As the new year begins, some shaking news comes from both the governing and the opposition parties. Proving that the pen is mightier than the sword, the government managed to keep annual economic growth above the 2 percent limit. Key to this feat were mistakes in the export data: The annual increase was changed from 0.7 percent to 1.4 percent, thus raising annual economic growth to 2.17 percent. This magic was received with cheers across the board. Last year’s word of the year was “bogus” (假), so why not?
Another piece of shaking news was that Frank Hsieh (謝長廷), a factional bigwig in the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), will challenge the incumbent party leader in the May chairmanship election. Running requires ambition, and voters can learn about Hsieh’s in his book, Taiwan Next. His ambitions entail respecting and implementing the Republic of China Constitution, pursuing a domestic “constitutional consensus,” replacing “one China, with each side having its own interpretation” with “constitutions with different interpretations” in the international arena and building a different Taiwan for the future.
As the pro-government media outlets see it, if this big shot manages to outmaneuver the other main faction, the position is his to lose. If they are right, it will bring major change to the DPP and a completely different Taiwan.
First, the government’s “minor adjustment” to the high-school history curriculum would be legitimized by the “constitutional consensus” because the Constitution is based on a Chinese historical outlook. This would lead to major changes in the elementary, high-school and university curricula for both history and geography.
Second, the government’s claim that, under the Constitution, negotiating and signing agreements with China is the executive branch’s prerogative and does not fall within the legislature’s remit will also be treated as a reasonable interpretation. In the “one country, two areas” constitutional framework, agreements reached through cross-strait talks are not agreements between two states, and a DPP that makes abiding by the Constitution its top priority would have to agree and abandon its obstruction.
Third, when Hsieh was mayor of then-Kaohsiung City, he promoted the idea of “one country, two cities” and actively promoted exchanges between Kaohsiung and Chinese cities. At a forum he organized with Chinese academics in July last year, he proposed a cross-strait community with a shared destiny. Hsieh’s new DPP would not only no longer oppose the service trade agreement, it would actively promote it.
Fourth, in the past, Hsieh had always been concerned that the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) would monopolize cross-strait relations and he worked hard to make the DPP change its position and become part of this process. As the DPP turns into another version of the KMT, the Sinicization of Taiwan would accelerate and we would indeed soon see a completely different Taiwan.
Fifth, the DPP would no longer oppose Taiwan being called “Taiwan, Province of China,” because doing so would be unconstitutional.
Sixth, with the two biggest parties in Taiwan believing that Taiwan is a Chinese province, China would demand that the US abolish the Taiwan Relations Act, while the US’ and the UN’s past position that Taiwan is not a part of China will be challenged.
After the first Sino-Japanese War, Taiwan was sold down the river by the Qing government. Today, 120 years later, the key to whether Taiwan once again will be sold down the river will be how the DPP membership votes in May.
Huang Tien-lin is a former national policy adviser.
Translated by Perry Svensson