The uneven strengths of the five candidates for chairperson of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) is affecting the party’s leadership election. This disparity has led former DPP chairperson Hsu Hsin-liang (許信良) to launch an inappropriate personal attack on former premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) and it has overshadowed the political discussion to the point that the candidates have failed to share any insightful thoughts or visions regarding their China policies and strategies, the area that most interests everyone.
As the election campaign, full of explosive personal grudges, continues, a series of major international events closely linked to stability in the Asia-Pacific region as well as the wider political and economic order have taken place.
The first was a visit to Washington by Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda during which he and US President Barack Obama strengthened the US-Japan security alliance. The difference between Noda’s visit and the 2006 visit by former Japanese premier Junichiro Koizumi was that the latter included stability in the Taiwan Strait as a Japanese concern. Taiwan has since dropped off the political radars of both the US and Japan.
This was followed by the fourth round of the US-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue in Beijing. In response to the issue of Chinese human rights activist Chen Guangcheng (陳光誠), the US and China carried out some quick and careful mediation to avoid any major impact on bilateral relations and minimize the negative domestic impact within China. It is therefore little wonder that, during the meeting, Chinese State Councilor Dai Bingguo (戴秉國) stressed that the two countries will not form a “group of two” or work together to “control the world,” nor will they fight each other. Instead, he said, the two countries will cooperate and strengthen mutual communication to create a development model characterized by peaceful coexistence.
The main reason China did not want to be seen as forming a “group of two” was that it does not want to play a global game with US rules. By doing this China is able to shirk its international responsibilities while remaining on an even footing with the US.
Dai’s talk about cooperation had major ramifications for the situation involving former Chongqing vice mayor and police chief Wang Lijun (王立軍) in addition to the Chen issue that the two countries were already working on. Dai’s talk also impacts the four consensuses reached by Chinese Minister of Defense Liang Guanglie (梁光烈) during his visit to Washington in which he discussed increased strategic military and communication exchanges.
Over the past two years, the Obama administration has shown its determination to move back into Asia by getting involved in issues such as those in the Korean Peninsula and the South China Sea disputes. This raised suspicions in China and concerns that the US would cooperate with Japan, South Korea, Australia, Vietnam, the Philippines and India to counterbalance China’s regional dominance. However, China responded to the US’ presence cautiously. The reason for this is that China is at the crucial stages of a sensitive leadership change and therefore wants to maintain both internal and external stability.
An even more important factor is that pragmatists within the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) were able to pressure party hardliners and direct the handling of the issues surrounding former Chongqing chief, Bo Xilai (薄熙來) and Chen to avoid affecting China-US relations.