Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) on Wednesday said that she is committed to a “consistent, predictable and sustainable” relationship with China.
In a major speech that was certain to be closely studied by the White House, she said that cross-strait relations must be considered in a long-term context.
“Freedom and democracy are values deeply ingrained in the hearts of the Taiwanese people,” the DPP’s presidential candidate for January’s election said.
“The conduct of cross-strait policy must transcend the position of a political party and incorporate different views,” she said. “A leader must take into account public consensus when making decisions. We do have a broad consensus in Taiwan — maintenance of the status quo.”
Later, members of the packed audience at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) tried time and again to prod Tsai into expanding on her views of the so-called “1992 consensus.”
However, she consistently refused to do so, referring them back to her just-completed 20-minute address.
At one point, Tsai did answer: “China, the US and Taiwan have different interpretations, may have differences, but we should all agree that maintaining the status quo relationship across the Taiwan Strait serves the interests of everybody.”
It was the main speech to be delivered during her 12-day tour to the US and it came in the midst of meetings with top Washington officials, politicians and think tank experts.
Tsai was introduced by senior adviser for Asia at CSIS Bonnie Glaser and later answered questions from former US assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs Kurt Campbell.
Tsai said she had articulated and reiterated her position of maintaining the “status quo” and that if elected, she would push for the peaceful and stable development of cross-strait relations in accordance with “the will of the Taiwanese people and the existing Republic of China constitutional order.”
Tsai said that the two sides of the Taiwan Strait should treasure and secure the accumulated outcomes of more than 20 years of negotiations and exchanges.
“These accumulated outcomes will serve as the firm basis of my efforts to further the peaceful and stable development of cross-strait relations,” she said.
A Washington analyst later said that the speech would probably satisfy US officials, who were primarily concerned with the DPP’s ability to maintain peace across the Taiwan Strait and not overly upset Beijing.
Tsai said that she would push for a cross-strait agreement oversight bill to establish a comprehensive set of rules overseeing cross-strait exchanges and negotiations.
“The cross-strait agreements which are currently under negotiation or legislative review will be re-examined and further negotiated according to the new rules,” she said.
Tsai pledged to strengthen Taiwan’s democratic institutions and uphold the right of Taiwanese to decide their future free of coercion.
“While I advocate for constructive exchanges and dialogues with China, I will ensure the process is democratic and transparent, and that the economic benefits are equitably shared,” she said.
The speech was attended by most of the leading Washington figures directly involved in Taiwan-US affairs, including American Institute in Taiwan Chairman Raymond Burghardt and US Representative of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office Shen Lyu-shun (沈呂巡).