The Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) China Affairs Committee finally held its inaugural meeting on Thursday last week.
Setting up the committee was one of DDP Chairman Su Tseng-chang’s (蘇貞昌) pledges when he was campaigning for his post last year.
However, after getting elected, he had to deal with a host of issues, such as defining the role of the committee and selecting people to serve as members and convener.
These issues delayed the establishment of the committee, leading to disappointment inside and outside the party.
Su is scheduled to visit the US, and he needs to show the Americans that he is capable of handling China issues.
This pressure prompted him to move faster to set up a committee that includes senior figures from various factions in the party, after which the committee moved with lightning speed to hold its first meeting.
Although the speed of this process has left everyone feeling a little dizzy, people who care about the issue are breathing a sigh of relief now that Su has managed to convene a committee meeting.
Following the DPP’s defeat in the 2008 presidential elections, there were calls within the party for reflection and reconsideration of its China policy.
Last year, in spite of President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) declining popularity, the DPP lost again, with many citing the party’s China policy as the reason for the defeat.
That is why setting up a China Affairs Committee and making major adjustments to the party’s China policy came to be one of Su’s pledges when he was campaigning for chairman.
The question is how should the party’s China policy be adjusted, given the various personalities and factions that are pulling the party in different directions.
Some think the party’s China policy only needs fine-tuning, while others think it should call for a referendum on amending the Constitution, or learn from the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT).
These different voices have generated different ideas about how the committee’s role should be defined, and how its role is defined is bound to influence the willingness of people and factions to take part in the committee.
To begin with, Su said the committee’s role would be that of a platform for interaction between the DPP and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
This idea was undoubtedly was based on the KMT-CCP forums established by former KMT chairman Lien Chan (連戰), and is therefore typical of the “learn from the KMT” faction within the DPP.
Although Lien’s initiative has caused Ma a lot of trouble and the KMT-CCP forums have been sidelined, former premier and DPP Central Standing Committee member Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) is still very keen on the idea.
After Su had defined the role of the committee, Hsieh assumed that he would be the obvious choice for convener.
However, Su, under attack from the “fine-tuning” faction and the party’s fundamentalists, changed the stated purpose of the China Affairs Committee from that of a platform for interaction between the DPP and the CCP to that of a platform for communication on China policy within the DPP.
He also announced that he would serve as convener.
This change was so disappointing for Hsieh that he decided not to take part in the committee.
Hsieh expected his proposal that China and Taiwan could agree to have “constitutions with different interpretations” to get plenty of support from Beijing and Washington, so he did not care much whether he would be a member of the committee.