwill toward the Mainland, but were not reciprocated. For the Tsai government, the resentment felt may be even greater. Pressure from Taiwan independence elements within the party has been relentless over the past six months. They have spread rumors to incite public discontent. They have has even revived demands for membership in the United Nations and the passage of constitutional amendments. President Tsai has been careful in dealing with the Mainland. But she must also appease party insiders. Her dilemma is obvious. Her strongly worded open letter to DPP party members reflected her need to respond to political pressure from within the party.
Closer scrutiny of Chairman Tsai's tough talk however, shows she has not broken away from existing policy. Consider the policy implications behind the hard-line phrases. She said, "We must resist pressure from China and develop relations with other nations, normal economic relations". This is entirely consistent with her May 20 inaugural address, which advocated cooperation with democratic nations, diversified economic and trade relations, and the New Southern Strategy. In other words, this is merely a reaffirmation of existing DPP thinking. This confirms that the above-mentioned policy is a well-considered strategic choice. Observers expect the DPP to return to the Ma era policy path. President Tsai's tough talk about fighting back is to some extent, merely a response to Mainland pressure. She wants the Mainland to know that the Tsai government is not going to yield to Mainland pressure and make compromises. Her stance and the Mainland's stance are poles apart. Finding common ground will not be easy.
The lessons of the Chen era remain fresh in Tsai's memory. Chen claimed that he expressed goodwill toward the Mainland, but the Mainland's tardy response forced him to take a hard line. Unfortunately such a hardline approach is a Pandora's Box. Once opened, it becomes difficult to close. It becomes an excuse for formerly contained Taiwan independence forces within the party to run rampant. What's worse, such a hardline approach merely provokes even harsher responses from the Mainland, leading to a downward spiral in cross-Strait relations. It is clearly not the right approach to cross-Straits relations. We hope that President Tsai is aware of the risks of from past experience, and will not proceed down this rocky path.
In her open letter, President Tsai reiterated the value of democracy. This is of course provides important backing for Taiwan when facing the Mainland. But President Tsai must also acknowledge that the public has expressed obvious dissatisfaction with her cross-Strait policy. They think cross-Strait relations have regressed. President Tsai cannot simply invoke democratic values as a tactic to deal with the Mainland. She must acknowledge that public opinion is the ultimate test of her own policies. She must fulfill the pledges made during her May 20 inaugural address. She assured people she was capable of dealing with cross-Strait issues, that she would remain in communications with the Mainland, and would maintain the cross-Strait status quo during her term. Obviously the decline in Mainland tourism and Mainland student enrollment has been counterproductive. Taiwan's participation in international activities is now limited, and proves that cross-Strait relations under President Tsai have deteriorated. The deterioration was not, as the DPP government alleged, due to the Mainland's political framework. It was the result of Tsai government changes to policies in place under the Ma government, and the Tsai government's evasive attitude on cross-Strait relations.
The Mainland has its own principles and policy measures. The DPP government should not dwell exclusively on the Mainland's obligation to respect its needs, while ignoring the Mainland's feelings. The DPP government should seek opportunities for cooperation between the two sides, consistent with Mainland policy. If President Tsai truly respects the people's opinion, she will listen to their hopes for cross-Strait relations, and take practical measures to improve them. The Mainland is concerned about the 1992 Consensus. She must offer a meaningful response. When confronted with pressure from Taiwan independence forces, she must use political means to pacify them. She must not allow them to become an obstacle to improved cross-Strait relations.
President Tsai has been in office less than six months. Cross-Strait relations have once again turned hostile. This worries people concerned about cross-Strait relations. We devoutly hope President Tsai will fulfill the pledges she made during her election campaign, and prove that she has the ability to deal with cross-Strait issues. She must not return to the Chen Shui-bian era, and fan the flames of cross-Strait conflict. That would not be a blessing for the people of Taiwan.