Mon, Jun 15, 2015 - Page 8 News List

Examining Tsai’s policy statements

By Chang Teng-chi 張登及

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文), her party’s presidential candidate, has faced continuous criticism for not yet explaining how she intends to grapple with the key issue of cross-strait relations — the “last mile”: All she has done to date is talk about maintaining the “status quo.” However, after she chose to discuss the matter at length with a more important and certainly more sympathetic audience — the US Congress and think tanks in the US — her views can no longer be criticized as being empty.

Tsai indicated that there were three mutually compatible strategies for consolidating the “status quo.” First, she confirmed her intention to promote cross-strait relations according to “the system of the Republic of China’s (ROC) constitutional government.” Second, she said she would promote peaceful cross-strait stability and development based upon the “firm foundations” of the accumulated achievements secured through negotiations and exchanges over the past 20 years or so. Third, she said she favors using “accumulated achievements” and “firm foundations” as terminology to “seek common ground, while setting aside differences.”

Central to Tsai’s triple-pillar cross-strait policy is the promotion of cross-strait relations within the context of the system of the constitutional government. Given the approach of the opposition in the past, her stance was roundly applauded in Washington, where people were saying that it represented progress and pragmatism. After all, the US, trying to rein in China’s rise and bring the Asia-Pacific region back into its influence, has taken a multi-pronged approach with economic and military measures, while maintaining a “status quo” of what Chinese pragmatist intellectual Yan Xuetong (閻學通) has described as a relationship of false friendship. Before the two sides lay their cards on the table, the US will not yet want to dismantle the Three Joint Communiques and the Taiwan Relations Act, as it still needs the ROC system, which it does not recognize, to keep Taiwan under control.

Taking advantage of her strong position while she was in Washington, it was smart of Tsai to decide to provide assurances that idealists in her party and members of youth social movements in Taiwan find it difficult to accept. Furthermore, Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲), whose popularity has at times seemed to surpass Tsai’s, paved the way, saying that “the Republic of China is the bottom line” and that “one China is not a problem,” so talking about the system of constitutional government could be a way to gain the support of even more economy-minded or swing voters.

At first glance, that Tsai’s cross-strait policy seems to be moving in a more pragmatic direction makes it appear similar to President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) China strategy, according to which “prioritizing Taiwan within the framework of the Constitution and founded on the [so-called] 1992 consensus is in the interest of Taiwanese.” Although the opposition has criticized the “1992 consensus” for years as being used to sell Taiwan down the river, it makes sense to seek common ground while setting aside differences when it comes to this. Ma has also promised that if there is going to be a cross-strait peace agreement, it will be subjected to a referendum before it is passed, and that otherwise the “status quo” remains “no unification, no independence.”

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