Maintaining the “status quo” has become a core issue in the debate over cross-strait policy ahead of January’s presidential election.
Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) in April said the fundamental principle and core objective of the DPP’s handling of cross-strait policy would be to “maintain the ‘status quo’” with China. President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) criticized Tsai, asking how she would be able to maintain the “status quo” if she does not recognize the so-called “1992 consensus.”
However, before any question of maintaining the “status quo” is addressed, one should first clarify what is the “status quo.”
According to an opinion poll conducted by National Chengchi University’s Election Study Center, if one excludes voters who support either rapid unification or the immediate declaration of independence, at present the broad concept of “maintaining the ‘status quo’” is supported by an average 85 percent of the public.
This includes maintaining the “status quo” in perpetuity, maintaining the “status quo” and later deciding whether to unify or declare independence, maintaining the “status quo” and then pursuing unification and maintaining the “status quo” and then declaring independence. However, the opinion poll does not clarify what “status quo” actually means.
The “status quo” is the balance of international power, public opinion and politics on either side of the Taiwan Strait which provides for a peaceful state of affairs between the two sides.
While not every nation — including Taiwan and China — is satisfied with the “status quo,” all parties are nevertheless unable or unwilling to use force to change the current “status quo.” By announcing her intention to maintain the “status quo,” Tsai is both showing respect for and safeguarding the “status quo.” Her policy is therefore a crucial tool for maintaining the “status quo” and ensuring peace across the Taiwan Strait.
The “status quo” can be interpreted on three levels: The international framework, the cross-strait framework — including the situation regarding unification or independence — and cross-strait exchanges and interaction.
Taiwan at present has neither the means nor the will to use military force to change the international system, which includes Taiwan’s participation in international organizations, and there is a consensus on this point among Taiwan’s political parties.
The “status quo” as emphasized by Tsai means the cross-strait framework and the situation regarding unification or independence, whereas when Ma talks of the “status quo,” he means cross-strait exchanges and interaction. Tsai and Ma interpret the “status quo” in different ways.
In June, Tsai said that if she wins she would continue to further the cross-strait relationship, and promote peace and stability according to the Republic of China (ROC) Constitution, majority public opinion and the accumulated achievements of more than 20 years of negotiations, exchanges and interaction between the two sides.
In the middle of last month, she said there are two core components to maintaining the “status quo” — preserving Taiwan’s free and democratic way of life and the existing constitutional system, while also guaranteeing the continuation of peaceful and stable relations between the two sides.