One DPP-KMT voice on PRC
I spent three months in Taipei researching cross-strait relations. This gave me a chance to observe the developments of cross-strait relations from the “inside,” and also to observe public debate about these relations, which I was not fully aware of, living far from Taiwan.
In my opinion, the crux of the issue is that both the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) have reached a stalemate about their policies toward China, especially after the 2016 elections.
Neither the KMT nor the DPP have a clear idea about how to handle cross-strait relations after the next elections.
Both parties have no choice but to formulate a clear cross-strait relations agenda which will be an important topic during the campaign and might decide victory or defeat in the next polls.
China’s next step is very clear: Start political talks with Taiwan. However, what will be Taiwan’s, or more specifically the KMT and DPP’s next steps? Today, nobody can answer this question. It is high time to think about it.
President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) policy of “easy matters before difficult ones and economic matters before political ones,” will sooner or later hit a wall. It may sound like political fiction, but it seems reasonable to consider working out a proposal, which could go a step further, even “crossing the Rubicon,” which could become a starting point for deeper Taiwan-China talks.
Looking at policies on both sides of the Strait, it seems that for the PRC an important signal would be an eagerness to start political talks, while Taiwan would like to see China’s approval for the nation’s wider international space, or a tacit consent for Taiwan to sign free-trade agreements (FTA) with other states and participation in international organizations. Both sides might agree to implement these steps.
Despite at first appearing harmful for both sides, in fact this idea should not be very costly.
If China gave Taiwan more international space, especially space to enter into FTAs with other countries, Taiwan would not be considered an independent state, but rather as the “Separate Customs Territory of Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu,” which means that this step would not “violate” the PRC’s “one China” principle.
If Taiwan agreed to enter into political talks with the PRC, dialogue would not automatically mean negotiations about unification with China.
Both sides are aware of the sensitivity of political talks, so it seems obvious that for Beijing and Taipei political talks would be a long-term process.
Hence, political talks in the near future could be a reasonable next move for the nation to build trust across the Strait. This move could be used as a new channel for bilateral contacts at a high level. Under these circumstances, China, which is striving for a good international image under its new leadership, would be under pressure to reciprocate.
However, the government’s eagerness to enter into political talks could obviously be harmful on the domestic scene. Taking into account the public’s demand to maintain the status quo, announcement of political talks could be costly for the initiator.
However, consensus across party lines seems to be the only solution to this Gordian knot.
Fierce battling between political parties is natural in politics. Nevertheless, there are moments when parties need to overcome differences and work together for the sake of national interest.
In Taiwan’s case, it seems that the main goal is to preserve the status quo and maintain a stable environment through better relations with China, Taiwan’s other neighbors and improving the nation’s visibility in the international community.
The DPP and KMT might agree and eventually exclude cross-strait relations from their political agendas.
For the DPP, this would also be a reasonable step toward solving the difficulties it is having trying to formulate its cross-strait relations policy, which should be clearly different from the KMT’s stance.
As Ma’s policy of improving relations with China seems irreversible, it would be unlikely for the DPP to opt for an independence approach.
Although one KMT-DPP voice on China may seem impossible, it is worth considering.
A unified Taiwanese cross-strait agenda could strengthen the nation’s position in negotiations with China, resolve the DPP’s problem of formulating a China policy and allow the two main parties to focus their energy on domestic issues.