Most opinion polls indicate that Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) will defeat Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) presidential candidate Eric Chu (朱立倫) by at least 20 percentage points. One policy speech is unlikely to sway the election outcome, so Tsai should be regarded as a president-in-waiting with regard to the cross-strait policies she proposed during the first debate between the three presidential candidates.
The primary difference between Chu and Tsai’s cross-strait policies is how they view the general direction of relations with China. Chu advocates peaceful cross-strait development and mutual cooperation under the framework of the so-called “1992 consensus,” whereas Tsai’s stance aims to maintain the “status quo” within the bounds of the Republic of China Consitution, while upholding Taiwan’s democracy and sovereignty and promoting cross-strait interactions and reconciliation.
The main point is not whether there is such a thing as the “1992 consensus,” but that the public is displeased with the results of cross-strait policies formulated under the “1992 consensus.” Most opinion polls show that less than 30 percent of respondents are satisfied with President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) cross-strait policies, while 60 percent are unhappy with them. Therefore, Chu not only has to elaborate on the supposed advantages of the “1992 consensus,” he also has to emphasize the disadvantages of not having such a consensus in order to dissuade voters from supporting Tsai.
Chu stressed the Taiwan Independence Clause in the DPP charter and said that Tsai is a facilitator of Taiwanese independence, so that if Tsai becomes president, the disruptions to the cross-strait relationship that occurred during the previous DPP administration are certain to be repeated, resulting in Taiwan’s isolation from the global economy.
Tsai’s stance on cross-strait relations is the most important aspect of her policy platform, and this was the first time that she expounded on her policies. However, as much as Taiwanese are discontent with the KMT’s policies, it does not mean they have complete faith in the DPP’s approach. Notably, China has made it clear that without the “1992 consensus,” cross-strait relations would be shaky. The public would worry that if the DPP’s stance is too aggressive to sustain talks and agreements, it could lead to military confrontation and decreasing support from big powers.
In light of these concerns, Tsai stressed that she has participated in and presided over cross-strait interactions in the past and that she not only expanded relations with China, but also won overwhelming support from the public.
She plans to transcend political parties, listen to a wide range of opinions, form a solid foundation based on public opinion and create a framework for cross-strait interactions that the public can put its faith in, Tsai said.
She would facilitate peaceful and stable cross-strait development based on the Taiwanese consensus of maintaining the “status quo,” the Constitution and the results of 20 years of cross-strait talks and interactions, Tsai said, adding that no political party should take advantage of the highly sensitive relationship to further its electoral interests.
She would not give mindless promises, but once promises were made, she would keep them, Tsai said, adding that her policies would be consistent, reliable and predictable.
This is the way to win the respect of Taiwanese and the international community.
For an effective position on cross-strait relations, a domestic consensus must be established and there must be mutual understanding between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait and sufficient support from the global community.
Tsai has clearly expressed her position to Taiwanese, Chinese and the international community. A domestic consensus and trustworthiness in cross-strait policies are the most important foundations of stability and development.
As “president-in-waiting,” Tsai stressed that she is a woman of her word and her cross-strait platform is accountable and consistent. If she remains consistent with this stance, it is highly likely that China would be willing to see her at the negotiating table. Adhering to public opinion and the principles of democracy and transparency on the basis of the Constitution is the only way to build a pragmatic and sustainable framework for peaceful development.
Tung Chen-yuan is a distinguished professor at National Chengchi University’s Graduate Institute of Development Studies.
Translated by Ethan Zhan
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