On Thursday, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) discussed its report on its China policy. That was also the day when the legislature conducted party talks on the Mainland Affairs Council’s budget.
Of these two issues, the council’s budget is the more urgent, as budgets and legislation are the only two methods the legislature has to effectively monitor the government.
Now is the time to demand that the government face public opinion before the fleeting opportunity disappears. It is also the time to ask whether the DPP has done enough to gain an understanding of a meeting between Mainland Affairs Council Minister Wang Yu-chi (王郁琦) and Taiwan Affairs Office (TAO) Director Zhang Zhijun (張志軍), which will take place after the Lunar New Year and be the first item on the cross-strait political agenda.
If the China policy is the most important aspect of the DPP’s attempt to change its image, adjust its strategy and become more pragmatic, then Taiwanese will at the same time pay attention to what the party says and does.
The DPP’s China policy is the main point preceding its actions and statements, and by evaluating these two things, the public will form its overall conclusion.
Since May last year, observers have seen how the party’s China Affairs Committee has been working hard concentrating its brain power, holding several meetings to discuss a new approach to cross-strait relations. When it comes to the issue of implementation, opinions differ, and this leaves room for further discussion.
For example, has the DPP, Taiwan’s biggest opposition party, made the most fundamental preparations to deal with the issue of Wang’s upcoming visit to China and his meeting with Zhang?
The only way to successfully respond to public opinion and protect Taiwan is by taking solid action. Such action must involve two factors: expertise and determination. This is why protestation is always more difficult than obedience.
What is the opposition doing in the legislature to bring about the most fundamental monitoring of the meeting between Wang and Zhang? Democracy requires that the legislature as a whole is responsible for paying attention to the first official meeting between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait.
Looking to international diplomatic experience, there are at least three stages at which the legislature must actively intervene: prior to, during and after the meeting. Taiwanese legislation may be incomplete, but the central government’s budget for this year still has not been approved pending negotiations between the ruling and the opposition parties. This is an opportunity for the legislature to — with enough ammunition — make up for legal shortcomings. It also provides the Cabinet with a way of blocking inappropriate Chinese pressure, and that is something that should not be overlooked by KMT legislators.
First, before Wang leaves for China, he must be required to give a substantial report at the legislature rather than simply having the council inform the legislative speaker. If necessary, the report could be given in a closed meeting. How the meeting is formed is not the point; the point is that Wang must be forced to make clear plans before he leaves and officials must pledge to follow the plans or the budget will not be passed.
There are two aspects of doing this. First, Wang must give the legislature detailed information about the visit including its goals, agenda, strategy and status.