Wed, Oct 29, 2014 - Page 8 News List

Cross-strait relations after Nov. 29

By Liu Shih-chung 劉世忠

Tsai must not only lead the DPP to victory in the local elections; more importantly, she must address her party’s relationships with the US and China.

In a July interview, Tsai said: “If we can win the nine-in-one elections, China will automatically adjust its course in a direction favorable to the DPP; moreover, as long as China adjusts its attitude toward the DPP, the US will have nothing much to say.”

This statement triggered a rebuttal from Beijing and bewilderment in Washington.

Last month, former American Institute in Taiwan chairman Richard Bush said: “Washington has not been quiet” when it comes to Taiwan’s elections.

He mentioned previous presidential races in Taiwan, when Washington conveyed its views through actions, public statements or the media.

“We feel there is a need for us to express our views on how our interests will be affected by Taiwan’s elections. And to say nothing, as some in Taiwan might want us to do, is actually to make a statement as well,” Bush told a conference on China-Taiwan relations in Washington.

Bush’s statement does not represent US President Barack Obama’s administration and was not meant as a deliberate warning to Tsai, but rather restated facts.

However, in September 2011, when Tsai visited the US in her capacity as the DPP’s presidential candidate, an unnamed senior administration official told the Financial Times in an unsolicited telephone call that the US has doubts that Tsai can maintain cross-strait stability.

This incident strained relations between the DPP and Washington.

Could Washington not regard Tsai’s statement above as filled with the hope that the DPP will reclaim central government power and that Washington should keep silent? It is time that Tsai and her foreign policy advisers rebuild trust with the US.

The DPP can no doubt cite many reasons, including civic movements in Taiwan and Hong Kong such as the Sunflower and Occupy Central protests, as well as Beijing’s domestic uncertainties and assertive foreign policy, to convince the US that more caution and patience are needed for in cross-strait relations.

However, Tsai still needs a China policy that has more long-term direction and is able to continue the current cross-strait relationship so there will not be an imminent crisis.

She must win the support of Taiwanese voters and see that Washington does not take sides. Beijing will not go as far as breaking off cross-strait exchanges in a bid to exert pressure against the possible election of Tsai as Taiwan’s new president.

Therefore, it is high time that the DPP improve its policy discourse and strategic reassurances vis-a-vis the US, identify and communicate with the possible next US presidential candidates and establish substantial, trustworthy channels for dialogue with China to dispel Washington’s and Beijing’s misgivings about the unpredictability of the DPP leadership.

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