The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) protested the Mainland Affairs Council’s criticism over the party’s latest China policy announcement, accusing it of having become the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) mainland affairs department. However, it may be more justified to compare the council to a branch of China’s Taiwan Affairs Office.
The DPP said in its China Affairs Committee meeting last week that the party’s fundamental principle in cross-strait relations would be maintaining the “status quo.”
DPP Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) said later that the “status quo” refers to peaceful and stable exchanges across the Taiwan Strait.
Responding to the DPP’s policy direction, the Taiwan Affairs Office on Friday reiterated its stance that recognizing “one China” is the key to developing peaceful cross-strait relations, and, surprisingly — well, perhaps not that surprisingly — the Mainland Affairs Council issued a statement later that night accusing Tsai of being “too vague” on her China policy.
The Mainland Affairs Council said that only by abiding by the so-called “1992 consensus,” as the government has done since President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) took office in 2008, could bring peaceful developments in cross-strait relations.
The “1992 consensus” refers to an agreement allegedly reached between Taiwanese and Chinese negotiators in 1992 that both sides would recognize that there is only “one China,” but each could make its own interpretation of what “China” means. Former Mainland Affairs Council chairman Su Chi (蘇起) admitted in 2000 that he had fabricated the term “1992 consensus.”
First of all, what is wrong with being “vague?” In politics, being vague is an art, and it is sometimes used for practical reasons, especially when dealing with something as sensitive as cross-strait relations.
In fact, the “1992 consensus” that the Mainland Affairs Council loves so much is also part of a game involving being “vague.”
Tsai and the DPP have reason to be vague, because it is the party’s core belief that Taiwan is a sovereign nation. If Tsai diverts from such an idea and recognizes “one China,” she would be betraying the party’s core values and supporters. Hence, for the practical reason of maintaining peace and exchanges across the Taiwan Strait, she has to put the emphasis on remaining practical, while playing down the party’s ideology. This is exactly in accordance with the government’s policy of “shelving controversies to pursue win-win solutions,” as the Mainland Affairs Council says on its Web site.
If the DPP’s latest China policy is not much different from that of the government, besides not recognizing “one China,” why would the Mainland Affairs Council criticize it? Or maybe the question to ask is whether it is appropriate for a government agency — which is supposed to remain neutral — to take the initiative in attacking an opposition party?
The first question can only be answered by Mainland Affairs Council officials; however, for the latter question, it is clear that the answer is “no.”
Commenting on the Mainland Affairs Council’s criticism, DPP spokesperson Cheng Yun-peng (鄭運鵬) accused the council of having become the KMT’s “mainland affairs department.” However, because the council puts as much emphasis on “one China” as Beijing does, and because it issued the statement almost immediately after the Taiwan Affairs Office responded to the DPP’s announcement on China policy, it might be better to compare the council to an outpost of the Taiwan Affairs Office.