Meeting with representatives of the US think tank the American Enterprise Institute earlier this month, new Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairman Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) said that his party was against importing US beef containing the leanness-enhancing agent ractopamine, but he also said the DPP’s stance on beef did not mean that it was anti-US.
President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) has publicly questioned what the DPP’s policies are regarding the US-Taiwan Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) and the proposed multilateral Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).
The DPP is not Taiwan’s ruling party at present, so its US policies are not those of Taiwan as a whole. However, the DPP is the biggest opposition party and it ran the central government for eight years. Giving a clear explanation of the DPP’s US policies will be a significant factor affecting whether the party can return to government in 2016.
After the DPP lost January’s presidential election, people at all levels in the party have been asking what went wrong. A lot of people have pointed to the party’s lack of solid policies on China as one of the main reasons. Su has responded by stressing that he wants to restore and reactivate the DPP’s Chinese Affairs Department.
Everyone knows that the two main external forces influencing Taiwan’s destiny are the US and China. This reality has remained unchanged for 60 years. To be honest, the DPP’s development had a lot to do with the US, and its democratic diplomacy helped the party along its way and probably helped it take the reins of power in 2000. When former DPP president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) proposed his “four noes and one without” pledge on cross-strait relations in his inaugural speech in 2000, everyone in Taiwan could see that the pledge bore the hallmarks of US influence.
Chen’s declared positions on Taiwan’s future and some of the things his administration did displeased the US and caused it to lose faith in him. Consequently, the DPP’s relations with the US deteriorated. Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文), who succeeded Chen as DPP chairperson, made great efforts to repair the damage. However, the DPP’s overseas representatives are not sufficiently spread out, the party has thus far failed to draw up a comprehensive set of US policies, it has appeared leaderless for some time and Taiwanese people resident abroad who supported the DPP in its early days have gradually become less supportive. Consequently, the DPP has become distanced from the US and some people even say that the US supported Ma in his election contest with Tsai in January.
In fact, the US government has no reason to strongly prefer one or the other of Taiwan’s two main parties.
The US has made very clear its strategy of re-exerting its presence in Asia. Its delicate stance of cooperating with and resisting China at the same time is still evolving. For the first time, a US secretary of state has said that Taiwan is an important security and economic partner of the US.
While improving relations with China on the one hand, the Ma administration also cooperates with the US. Anyone with the slightest understanding of international affairs knows that doing so is an essential choice for Taiwan if it is to reactivate the TIFA and obtain US support for joining the TPP. It is in keeping with current trends in international affairs and serves the interests of US political and economic strategy, as well as Taiwan’s future political and economic development.