Cross-strait interaction may be suspended following the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) setback in Saturday’s local elections, but the government’s cross-strait policies are unlikely to undergo major changes, a panelist attending a forum on the elections said yesterday.
Raymond Wu (吳瑞國), a law professor at Fu Jen Catholic University, said he foresaw a “temporary pause” in cross-strait relations, especially political issues, but he did not expect to see any major change to the government’s China policy.
“I don’t see any changes in terms of direction or the administration’s efforts to build a closer economic relationship with the Chinese mainland in the foreseeable future,” he said in English. “I certainly think that signing an economic cooperation framework agreement [ECFA] next year will be a possibility.”
Wu made the remarks at a forum conducted in English and organized by the Taiwan Thinktank to discuss the results and implications of Saturday’s elections.
The KMT clinched 12 of the 17 counties and cities in the elections, but only won 47.88 percent of the total vote, a drop of 2 percent from the 2005 elections.
While the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) secured only four of the counties and cities, it received 45.32 percent of the total ballot, a 7.2 percent increase.
Describing the elections as a “momentum builder,” Wu urged the DPP to refrain from “exploiting the situation” by staging violent protests during the visit of China’s Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait Chairman Chen Yunlin (陳雲林) to Taichung later this month.
“The DPP should protest, voice their discontent for being neglected, excluded from cross-strait relations. They [grievances] are all legitimate,” he said. “If they think this [strong showing in Saturday’s elections] is a blank check from voters to go all-out on cross-strait exchanges, I think it will backfire.”
For Beijing, Wu said the elections would make China realize that the DPP remained a viable player in Taiwanese politics. Therefore, the public should not be surprised to see Beijing continue its efforts to reach out to the DPP.
“I don’t want to rule out the possibility that one of the DPP’s leading politicians or personalities may pay a visit to the mainland in the foreseeable future,” he said.
Michael Hsiao (蕭新煌), executive director of Academia Sinica’s Center for Asia-Pacific Area Studies, said Saturday’s elections were definitely a “mid-term examination” for President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), despite his party’s comments to the contrary.
Hsiao said although it was inappropriate to see the local elections as a no-confidence vote in Ma, voters, especially those in rural areas, are worried about losing their jobs when the government signs an ECFA with Beijing.
Hsiao said he hoped the Ma administration would slow down the pace of its China policies and cancel Chen’s planned trip. If Ma continues to ignore public sentiment, Hsiao said, he would agitate the DPP and the public and stir up more resentment.
Analyzing the KMT’s setback, director of the DPP’s International Affairs Division Hsiao Bi-khim (蕭美琴) said the poor performance was the result of voters’ dissatisfaction with Ma’s incompetence, his arrogance and his government’s failure to listen to the needs and demands of the public, specifically on his policy toward China. She said China policy was moving too fast without there being adequate communication with the public on the process, which was moving ahead in a “not very transparent” way.
Saturday’s elections were an asymmetrical battle, she said, in terms of resources and access to the media, as the government is the biggest player in the media market.
The DPP was “out of the hospital bed” and taking its first steps, she said, adding that the patient was in the recovery phase and was being nursed back to health.
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