Thu, Feb 16, 2012 - Page 8 News List

DPP can be pragmatic and retain its identity

By Lee Cheng-hung 李政鴻

Former premier Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) said that the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) should move toward the political center, where he believes more voters would identify with the party and support it. Hsieh did not give any details to go with his suggestion, but people are being naive if they think that if only the DPP can mimic the cross-strait policies of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), it would then be able to avoid interference from cross-strait issues in future elections. Besides, doing so would make the DPP’s cross-strait policies hard to distinguish from those of the KMT.

Relations across the Taiwan Strait are influenced by geopolitics and international economics. Following the end of the Cold War, the latter has become the main decisive factor. The idea is that people in China and Taiwan would both benefit from a free market, while close interaction between the two sides would make them dependent on each other and that this would help to dispel animosity and avoid military conflict.

This idealistic peace theory fails to take into account the two world wars of the past century. The peace theory also overlooks asymmetrical power relations that may exist between interdependent entities. Taiwan is clearly overly dependent on China’s productive forces and its market. This makes it easy for China to influence Taiwan’s politics through economic strength, without recourse to military power.

The DPP could be more pragmatic in the way it defines the core issues that influence cross-strait relations. For example, it should consider whether China will become more democratic and whether relations between China and the US will become more cooperative or more adversarial. Most importantly, the DPP needs to outline its own cross-strait strategy based on Taiwanese identity. For example, what role could Taiwan play in China’s economic development and democratization? How could Taiwan survive in the niche formed by simultaneously cooperative and competitive relations between China and the US? More important still, how can Taiwan’s government safeguard the interests of its citizens and make sure Taiwan’s national identity is not lost in the course of cross-strait interaction?

In terms of electoral strategy, the DPP needs to develop its ability to deconstruct and construct — to deconstruct President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) policy of “no unification, no independence and no use of force” and construct new DPP-style cross-strait policy proposals. “No unification, no independence” can be interpreted as maintaining the “status quo,” dispelling worries about Taiwan independence and unification with China. As to “no use of force,” it serves to reiterate that we would not resort to military means to resolve cross-strait disputes. Well thought-out as this policy may seem, it is subject to many restrictions as the government tries to get China to accept it.

Mainland Affairs Council Minister Lai Shin-yuan (賴幸媛) recently raised the idea of institutionalizing the principle of “no use of force.” Her proposal is meant to test the waters for a possible formal cross-strait peace agreement and should come as no surprise. The problem is that the initiative in deciding whether peace would continue to prevail between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait is in the hands of Beijing, not Taipei.

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