Political observers had mixed views on Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairperson and presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) recently announced cross-strait policy, with some saying the ball was now in China’s court, while others suggested her attempts to please everyone across the political spectrum could fail.
Joseph Wu (吳釗燮), a former chairman of the Mainland Affairs Council and the nation’s representative to the US in former DPP administrations, gave Tsai’s China policy a high score, saying the presidential hopeful is looking to be a different kind of DPP leader with “a moderate approach and a firm position” on China.
While some said Tsai’s policy announcement did not come up with anything new, “fresh or eye-catching ideas” in cross-strait policy have usually been seen as troublesome in the past and ended with bad results, Wu said.
By highlighting “consensus” and “democratic mechanisms,” Tsai pointed out the biggest difference between her policies and those of President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), which reflect Ma’s own will and do not go through a democratic process, Wu said.
One point that the public failed to notice was Tsai brilliantly including a “Taiwan Consensus,” a policy formulated by former premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) during the DPP presidential primary, in her platform.
“That gives the feeling that she and Su share the same ideology on policy and it helps party harmony,” Wu said.
Wu said the consensus in Taiwan is that “there is no consensus on the non-existent consensus.”
“Whether the DPP accepts the ‘1992 consensus’ or not is not an issue because DPP administrations have reached agreements with China without recognizing the consensus,” Wu said.
The so-called “1992 consensus” refers to what the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) describes as a tacit understanding reached between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait that “there is only one China, with each side free to interpret what that means.”
Liao Da-chi (廖達琪), a political scientist at National Sun Yat-sen University, was of the opinion that there was a paradox in Tsai’s cross-strait policy because she tried to appeal to swing voters and pan-green fundamentalists at the same time, which was why she denied the existence of the “1992 consensus,” then later compromised by saying she would not terminate the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA).
Tsai appears to be trying to take her party down a different road than her predecessor, former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), Liao said.
“She is trying to move closer to the middle, but she doesn’t want to abandon the pan-green fundamentalists either,” Liao said.
The US should be able to understand her dilemma and be sympathetic toward her policies, but China has been hawkish by insisting the on the “1992 consensus,” Liao said, adding that if Beijing eventually ends its dialogue with Taipei because of the feud, Tsai could be in trouble.
Tsai could have showed more flexibility in the wording of her views on the “1992 consensus,” Liao said, adding that Tsai could leave herself more room to maneuver if she did not flat-out deny the existence of the consensus.
Tsai avoided angering Beijing by not directly criticizing the country and she has not mentioned “one country on each side” since taking over as DPP chairperson, said Lai I-chung (賴怡忠), a Taiwan Thinktank researcher.