The DPP is in the middle of a debate on how to approach its China policy. It is good that the party is having this debate because it shows that senior members are willing to reflect on how to shape the nation’s relations with its giant neighbor across the Taiwan Strait.
This creative thinking contrasts sharply with what is happening within the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), where senior members — led by President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) — are still reiterating outdated “unification” ideas that have their origin in concepts stemming from the beginning of the 20th century.
Hardly fit for modern-day free and democratic Taiwan which is entering the 21st Century.
However, among the viable ideas proposed within the context of the DPP debate, there is one dissonant: the suggestion by DPP caucus whip Ker Chien-ming (柯建銘) that the party freeze the so-called Taiwan independence clause in its charter.
Ker seems to be under the impression that putting the clause on ice will somehow bring the party more votes, particularly from those in the middle of Taiwan’s polarized political spectrum.
He also thinks that the repressive regime in Beijing will be more amenable to holding talks with the DPP if it puts the clause on the back burner.
Ker is daydreaming on both scores.
Suspending the clause will not make the DPP more attractive to voters in Taiwan.
The reason is simple: According to the DPP’s own opinion poll, given a free choice, Taiwanese are overwhelmingly in favor of independence as future option for their country.
The problem is that the continuing military and economic threats by China are preventing Taiwanese from having a free choice.
So, what would be good policies for the DPP to promote in order for it to have a chance to win in the next presidential and legislative elections?
First and foremost, it needs to have social and economic policies that are fair and equitable.
People are most concerned about their welfare, and during the past years of KMT governance, the income gap has widened, the unemployment rate has increased, young people cannot find work, and economic growth has stalled.
Ma has said that Taiwan’s economic engine can only be restarted by establishing closer links to China.
This is false. Putting all of Taiwan’s eggs into the “one China” basket is dangerous, as the country would become over-reliant on its giant and unstable neighbor.
Recent press reports say that even well-known international financier George Soros is worried about an economic meltdown in China.
Second, Taiwan needs to establish closer economic — and even political — relations with democratic nations that share its principles and values, such as the US, Japan, South Korea and Western Europe.
Only if it broadens its international ties can Taiwan avoid being dragged down by the upcoming economic slowdown in China.
Third, freezing the independence clause will only whet China’s appetite, and push Taiwan further into a corner.
Beijing will pour additional demands on the DPP, like accepting the so-called “1992 consensus” or the infamous “one China” principle, which would leave Taiwan even less room to maneuver, and no free choice whatsoever.
So if Ker has the interests of Taiwan’s hard-won democracy and freedom close to his heart, he needs to quickly wake up from his daydreaming and return to the reality of today’s Taiwan.
Mei-chin Chen is a commentator based in Washington.
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