Late last month, former Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) chairman and premier Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) visited Hong Kong for a two-day forum, jointly hosted by his Taiwan Reform Foundation and the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences’ Taiwan Research Institute.
On Monday last week, Hsieh also met with Taiwan Affairs Office Director Zhang Zhijun (張志軍) and a group of Taiwanese businesspeople in Shenzhen, Guangdong Province.
The significance of the trip is more than just paving the road for a platform of dialogue and exchanges between the DPP and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Hsieh is attempting to construct a model for stable long-term interactions between both sides of the Taiwan Strait.
Not only has he been recognized by DPP Chairman Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌), who praised Hsieh for demonstrating aggressiveness and confidence in his exchanges with China, but KMT Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) has echoed Hsieh’s discourse and Hsieh has also received Beijing’s blessing.
Hsieh’s approach could well become a cross-strait consensus acceptable to all three parties — the DPP, the CCP and the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT).
First, on the basis of Hsieh’s “two constitutions, different interpretations,” China is now willing to launch dialogue between the DPP and the CCP.
Take the recent forum in Hong Kong, for example. In addition to Taiwan Affairs Office Deputy Director Sun Yafu (孫亞夫) and policy heavyweights, Beijing sent officials from 11 ministries and bureaus to the event.
The DPP delegation included, in addition to Hsieh and several academics, a Central Review Committee member, eight legislators and three city councilors. With Beijing’s consent, the two parties reached a three-point conclusion, proving that the platform is operative.
Second, the DPP and the CCP are starting to build a model for communication on policy. China sent Chen Xing (陳星), head of the Ministry of Commerce’s Department of Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau Affairs and the person in charge of the service trade agreement talks, to brief the DPP delegation on the process and content of the service trade pact’s negotiations.
In response, the DPP legislators and academics explained Taiwanese worries and where the KMT government’s cross-strait communication had been insufficient. Both parties felt positive about the dialogue.
It is only balanced exchanges like these between the three parties that will make cross-strait negotiations more inclusive of Taiwanese public interest.
Third, the DPP and the CCP engaged in frank communication over their differences. Hsieh said that Taiwan should interact with China based on Taiwan’s interpretation of the Republic of China (ROC) Constitution, which means that neither side of the Taiwan Strait has jurisdiction over the other, but that they are in a special relationship.
He also stressed that Taiwanese are worried over a “political one China,” and China someday annexing Taiwan.
The reason Hsieh’s proposal is a major breakthrough for cross-strait dialogue is because this element is missing in the KMT-CCP dialogue.
Meanwhile, Hau followed in Hsieh’s footsteps when he met with Zhang in Shanghai on Monday last week. He also broke the KMT’s taboo by mentioning the Republic of China (ROC) in front of the Chinese official, saying that the purpose of the “one China” policy is not to eliminate the ROC.
Although the DPP and the CCP have failed to reach a consensus on Hsieh’s proposal of “two constitutions, different interpretations,” at least substantive dialogue has taken place.
As Taiwan Research Institute director Yu Keli (余克禮) said, it would be unrealistic for China to accept the proposal in public before any cross-strait negotiations. Huang Jiashu (黃嘉樹), a professor at China’s Renmin University, also said that both “one China, different interpretations” and “two constitutions, different interpretations” imply “two countries” or “two sovereignties,” which would be unacceptable for Beijing to recognize or accept.
However, he added that perhaps Taiwan and China could discuss the new proposal further to seek a common ground.
Hsieh displayed yet more creativity later when he proposed “three commons,” to reduce the implication of “two countries,” suggesting that people on either side of the Taiwan Strait create shared memories, face the world together and build a shared cross-strait entity.
Despite their different histories, the two sides can have a shared future, Hsieh said. Thus, the two sides should create mutual interests instead of confrontation, and they should also create the feeling of a shared cross-strait community.
Finally, accompanied by Taiwan Affairs Office officials, Hsieh visited Taiwanese businesspeople in China and talked to their associations. This shows that China recognizes the Taiwan Reform Foundation as a platform for cross-strait exchange.
In future, the foundation will continue to make Chinese government and Taiwanese businesspeople contacts, which is likely to end the KMT’s monopoly on cross-strait exchanges, starting a new phase of a three-party relationship.
Hsieh’s approach is providing a basis for dialogue between the DPP and the CCP, and his creative proposal is a crucial breakthrough in cross-strait relations.
Some Chinese officials repeatedly said in private that they were deeply inspired by his discourse and were willing to discuss feasible interpretations to seek consensus.
Successes this time will create energy for diverse and multiplayer interactions between the DPP and the CCP in the future.
Tung Chen-yuan is a professor at National Chengchi University’s Graduate Institute of Development Studies.
Translated by Eddy Chang