Former premier and Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) chairman Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) recently concluded a five-day visit to China. Using the slogan of “Getting to know China better,” the DPP has been busy defining Hsieh’s visit as a “private trip” in an attempt to disassociate itself from any ideas or rumors about a platform being built between the DPP and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
Meanwhile, the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) has continued its pattern of inter-party confrontation and while commending Hsieh for his trip to China, it disagreed with the opinions he expressed while there.
Hsieh is not the first senior DPP official to visit China, former DPP chairman Hsu Hsin-liang (許信良) having been there long before Hsieh. However, if we look at things from the perspective of normal interaction between two nations, Hsieh’s trip features certain aspects that are worthy of further exploration. It is also necessary to clarify these aspects to ensure the precious values that Taiwan emphasizes and protects do not get mixed up or even destroyed because of political scheming or demands for so-called “peace.”
Democracy, freedom and human rights are all integral parts of Taiwan’s way of life and are our most important values. These basic principles are something that should not be changed, regardless of which country Taiwan engages with, especially when Taiwan’s ways of doing things are in line with international practices and values.
Whether we look at the notions of “Asian values” championed by former Singaporean prime minister Lee Kuan Yew (李光耀), Malaysia’s Mahathirism or former Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping’s (鄧小平) idea of “socialism with Chinese characteristics,” we will see that all lost out in the end because people were able to easily see through the way these various ideas went against commonly accepted values and were authoritarian in nature.
We cannot pretend that Taiwan can totally ignore the “China factor.” However, if Taiwan wants to avoid irritating China just because it is a large neighboring country, then we would have to forget about the unique things that characterize Taiwan and accept China’s rules of the game. This would not only be totally irresponsible, it would be against Taiwan’s interests and would not benefit China’s future political prospects.
It is way too superficial if a member of the green camp thinks that he can turn around and invent some formula called a “constitutional consensus (憲法共識)” to replace the so-called “1992 consensus” after the pan-blue camp has already visited China or if he thinks that using his other formula of “one Constitution, two interpretations” (憲法各表) can replace “one China, with each side having its own interpretation” (一中各表) and will be capable of “transcending differences” (超越差異) and getting closer to the “enemy.”
If the DPP shows itself incapable of doing a better job than the KMT, it would be merely legitimizing the KMT’s past and current actions and we have to ask what voters would do if this were to happen. Would they pick the real thing or a mere copy following in the KMT’s footsteps? Is there any necessity at all for the DPP to follow in their footsteps?
If we subscribe to the notion that the DPP must do better than the KMT when looking at Hsieh’s visit to China, one could first of all say that the worst thing the KMT ever did was to blatantly engage in elitist politics. This is a path the DPP must avoid.
However, during his trip, Hsieh met with high-ranking Chinese officials like China’s State Councilor Dai Bingguo (戴秉國), who is also head of the general office of foreign affairs leadership group of the CCP’s Central Committee, China’s Taiwan Affairs Office Director Wang Yi (王毅), as well as Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits Chairman Chen Yunlin (陳雲林). In addition, Hsieh met with Chinese governmental, political and military think tanks that conduct work on Taiwan.
If we look carefully at all the people he met, we will see a striking similarity between Hsieh’s visit and previous visits to China by KMT officials, like former KMT chairmen Lien Chan (連戰) and Wu Poh-hsiung (吳伯雄).
Second, when it comes to the content of issues discussed between Taiwan and China, the worst thing about the KMT is the way it did not wait for a consensus to be reached here in Taiwan, how it did not keep voters informed and the way it invented the “1992 consensus” and then engaged in secret talks with China.
However, much of Hsieh’s itinerary in Beijing was not made public and he told Wang that the DPP “did not think the so-called ‘1992 consensus’ existed” while also proclaiming his “constitutional consensus” as an alternative.
We really have to ask just where did Hsieh’s “consensus” come from anyway? Who approved it? How many people does this “consensus” represent? How does it differ from the actions the KMT has taken that have seen it trample all over Taiwan’s democratic process?
Third, the most disturbing thing we have seen emerge since the KMT and the CCP jumped into bed together more than four years ago is the way they are both merely concerned with the interests of pro-unification businesses and the way they have totally avoided mentioning China’s civil society.
Even worse is the way the KMT has treated dissidents such as Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, World Uyghur Congress president Rebiya Kadeer and exiled Chinese democracy activist Wang Dan (王丹). All were initially welcomed, only to later be rejected.
The DPP has recently proposed a policy of “getting to know China better” and avoiding the mistakes the KMT has made in the past. If this really is the way the DPP plans to move forward, then we have to ask how much dialogue Hsieh managed to open up with China’s civil society during his trip and what he learned in the process.
If we do not ask such questions, how can we expect his formulas of a “constitutional consensus” and “one Constitution, two interpretations” to be anything but mere absurd fabrications?
Hsieh’s trip showed us a member of the DPP talking at great length with Chinese officials responsible for Taiwan affairs in Beijing on “facing differences, respecting differences and handling differences.”
However, before this can be done, it is of the utmost importance that these differences be clarified. These are not differences between the DPP and the CCP. Nor are they differences between the KMT and the CCP. They are rather the differences that exist between Taiwan and China and by that we mean democracy, freedom, human rights, equality, dignity and peace.
These are values that have been synonymous with Taiwan for a long time now and are also the basic premises that Taiwan cannot leave out of its dealings with China.
Translated by Drew Cameron