It looks like more of the same at the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), with former premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) now firmly in place as DPP chairman after garnering 50.47 percent of the vote in a five-horse race to take over leadership of the party on May 27.
Immediately upon being elected, Su said he would be willing to meet President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) if the timing were right, that he would reopen a DPP focus group to re-evaluate cross-strait relations and that he would be willing to visit China as DPP head if China set no preconditions.
As soon as Su made these comments, pan-green commentators scrambled in a giddy rush to point out how open-minded the new DPP chair was, how he was more magnanimous than his Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) counterpart, or officials across the Taiwan Strait, and how he would set a new tone of cross-party and cross-strait cooperation.
However, what Su said was nothing new. Former DPP chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) also said on numerous occasions that she was open to dialogue with Ma under the right circumstances, she also established focus groups on China relations and she did not rule out visiting China as long as Beijing did not set preconditions.
What that amounted to for Tsai was not all that much, and Su is unlikely to reap any greater benefits.
By saying he would meet Ma if the timing were right, Su was basically saying that he would not meet Ma under any circumstances, because who can guess what Su would regard as the right timing? Just after being elected, Ma called to congratulate the new DPP chair, but was apparently rebuffed because it was not the right time. Like a good lawyer, Su can now use that escape clause to reject any proposed meeting with the KMT chair, making sure intra-party relations remain stale and intractable.
What about the China-related focus group, the DPP’s Department of China Affairs and the establishment of a Chinese affairs committee? This could be a positive development, or it could amount to nothing. The department and the committee could be only as good as their staffers and nothing so far leads anybody to believe Su is capable of a breakthrough in cross-strait relations.
Just look at his proposal for a visit to China to get an idea of what kind of “olive branch” Su has in store for the country. Saying he would visit China if Beijing didn’t impose preconditions in practice amounts to saying he would not visit China at all — of course China would set preconditions; that is what China does. China loves its preconditions, and will never give them up unless the Chinese Communist Party falls, internal problems make them a moot point or the outside world forces Beijing to give them up.
Nobody is expecting Su to run to the Presidential Office hat in hand, come up with a revolutionary new cross-strait strategy that appeals to voters or rush off to Beijing.
However, some realistic expectations of what Su can and will accomplish as DPP chair would go a long way to preventing further disillusionment with the party. After all, disappointment in a past DPP heavyweight, former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), because of his inability to meet overblown expectations was one of the main reasons swing voters turned away from the party.