Mon, Dec 20, 2010 - Page 8 News List

Dealing with the resurgent DPP

By Liu Shih-chung 劉世忠

The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) is back on the political radar of US decision-makers after the party’s impressive performance in last month’s special municipality elections, which has given rise to concerns and expectations in the US government.

The DPP could have won even more seats and votes if not for the shooting of one of former vice president Lien Chan’s (連戰) sons, Sean Lien (連勝文), on the eve of the election. Nevertheless, President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and the KMT have lost more than 2 million votes since their victory in the 2008 presidential election and the DPP has been able to recover well.

Washington immediately started to ask who would most likely represent the DPP in the 2012 presidential election, and in what direction the party would seek to reframe its China policy.

Given that DPP candidates downplayed cross-strait issues and avoided partisan confrontation in the municipality elections, the hardest question for the party’s leadership to answer is going to be how best to deal with a rising and hegemonic China, particularly after the KMT institutionalized cross-strait dialogue and signed more than a dozen agreements, including the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA).

As to the DPP’s next presidential candidate, that will be determined by the nomination rules chosen by party members. Judging from past experience, the party is likely to adopt a system that combines opinion polls and the votes of party members.

Candidates who enjoy a high degree of popularity would probably want a greater weighting to be given to opinion polls, others believe that the opinions of party members are more important.

Although former premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) and DPP Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) lost elections in Taipei City and soon-to-be established Sinbei City, they remain the most likely candidates for the DPP. Other political heavyweights, including former vice president Annette Lu (呂秀蓮), former premier Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) and former chairman Lin Yi-hsiung (林義雄), all remain outside possibilities. The picture will become clearer after the DPP’s National Party Congress late next month, which plans to pass new nomination rules.

However, what the US cares most about is the direction of the DPP’s policy toward China. To calm concerns, Tsai has pledged that the party will “continue the cross-strait policy implemented by previous administrations.” She also announced that the party’s policy department would be upgraded to a think tank, as a first step to generate greater internal consensus over the party’s proposed “Ten-year Policy Platform.”

The biggest challenge for the DPP is to come up with a more balanced, Taiwan-centric but China-engaged policy as an effective alternative policy to the KMT’s China-leaning approach.

Another sensitive issue is on what political basis the DPP plans to resume dialogue with Beijing if it returns to power in 2012. Given that the party does not accept the so-called “1992 consensus,” as advocated by the Ma administration as the basis for cross-strait negotiations, the DPP must either search for past accommodations it can accept, such as the policy of “returning to the basis of the 1992 Hong Kong meeting” from 2004, or come up with brand new ideas to test the water.

This alternative approach must be built on the existing foundation of DPP China policy — the “1999 Resolution Regarding the Future of Taiwan” — and state clearly that Taiwan is already an independent and sovereign state, officially called the Republic of China, and any attempt to change the status quo must be approved by the 23 million Taiwanese.

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