Tue, Sep 06, 2011 - Page 8 News List

Making the impossible possible

By Sabina Sun 孫瑞穗

The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) recently released several chapters of its 10-year policy platform that outlines the direction the party would take Taiwan. This finally moves the presidential campaign away from bickering over the choice of candidates and in the direction of public policy. The platform deals with social welfare, education, regional development, diplomacy and the future of cross-strait relations. It has some of the boldness of the New Deal proposed by then-US president Franklin Roosevelt in the midst of the Great Depression to revive the US and set a policy direction. Replacing political bickering with policy debate deserves our recognition.

The vision of the future of cross-strait relations is particularly worthy of in-depth discussion. Compared with the indecisive “no unification, no independence and no use of force” approach over the past decade and the so-called “1992 consensus,” the DPP’s proposal of prioritizing a “Taiwan consensus” is obviously a positive and aggressive leap forward.

The question is how the spirit of national self-determination that developed as many nation states gained their independence during the 20th century can be harnessed to deal with economic globalization and invested with a new and fresh meaning so that it can assist the fight for Taiwan in the new regional economy following more than 50 years of political distortions across the Taiwan Strait. This is yet another issue that needs further elaboration and debate.

Let’s first deal with the so-called “Taiwan consensus,” of which there still is no consensus. After the lifting of martial law, political parties and social movements have identified with many communities and with the land, gradually forming a Taiwanese identification and a Taiwanese point of view.

However, most of these localization movements are premised on a territorially defined country. As new economic realities are forcing countries to open their borders, such local identifications are constantly being tested and challenged.

The most obvious change is the cross-border population movement. As the number of Taiwanese moving out for business and employment purposes increases every year at the same time as the number of immigrants to Taiwan grows, the consensus of what constitutes a “new Taiwanese” is changing. These new consensuses are inevitably both many and diverse, and a single point of view is unlikely. It therefore takes a party and a government capable of dealing with Taiwan’s internal differences to build a consensus.

Instead of seeing the DPP’s “Taiwan consensus” as a specific goal-oriented concept, it would be better to see it as a shared Taiwanese accomplishment following the lifting of martial law — in other words, democracy. The “Taiwan consensus,” then, would be that we are setting political goals through a democratic process.

It would therefore be more interesting to give priority to the “Taiwan consensus” in a new and open regional and global order. Giving priority to the “Taiwan consensus” means placing the Taiwanese experience and democracy first. That means the cross-strait issue, which was avoided in the past, should be discussed thoroughly and openly. Other alternatives than unification and independence should be openly debated.

An even more aggressive concept should even be able to suggest how we could export the Taiwanese experience and negotiate an agenda for the democratization of an -economically growing China and discuss the possibility of developing cross-strait relations on the premise of democratization.

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