Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) caucus whip Ker Chien-ming’s (柯建銘) recent proposal to freeze the Taiwan independence clause in the party charter has raised eyebrows on both sides of the Taiwan Strait, with Beijing praising him as a man of vision and DPP members sharply divided over the pros and cons.
The initiative was not unprecedented, but the proposal itself and the controversy surrounding it seem to have immediately reflected two things:
First, DPP members feel a strong urgency to facilitate dialogue between the DPP and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), fearing that an inability to do so will be the party’s Achilles heel in the next presidential election and a deciding factor in its perennial inferiority to the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) on cross-strait relations.
Second, a series of meetings on the DPP’s China policy in the past year, initiated by the DPP headquarters after the party’s bitter loss in the presidential election last year, could either conclude with none of the — or not enough, at least to some — substantial and fundamental changes that some would like to see. For fear of inciting the ire of independence supporters, the proposal was patterned after former president Chen Shui-bian’s (陳水扁) policy on unification in 2006, which stated that the National Unification Council (NUC) would cease to function and its National Unification Guidelines (NUG) would cease to apply. Like the NUC and the NUG, the independence clause would be frozen rather than abolished.
The initiative may have been formulated according to the theory that its China policy would have to be accepted by Beijing for the DPP and the CCP to establish a communication channel and platform.
That presumption is dangerous and will be a concern. It could make the DPP the next KMT, which has quickly transformed itself from a staunchly anti-communist party in the past six decades to one of the CCP’s closest allies in the past few years. It is a party that refrained from voicing support for the Chinese democratic movement and dissidents and concerns over China’s persecution of Tibetans, Uighurs and Falun Gong practitioners as well as China’s serious human rights violations.
It is also dangerous because it could require more than freezing the Taiwan independence clause to receive Beijing’s “acceptance” eventually. It could require the recognition of the so-called “1992 consensus,” the “one China” framework or collaboration on the “glorious resurgence of the Chinese people [Zhonghua minzu (中華民族)].”
If the DPP freezes the clause, Beijing would again adopt the strategy of “listening to what the DPP says and watching what the party does,” which it used to observe Chen in the early 2000s. The proposal has pointed out the DPP’s concern about its position on Taiwanese independence. The DPP would have to explain whether it, as a party that governed Taiwan from 2000 to 2008, has recognized the “democratized Republic of China system,” willingly or reluctantly, and whether it still aspires to establish the Republic of Taiwan.
With controversies having regularly arisen from the party’s various resolutions related to the country’s status over the years, the DPP should try to systematically sort out and update its position on Taiwanese independence. Trying to win over Beijing with the proposal of freezing the independence clause is both stupid and irresponsible.