The Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) reception of former premier Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) during his recent trip to China was courteous enough, but there was minimal coverage of the visit in the Chinese media and China Central Television, China’s state-run TV network, barely mentioned it at all.
The CCP is apparently exercising extreme caution, while the DPP is testing the China waters and naturally hopes to avoid stirring up controversy just before its National Congress next month.
The stated purpose of Hsieh’s visit was to attend the International Bartenders Association World Cocktail Championship in Beijing in a private capacity, yet he was still able to meet with Chinese State Councilor Dai Bingguo (戴秉國), Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits Chairman Chen Yunlin (陳雲林) and Taiwan Affairs Office (TAO) Director Wang Yi (王毅).
The grant to Hsieh of a diplomatic visa to China as a Taiwanese official, his meeting with three senior CCP officials and each person involved providing different interpretations of the meetings, shows how the former premier and the CCP officials were successfully able to settle their differences behind closed doors. The Chinese apparently took the business of taking everything Hsieh was pitching during his visit quite seriously.
On the other hand, Hsieh still needs to provide a clear explanation of the evolution of his proposals over the past decade — from “one country, two cities” (一國兩市) in 2000, to the “Constitutional one China” (憲法一中) in 2006, and the “constitutions with different interpretations” (憲法各表) and “constitutional consensus” (憲法共識) last year.
His views regarding the so-called “1992 consensus” need to be clearly distinct from those given by President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) in 2008. Otherwise, Hsieh runs the risk of being sharply criticized for entangling himself in a rhetorical albatross.
According to the DPP’s 1999 “Resolution on Taiwan’s Future,” “Taiwan is called the Republic of China in the Constitution, but Taiwan does not fall under the jurisdiction of the People’s Republic of China.”
This means that the DPP recognizes the current Constitution and accepts that it has been made more Taiwan-oriented and localized after the many amendments made to it over the years.
There are two major differences when it comes to the DPP and the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) China policies.
The first is how the DPP emphasizes that “freedom, democracy and human rights” are its fundamental principles for interacting with the CCP.
The second is found in the DPP’s stipulation that all relations with China have to be defined according to developments in terms of the world order.
DPP Chairman Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌), as the leader of the party, should applaud Hsieh’s China visit. Along with former DPP chairperson Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) visit to India, these diplomatic missions provide ways for the party to broaden its international horizons.
While Hsieh was visiting China, the DPP should have been working on reinstating its own representative offices and lobbyists in the US, and if resources permit, in Japan.
Aside from these “China hands” (知中派), the DPP also has an abundant supply of “Japan hands” and “US hands.” The DPP’s China policy should be informed by the current world order to allow Taiwan to establish its own strategic position within that order. That would be the most effective way for the DPP to differentiate itself from the KMT.
Hung Chi-kune is a member of the Democratic Progressive Party’s Central Executive Committee.
Translated by Kyle Jeffcoat