Mon, Aug 29, 2011 - Page 8 News List

Looking at the broader picture of diplomacy

By Gerrit van der Wees

On Aug. 23, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) announced the party’s new national security strategy as part of her campaign for January’s presidential election. The document takes a refreshing look at the situation, establishes core principles as a point of departure and lays out a set of clear policy positions.

The strength of the policy paper is that it positions Taiwan as a member of the international community that “has the duty to actively participate in and contribute to international cooperative efforts, and do its best to fulfill its responsibilities as a member of the international community.”

In the paper, the DPP advocates a “balanced global strategy” in which Taiwan reinforces its strategic partnership with the US and strengthens cooperation with other countries in the Asia-Pacific region.

Relations with China are dealt with extensively: Tsai advocates “multi-layered and multifaceted exchanges” between Taiwan and China, which would result in a framework for “cross-strait peace and interaction,” thereby establishing a “stable and constructive bilateral relationship.”

This approach presents a much better prospect for Taiwan’s future than the worn-out approach of President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration, which bases itself on the archaic “Republic of China” Constitution that originated in 1947 Nanjing and has very little to do with present-day Taiwan. It would be akin to applying Britain’s unwritten constitution to the US because at one point in time the English king ruled over the 13 American colonies.

The other misnomer in the policies of the Ma administration is the so-called “1992 consensus,” a vague and confused definition of “one China” whereby the two sides are supposed to have different interpretations.

Tsai said that it would be much better if the Taiwanese arrived at a “Taiwan consensus” based on a common Taiwanese identity and shared values such as an adherence to the universal principles of justice and democracy, balanced external relations and human rights, because this would provide a more solid base for future dialogue with China.

The Taiwanese have a choice: Are they going to find their Taiwanese roots as a seafaring nation and become an integral part of the global community of nations, or will they continue to follow the anachronistic Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) line and thereby ensure their future is dependent on the goodwill of authoritarian China? The January elections will reveal all.

Gerrit van der Wees is editor of Taiwan Communique, a publication based in Washington.

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