DPP Must Stop Evading Cross-Strait Issues
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
April 14, 2011
Yesterday the DPP held its second presidential primary debate. The public is still waiting for the three candidates' cross-Strait policy platforms. Hsu Hsin-liang zeroed in at the heart of the matter: ECFA, the 1992 Consensus, and other key issues. Unfortunately Tsai Ing-wen and Su Tseng-chang continue to hem and haw. They either answered in the abstract, or they evade the question altogether. The DPP primary debate lacked focus. It merely underscored the DPP's inability to offer a practical and feasible cross-Strait policy.
Two primary debates have been held, during which Su and Tsai stopped attacking ECFA. This is an interesting development indeed. Tsai and Su even crossed swords over who deserved credit for a more liberalized cross-Strait policy. During the first political debate Tsai Ing-wen waited for the closing arguments before showing her hand. She said the DPP is more able to deal with cross-Strait issues than the KMT. She said the DPP promoted the three mini links in late 2000, soon after taking office, and promoted cross-Strait charter flights in 2003. She said the DPP lost power in 2008. Otherwise it too would have promoted direct cross-Strait flights. Su Tseng-chang was apparently unwilling to take a back seat. He chimed in during closing arguments and boasted that "The leader of the Executive Yuan at the time was none other than yours truly!"
The former Chairman of the Mainland Affairs Council during the DPP era wrote a letter to the media. He said "The DPP government was aggressive in promoting direct flights." He said promoting three links was always the DPP government's policy. The problem was Beijing. Motivated by political considerations, Beijing made sure the DPP would not benefit at the polls. That was why the three links could not be formally implemented until the elections were over.
If this is not "rewriting history," then we don't know what is. At the very least, it amounts to a 180 degree "That was then, this is now" about face. In fact, right up until the 2008 presidential election, the DPP government refused to expand cross-Strait exchanges. It lambasted the KMT for promoting a "One China Market." It warned that ""Taiwan men will be unable to find work. Taiwan women will be unable to find husbands. Taiwan children will end up as child labor in Heilongjiang." In 2009, a full year after three links were implemented, Tsai Ing-wen was till insisting that they were negatively impacting Taiwan's economy, and were the direct cause of unemployment on Taiwan. Until very recently, the DPP was still demonizing the three links as a Trojan horse, patiently waiting for an opportunity to infiltrate Taiwan. Not long ago, the three links was the DPP's ever convenient, all purpose whipping boy!
We are revisiting the past, not because we want to settle old scores with the DPP. In fact, if DPP presidential candidates are willing to be more pragmatic and rational, that is a national blessing. Good ideas and pragmatic policies are public property. If the DPP adopts the KMT's cross-Strait policy, in toto, the KMT is hardly going to sue the DPP for plagiarism or counterfeiting. As Hsu Hsin-liang said, "When cross-Strait relations remain the sole prerogative of the KMT, the DPP is going to find it hard to govern."
A pragmatic cross-Strait policy is not the exclusive franchise of any single political party. It is a universal good. But over the past decade, the DPP's cross-Strait policy has involved one about face after another. During the Chen Shui-bian era, the DPP went from a "new centrist policy," to "five noes," to calls for a "Taiwan independence referendum and the authoring of a new constitution." With its cavalier historical revisionism, it has left behind it a trail of destruction. When Su and Tsai make these changes in direction, they are hardly undergoing genuine transformation. After all, they still cannot explain their cross-Strait policy position. Such slapdash policy proposals can hardly pass muster during a presidential election and grossly underestimate the voters' common sense.
Cross-Strait relations have come a long way. The DPP must offer more than cross-Strait rhetoric. Su and Tsai must offer specific policies. In 2000 and 2008, the DPP offered empty rhetoric. It talked endlessly in circles. It labeled its empty rhetoric "effective management." In fact, it was nothing more than "hindered communication."
By contrast, over the past three years, under the Ma administration, the two sides have signed 14 agreements. These agreements encompass the three links, trade, mutual legal assistance, food safety, and cultural exchanges. One might say that the status quo is comprehensive cross-Strait exchanges. It is not that far removed from Hsu Hsin-liang's "bold opening." Does the DPP intend to maintain this status quo? Or does it intend to overturn it completely? There is no room for abstractions or for a "walk in the clouds." They must make themselves clear by speaking plainly.
At the very least the DPP must make clear whether it would continue the cross-Strait exchanges promoted during the Ma administration in the event it returns to power. The simplest approach would be to follow the recommendations of Hsu Hsin-liang. If the DPP returns to power, it must embrace all of the Ma administration's cross-Strait liberalization measures.
Last night, during the second primary debate, Hsu Hsin-liang said that both sides are dissatisfied with the 1992 Consensus, but that the 1992 Consensus remains an effective expedient. At the very least, it helps us shelve political disputes. It helps the two sides expand mutually beneficial economic and trade exchanges. The DPP may refuse to accept the 1992 Consensus. But what is its alternative? Is the DPP really prepared to bear the consequences of a setback in cross-Strait relations? The DPP must be honest and tell the voters where it stands. It must allow the voters to take the DPP's position into account when casting their ballots, It cannot attempt to squeak through without taking a stand. It cannot talk out of both sides of its mouth. It cannot deceive voters, then hope to muddle through.
The last time the DPP was in power, its cross-Strait policy failed to pass muster. It now has a chance to start over, Cross-Strait relations is the DPP's Achilles Heel. The DPP must not imagine it can continue to bob and weave, and by doing so, somehow muddle through.