In the middle of last month, a Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) spokesperson visited Yunnan Province in China to participate in a symposium organized by China’s Taiwan Affairs Office. The DPP and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) seemed to have taken a tentative and small first step, but no substantive communication took place.
It is clear that the DPP needs to draft strategic and tactical plans for future exchanges with China. In addition to building a foundation for interactions with Beijing, the DPP should also seek to establish connections to progressive political and social forces within China.
The CCP is purposefully and methodically initiating exchanges with individual DPP members. However, this approach makes it impossible for the parties to hold discussions on policy or to maintain high-level communication channels in order to promote mutual trust and understanding. It is also unlikely to help protect the rights and interests of Taiwanese or return the DPP to government any time soon.
Faced with the CCP’s stance, the DPP first of all needs to establish clear strategic goals in its dealings with China, such as dialogue, assessment of developmental trends, protecting the interests of Taiwanese in China and developing a closer relationship with Chinese progressive social and political forces.
If the DPP were re-elected, it would have to conduct talks with China to further develop cross-strait relations. As there is no chance of the two sides coming to an agreement on the sovereignty of Taiwan in the short term, a compromise must be found to manage that dispute.
First, the DPP must seek to promote mutual trust and compromise in its relations with the CCP, as this is the only way to maintain cross-strait talks and create more room for negotiations once it returns to power.
Second, despite the intractable dispute over sovereignty, Taiwan and China’s geography, language and culture are very similar. As such, the rapid rise and development of China presents both opportunities and challenges that the DPP needs to accurately assess.
Third, the peaceful resolution of cross-strait issues requires the cooperation of both governments. More important, however, is mutual trust and understanding between Chinese and Taiwanese and a constructive move by Beijing in the direction of a more open society and democracy.
This is the only way to lay the groundwork for a final resolution to cross-strait political issues. It is also the reason the DPP must talk to the CCP and engage with progressive Chinese social and political forces. This duality is currently lacking in interactions between the CCP and the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT).
A DPP strategy for interacting with China should have three stages: forging a consensus, eliminating misunderstandings and initiating interaction.
First, the next DPP chairperson should move quickly to forge a consensus on a set of principles to guide cross-strait relations.
Second, the CCP continues to judge the DPP on the basis of the 1991 Taiwan Independence Clause in the DPP’s charter, but the party’s cross-strait policy is based on the Resolution on Taiwan’s Future. A revision of the independence clause would not have to change the DPP’s ideas and values, but it could eliminate the CCP’s misunderstandings.
Finally, after eliminating these misunderstandings, the DPP must rely on dialogue and interaction to establish mutual trust with the CCP. Only in an atmosphere of mutual trust and friendly cross-strait relations can the DPP hope to promote mutual understanding between itself and the CCP, while also strengthening the impetus for political and social cross-strait reconciliation.
Tung Chen-yuan is a distinguished professor at National Chengchi University’s Graduate Institute of Development Studies
Translated by Drew Cameron
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