China Times Editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
September 30, 2016
Executive Summary: In 30 years since its founding, Taiwan independence has remained an article of faith and a major contributor to the growth of the Democratic Progressive Party. But as the expression goes, “Live by the sword, die by the sword”. The “total rule” that the DPP enjoys today is a direct result of its long-term advocacy of Taiwan independence and Taiwan-centrism.
Full Text Below:
In 30 years since its founding, Taiwan independence has remained an article of faith and a major contributor to the growth of the Democratic Progressive Party. But as the expression goes, “Live by the sword, die by the sword”. The “total rule” that the DPP enjoys today is a direct result of its long-term advocacy of Taiwan independence and Taiwan-centrism.
It is no secret that most people on Taiwan want to maintain the status quo. Many of them have given up on reunification. Many do not openly advocate Taiwan independence, but in their heart of hearts they agree with it. The younger generation considers Taiwan a sovereign entity. This is what Tsai Ing-wen refers to as "natural independence". This general atmosphere and public support resulted in the 2016 DPP victory. That said, the DPP has an Achilles Heel. President Tsai Ing-wen has expressed her position in many ways. But she cannot escape the DPP label, which has become the DPP's greatest handicap when dealing with cross-Strait issues. The DPP has been unable to gain the Mainland's trust. It must also show the United States it has no intention of promoting Taiwan independence. Only then can it continue to receive US support.
The Tsai government's gains and losses are the direct result of the aforementioned contradictions. On the one hand, it must deal with internal pressures from Taiwan independence elements, with calls for a referendum on independence and membership in the United Nations. If the Tsai government loosens it grip, even slightly, it will throw open Pandora's Box. The consequences could be disastrous. On the other hand, it must deal with pressure from the Mainland. It must exercise enormous restraint in order to avoid igniting cross-Strait conflict.
Nor is that all. The Tsai government faces problems both internal and external. Besides cross-Strait issues, it faces problems with social welfare, educational reform, energy policy, industrial policy, and transitional justice. Any of these is likely to provoke public protests at the drop of a hat. As a result the Tsai government is struggling to cope.
External pressure and internal contradictions are not independent of each other. Instead, they interact with each other. If the Tsai government fails to deal effectively with cross-Strait relations, the Tsai government national security team will remain in a state of perpetual crisis. It will have no time to think about the aforementioned internal issues. That will in turn exacerbate contradictions within Taiwan society. Conversely, Taiwan's internal problems can be solved with cross-Strait cooperation. Taiwan's biggest problem is its economy. Can the Tsai government elbow aside political interference, and allow cross-Strait economic cooperation to flourish? If it can, then it will have more resources to distribute in order to ensure fairness and justice. Taiwan can then expect an economic recovery.
Unfortunately the DPP government cannot deal with cross-Strait issues rationally. It cannot free itself from ideology, and boldly recognize the 1992 Consensus, the issue that most concerns the Mainland. The DPP is not a mature political party. It has remained hostage to its own 30 year history. The party and its officials have have long incited anti-Mainland hatred. Even though it is now in power, it criticizes the Mainland at every turn, out of sheer habit. Its de-Sinicization movement hardly inspires trust within the CCP.
The DPP is now in its thirties. It should seriously consider a transformation of its policies. The DPP now enjoys “total rule”. It is no longer a struggle-oriented party dependent upon legislative obstructionism and scorched earth tactics. It needs to understand its new role. It has participated in government at the executive, legislative, and local levels. It currently rules most counties and municipalities. It must govern for the benefit of all of Taiwan, and not merely its own party. It must determine Taiwan's future. Only by thinking in such terms, can the DPP reevaluate its own cross-Strait policy.
Since it now enjoys “total rule”, it must realize that only by improving relations with the Mainland can Taiwan achieve a peaceful external environment and maximize internal reform. Therefore the DPP must assume the role of a ruling party. It must consider the Mainland's core concerns, and the future of cross-Strait relations. It must not attempt to passively evade cross-Strait issues.
First of all, the DPP must find the courage to deal with the Taiwan independence party platform. The Tsai government realizes that maintaining the status quo is mainstream public opinion, and that Taiwan independence is impossible. Therefore it must cease kidding itself on this issue. Anything else is wasted energy. Only then can it neutralize the New Power Party and DPP Taiwan independence fundamentalists, and make it difficult for them to hijack the DPP. If the DPP cannot kill its sacred cow, Tsai Ing-wen's government should declare that "Taiwan independence is a DPP ideal, but not a DPP policy option". On that basis, the DPP can then cultivate mutual trust with the Mainland.
Next, the DPP must impose party discipline. It must regulate what its political appointees and elected representatives say and do, to avoid undermining cross-Strait relations. Government decision-making must consider the Big Picture in the Taiwan Strait, and formulate a comprehensive cross-Strait policy.
The DPP is 30 years old. It is time to take concrete action to adjust its cross-Strait policy.