Sun, Jul 03, 2005 - Page 8 News List

TSU will suffer if it betrays its core beliefs

By Chin Heng-wei 金恆煒

Prior to celebrating the fourth anniversary of its founding on Aug. 6, the Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) is reported to have mulled direct interaction with China. Appearing as it did in the headlines of the China Times, the TSU's action indeed came as a shock.

The pan-blue camp considered the TSU's move to be to its advantage, as it indicates that the visits by both the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and People First Party (PFP) chairmen to China have triggered a domino effect, causing even the most vociferous pro-independence party to jump on the "China fever" bandwagon. Most pan-greens found the TSU's move unbelievable and suicidal.

It's hardly surprising to see that the TSU is drawing a great deal of criticism after its intentions were made public. In addition, the party's lame attempts to explain its proposed new policy shows that they have yet to grasp the gravity of the situation.

The party official who proposed the policy shift, Director of the TSU's Department of Policy Studies Lee Hsien-jen (李先仁), announced his resignation in order to take responsibility for the idea. In a move to quickly quell the controversy within the party, the TSU also issued a statement to the press, saying that it was impossible for the TSU to have any interaction with China until Beijing recognizes Taiwan as an independent, sovereign nation.

To defend his position on this issue, TSU Chairman Shu Chin-chiang (蘇進強) said that the TSU would not jump on the China bandwagon and that in interacting with Beijing, it would adopt the principle of the "three noes": it would not rule out possibilities, not reject possibilities and not actively pursue such possibilities.

Most party members won't object to that. But the real problem is this. The TSU has now agreed to support "normal" cross-strait relations on two conditions: first, that China stop its restriction of Taiwan's international space. Second, that China not insist on unification as a precondition for talks. If those conditions are met, the TSU has in turn said it will not set independence as a condition for talks. Under these parameters, Shu said, the two sides of the Strait could pursue a normalization of relations. While this is not exactly an about-face, it is certainly a shift to a more moderate position.

It's fine if the TSU takes a more moderate tack. But we must realize that when the TSU shifts, a new political group will immediately take over its current ideological position. This is typical of the political scene in Taiwan. The point is, the TSU will be pronounced dead on the day it begins moving to the moderate center, for its existence as a party is meaningless without its pro-independence stance.

The TSU's shift has a lot to do with the "single-member district, two-vote" electoral system that will be used for future legislative elections. As the "fundamentalist" group in the pan-green camp, the TSU is now worried that they will not be able to survive under the new system unless they adopt a more centrist approach.

To be sure, the new electoral system puts the TSU at a distinct disadvantage. However, will abandoning their core ideology win them more votes? They will likely suffer more than benefit from trying to moderate their stance. What sets the TSU apart and gives it appeal at the ballot box is that it champions establishing Taiwan as an independent country.

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