On May 27, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) will choose a new chairman. Regardless of who is elected, he should initiate a change in the party’s cross-strait policy to pave the way for a return to power in 2016. At the same time, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) should acknowledge public opinion trends in Taiwan and engage in active exchanges with the DPP to perpetuate stable cross-strait development.
In its report on this year’s presidential election, the DPP said the influence of China on the election clearly tended toward the economic agenda, and that the connection between cross-strait relations and economic issues was one of three main reasons behind the party’s defeat.
The report stressed that in future elections, the China factor would continue to intensify. It therefore suggested that the DPP sustain a pragmatic and moderate line on cross-strait policy, initiate substantive bilateral exchanges with China and dispel the stereotypical impression of the party as anti-Chinese.
Former DPP chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) also issued a statement saying that the economic scare card the party played during the campaign had undeniably affected the electoral outcome. She said in no ambiguous terms that the DPP must face harsh realities, namely, that the party needs the trust of the public if it wants to deal with China from a position of strength. Her suggestion was that the party establish a code of conduct and a framework for interaction so that members can understand China by interacting with it, and in the process find new ways of resolving cross-strait issues.
According to the report and to Tsai, the next chairman will need to adjust the party’s cross-strait policies to have a chance of regaining government power. If that person fails to promptly initiate a process to build and further a cross-strait policy consensus, it will be difficult for the party to avoid Chinese obstruction in 2016 and it would also become difficult to win the public’s trust.
To make things even clearer, the signal sent by voters in the election was that they support peaceful cross-strait development, but not peaceful cross-strait unification. Some voters are willing to accept a “2008 consensus” — that there is a so-called “1992 consensus” with each party having its own interpretation of what that consensus means — and take a more ambiguous approach to handling the “one China” issue. In other words, the public wants a cross-strait relationship somewhere in between war and peace, between unification and independence.
A majority of Taiwanese supported President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) re-election not because they wanted to abandon national core values and interests, such as sovereignty, democracy, human rights and freedom, but because they hoped for continued stability in and development of cross-strait relations.
In terms of national identity and the future of the nation, the values of the vast majority of Taiwanese directly contradict the Chinese goal of peaceful unification. Ma’s four years in office have coincided with the fastest growth in Taiwanese identity, while opposition to unification and support for independence have increased more during his administration than under the DPP’s eight years in power.
When adjusting its cross-strait policy, the DPP will encounter criticism from its traditional supporters, but the new party chairman must display firm leadership and boldness of vision in order to gain majority Taiwanese support.