The Taiwan Independence Clause is the main reason the DPP and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) cannot engage in dialogue or exchanges of other kinds. It gives rise to concerns that there will be a change in the status quo in the Taiwan Strait. Furthermore, it has sometimes led to other countries mistakenly assuming that Taiwan is not a sovereign and independent country, and intensified the struggles between pro-unification and anti-unification camps in Taiwan.
Only about 5 percent of the population supports immediate independence. During his eight years in office, Chen himself said that he would be unable to change Taiwan’s national title. If the Taiwan Independence Clause makes the DPP incapable of gaining a stable majority of voters in the future, or more than 60 percent of the vote, even if the DPP regains power, it will likely face the problems caused by internal strife arising from having a small ruling party with a much larger opposition party, as well as continued cross-strait standoffs.
The DPP should not only amend the Taiwan Independence Clause, it should also forge a Taiwan consensus and promote a resolution on the ROC, the main thrust of which should be “Taiwan is the ROC and the ROC is Taiwan.”
Since 2007, these are things that have gradually become a consensus between the ruling and opposition parties. They are capable of finding common ground on these. The ROC Constitution and the system it prescribes recognize the existence of Taiwan, but also include the obscure concept of there being one China. There is a chance that a cross-strait consensus can be found that will satisfy the majority of Taiwanese and which the US will accept and China will find tolerable.
The Resolution on Taiwan’s Future that the DPP passed in 1999 emphasized Taiwan’s de facto sovereignty and independence and accepted the ROC as the official name for Taiwan to attract swing voters. What the DPP should do now is pass a resolution on the ROC, embrace the system that it entails and use this as a way of merging mainstream opinion in Taiwan together and forging a consensus between the ruling and opposition parties.
Democracy should be used to protect Taiwan’s de facto sovereignty and independence, while the obscure concept that only one China exists as stipulated in the ROC Constitution can be leveraged to keep things the same, while not pushing for de jure Taiwanese independence. This would gain the support of the US and would be tolerated by China, and make it possible to establish a stable framework for the development of cross-strait peace.
Tung Chen-yuan is a professor in the Graduate Institute of Development Studies at National Chengchi University.
Translated by Drew Cameron