In recent days, a lot of people outside the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) have expressed their opinions about the party’s decision to re-establish its Department of China Affairs.
Some people support the decision and say they have high hopes for the re-establishment of the department, while others are less enthusiastic and more cautious.
The DPP will listen attentively to all these different points of view and intends to keep dialogue open with all concerned. Whatever opinions people express, the DPP will respect them and keep an open mind.
The purpose of the reinstatement of the Department of China Affairs is quite straightforward.
The idea is not to kneel down and surrender to China or to try and please the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), still less to have direct exchanges between the DPP and the CCP.
The key point is that the DPP thinks that, at a time when China is the world’s second-biggest economy and the fifth-biggest overseas investor, and given Taiwan’s close proximity to China, we have to know our opponents as well as we know ourselves.
The DPP needs to have a full understanding of China and get a clear picture of where China may be headed in the future.
The DPP was Taiwan’s ruling party between 2000 and 2008 and is now the biggest opposition party. Election results show that the DPP represents the opinion of close to half of the Taiwanese public.
Considering this important role, the DPP is also duty-bound to make sure that China fully understands Taiwan. We need to present the true face of Taiwanese public opinion and speak up in the interest of everyone who lives here.
At present, China only talks to the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), which gives it a one-sided picture of Taiwan and a false idea of what most Taiwanese people think. We should not allow this situation to continue.
Taiwan is a free and democratic country and its future must be decided by its 23 million inhabitants. This is something on which the great majority of people in Taiwan agrees and it is a value and standpoint that the DPP is sworn to uphold.
Nevertheless, Taiwan cannot isolate itself from the changing strategic environment in the Asia-Pacific region and the DPP cannot frame and discuss its future China policies based on domestic politics and electoral considerations alone.
The DPP needs to keep abreast of the times, adjust its pace and take a more pragmatic and flexible approach. It has to find ways of actively and confidently interacting with China and needs to propose policies that are more favorable to the interests of Taiwanese people than those of the KMT, so that the public gains confidence in the DPP and becomes willing to entrust it with Taiwan’s destiny.
It is the DPP’s duty to take on and surmount these challenges.
Taiwan cannot avoid facing up to China and needs to understand its giant neighbor.
By reinstating the Department of China Affairs, the DPP is taking the first step in addressing these issues.
The DPP has no intention of acting rashly, still less do we imagine that we can achieve instant results.
The party will listen carefully and respectfully to whatever opinions the Taiwanese public expresses and we will move forward one step at a time, sticking to our principles.
Above all, you can be sure that the DPP will never betray the Taiwanese public’s expectations.
Su Tseng-chang is chairman of the Democratic Progressive Party.
Translated by Julian Clegg